Lindal Cedar Homes of Traverse City
by Andrew L. McFarlane
Harry and Geri Tomaszewski have the distinction of being the oldest
distributor of Lindal Cedar Homes. Some think of a distributor as merely
a middleman who coordinates a sale and takes a cut, but this is most
not the case with Lindal Cedar Homes of Traverse City. As Lindal's first
and oldest distributor, they have been helping people build their dreams
in northern Michigan for 33 years.
Lindal is a Seattle based custom home company which Harry explained means
that, "These are not pre-cut homes. Although Lindal offers a number
of plans for the customer's consideration, they are in most cases only a
starting point. We try to fit the home to the people rather than to fit
the people into the home."
"How many times have you built a home straight from the plans?
" I inquired.
"Once, and that was when we were just starting out," Harry
replied a bit sheepishly.
Lindal is the largest custom home company in the United States, and there
are certainly reasons for this. From time the trees are cut to the time
the trucks are dispatched, Lindal controls the entire process. They
western red cedar from their own stands in British Columbia and their
system for cedar is stricter than industry standards. They mill the wood
at their own mill and the
wood then spends 24 days in the kiln to ensure its trueness. One
and homeowner commented that he went with Lindal first and foremost
they simply use the finest materials he has ever seen. "A Lindal
is all post and beam construction," Harry said. "This is the
thing--not ornamental. Even though we're using contemporary designs
for many of the homes, we use old techniques to make them work."
Harry illustrated the dove-tailed corner with a model and then showed how
the 4x8 cedar beams used in the solid cedar technique interlock--two
tongues in the bottom fit perfectly into two grooves in the top of the
beneath. The double tongue and groove combined with the tight grain of
kiln dried cedar alleviates the settling common with many log homes.
"We don't need any glue for these--drive them together with a sledge
and you'll never be able to get them apart," Harry professed.
with the two beams, I managed to get them quite thoroughly stuck
An airtight home has been a quest of Lindal. At first glance, many of
homes, large windows and cathedral ceilings, might seem to be easy prey
for cold northern Michigan winters, but this is not the case. Through
attention to insulation and the standard incorporation of windows of
own design and manufacture that are rated at 0.00 air penetration.
Harry said, "All the time we hear owners say that they have to open
the window to hear the wind blow. People tend to think that cathedral
and large windows mean a huge heating bill, but with our super insulated
walls and polar cap roofs, standard low-e argon windows and tight
that doesn't have to be the case. We have one home with 2,200 square
Their heating bill for the entire winter last year, water included, was
Harry worked as a builder for years but had to stop because, ironically,
he became allergic to cedar dust. He still works closely with those who
build the homes, overseeing the operation to ensure it is up to his
"Actually," he related, "This has freed me up to do more
Though Harry protests that he is not an architect, his precise renderings
bely that claim. The ability to handle the design process is important to
him, he explained. "Although we offer a variety of pre-designed
I think that there's only one person in all these years who took the
as is. That's the way that it should be. The plans and pictures are only
to get you thinking. This is one of the most expensive projects the
will ever embark on in their lifetime, so they should be able to control
the design process."
While Harry went down to the office to get the final plans that the
at Lindal make from his blueprints, Geri spoke about the design phase.
first thing we ask people when they are interested in a Lindal is if they
have the books."
"The 2-book set" is Lindal Living and Lindal Planning, Lindal's own yearly,
coffee-table style publications that feature
hundreds of pages of plans, hints and stunning photographs. Geri
"We have them look through it and then they bring a sketch or some
idea of what they'd like. With the customer, Harry does all the design
before it goes to the engineers at Lindal. It's a real advantage that he
is so skilled in listening to what they want and in making it
Harry returned with a rolled up sheaf of 23 separate schematics. The
of every beam is noted and from the final plans, Lindal is able to ship
everything: wood, windows, even the nails. In this particular plan, the
homeowners had come up with a unique solution to one of the trials of
in northern Michigan--visitors.
"They are retired and their children live elsewhere but often come
to visit. They didn't need a large home for themselves, but wanted their
kids to feel welcome when they came. At the same time, like many retired
folk these days, they didn't want to always be cooking and cleaning for
the steady stream of guests. When they told me, I wondered that I hadn't
thought of it sooner: two kitchens! That way both parents and kids and
can live together without disrupting each other's schedules."
Harry has designed a couple other houses along similar lines, and says
since designing kitchens is one of his favorite things to do, the two
trend is just fine with him.
I asked them about the people who purchased Lindal homes in the area, and
Geri replied, "We have found that most of our homeowners just love
Michigan. Many are retired and grew up here or visited and are returning
following retirement. It's got so much to offer: the seasons, trees,
and lakes. It's important to them to be able to see it and feel a part of
Harry's parting words were: "No matter how beautiful the pictures
(and they are stunning) nothing compares to the real thing. You have to
get in there and feel it." He provided some names, and without
every one of the homeowners was very willing to talk and to have me
It was as if they regarded Harry as more family or close friend than
I settled on two sisters, Elly and Ruth, who live next door to each other
with their husbands John and Jack on a piece of land squatted in the
by their great-grandfather. As young adults, the women and their husbands
and families as they grew would come up in the summer to camp on the
always dreaming of the day when they could afford to build on it. Ruth
as we sat at John and Elly's dining room table, "Finally, it was the
taxes up here that forced a decision. We couldn't afford to live in two
places and decided that we'd take an early retirement and make the
The two had children in the Seattle area, and had seen Lindal homes
A friend who had built one reminded Jack, and they contacted Harry.
Jack is a retired engineer, he has not retired from thinking as one. He
gestured to the beautiful exposed cedar beams spaced every five feet on
John and Elly's ceiling and the posts which run floor to ceiling.
not for show. Right now, you're looking at the load bearing structure of
the house. It is beautiful, but it's functional as well."
John and Elly had chosen somewhat of a rarity for their home: a
wooden interior. "We've done enough painting in our lives, and we
tired of it. We'll never have to do it again," she said with a
"That's one of the nice things about these homes. Jack and Ruth
want all wood, so they didn't have to have it. Each of our homes fits
They attribute much of their satisfaction to Harry and Geri. "He's
a gem," Jack explained. "He works so hard and if he tells you:
'I'll do this, this and that,' he'll do all those things plus more that
he will never mention. You have to notice and tell him, 'We didn't pay
that', before he will even acknowledge it. We don't even think of him as
working for Lindal; he works on the behalf of the people up
The other three nodded and echoed his sentiments. "He works too
"They both do," Ruth said. "Geri is right beside him,
notes, doing all the books. They both go far beyond the extra mile.
The overall feel of their home was, despite the cathedral ceiling,
floor and open design, very warm and intimate. While we spoke, I noticed
a pleasant timbre to everyone's voices, as if all that wood was acting
the chamber of a guitar.
John pointed out the 20 foot cedar tongue and groove paneling. "Take
a look, you won't find a single joint on those boards."
After taking our leave, Jack and Ruth and I walked the short distance to
their home. They chose the gambrel style, reminiscent of a European farm
home with a barn-like roof. Because of the snow on the stairs to the
we entered through the basement which is Jack's wood shop. The chose to
have a two story home, but still retained a cathedral ceiling over the
"We wanted to make sure that we could live on one floor in our
Ruth laughed, "But still have room for our children and
when they visit." In the kitchen, she pointed out one an example of
Harry's attention to detail. "I had told him I wanted a cupboard
the sink for display. He came over the next day and said, 'How tall are
you--about 5'3"?' I said yes and he said, 'I thought so' and handed
me a drawing. On it was a hanging cupboard and a drawing of me and my
of vision while I did dishes in the sink. He had made sure that it
block my view of the water while I stood there!"
Both houses, though very different in design, struck me with their superb
craftsmanship, materials and attention to detail and of course, the fine,
red and brown glow of polished cedar. I asked the four if they felt they
had gotten their dream. Reflecting upon their decision, the four agreed
that they had chosen well. "If we had it to do over," Elly
"We'd do it exactly the same."
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