Homes: Beam Me Up


Take a look up and marvel at the architectural use of beams in an interior environment. My clients had a vision. They wanted their home in Westboro to have an overall rustic organic feel of a cottage get-a-away mixed with the tailored simplicity of a city home. I clearly recall the inspiration images that the clients gathered from magazine clippings to give me a sense of what they were drawn to aesthetically – rough hewn beams with soaring ceilings. I have to say I doubted this look given the ceilings in their new home were not much more than eight feet tall. However, what they had working for them in their new addition was a large footprint and lots of light. In viewing this room now that it is finished, it would have been all wrong not to incorporate the beams — it would have been missing essential character, not to mention the personal aesthetic of the homeowners.

Architectural beams are typically characterized by the shape of their cross section, their length and their material. In contemporary construction, beams are typically made of steel, reinforced concrete or wood. In the clients’ home the beams were made to look like wood and were not required for structural integrity – rather they were used purely as a decorative feature to integrate the bulkheads that were required along the perimeter to hide mechanical elements.

So the lesson with respect to beams is not to be afraid to use them, no matter the application. Tall versus low ceiling height, formal or casual aesthetic, beams add character. They make unsightly bulkheads look purposeful and provide architectural detail to what would otherwise be a bland space without other specified moldings. It is cathartic to see something, which I admit was not originally intended, come to fruition in such a beautiful way. The value of the client/designer relationship is that each one should push the other to explore and ultimately achieve something greater — is this not the foundation of any great partnership? In this instance, it was the client-desired beams. I was quite happy that in the end I was able to help them achieve this with the suitable proportion, scale and the type of material, taking into account the rest of the room’s elements. Perhaps the Star Trek reference is not so unrelated after all as it was an exploratory process that brought both of us back home.