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Ruth’s Temple

Nothing about Ruth’s new home in Greenfield, NH, is accidental.

Not the deeply green, pastoral landscape, which she created over 6 years of tractor time from acres of brambles and saplings. Nor the New England stone walls, built not two centuries ago but added incrementally, as the budget allows, by a local hardscaper. And definitely not the home, which was based on the Brooks Post and Beam Temple design but in every possible way reflects Ruth’s own personal vision.

“How often do you get to do something that’s just for you, and you don’t have to worry about what someone else wants?” she asked, as she toured visitors through her circa 2023 home. “I wanted to build a small home for myself that was efficient, easy to clean, cheap to pay for.”

Ruth’s new home is quite a bit modern farmhouse-style, with its oversized wraparound porch and barnlike shiplap siding (made of well-disguised vinyl). But with Italian tile on most of the first floor, cast-iron balusters guarding the open staircase, and French-country furnishings scattered throughout, there’s a strong European flair. Add in a steampunk light fixture over the sink and an antique chrome and enamel dinette inherited from her mother, and the look is singularly and beautifully – Ruth style.

What really threw a few of us at Brooks P&B was what Ruth wanted to do to the exposed beams and other interior wooden surfaces:

She wanted to PAINT the frame. WHITE.

Blasphemy! Or, so our well-trained subconscious was telling us, after decades preaching the gospel of exposed timbers far and wide. Why would anyone want to cover one up?

This is why – Ruth’s Temple shows how well it can work. Ruth chose unique, horizontal wood-plank interior walls, and they, along with the entire timber frame, are painted Benjamin Moore Seashell all the way to the peak. The feeling this evokes is spacious, beachside cottage; or, the rustic look of a whitewashed barn converted to living space. Of course, the difference here is the energy-efficient SIP panels behind those wood-plank walls that will make heating and cooling this place a breeze.

One exception to the painted frame is the porch, whose posts and beams were allowed to show their own natural beauty and which, at an exceptional 15 feet deep, was another eye opener for us here at Brooks.

“It will be dark,” we said. “That side of the house won’t get any light.”

Oh yeah? This version of the Temple – the smallest in our line of pre-drawn home plans and kits – feels spacious and open and full of light. The light paint helps, for sure, and walls of windows in the great room let in tons of sun. Four large windows high on the gable end of the great room are a constant source of daylight.

Meanwhile, the depth of that porch means Ruth and her friends and family can use it in almost any weather. That’s great news, because it looks out onto a scenic and busy pond – the reason for the house’s specific location on the site – that’s always full of wildlife and attracts more. A bunch of painted and snapping turtles live there full-time, while flocks of geese and turkeys stop by pretty regularly for a drink, and maybe a snack.

That deep, low-slope porch sports a black standing-seam roof, while the garage (which Ruth calls a shed but really looks like a barn) is covered with a matching black metal roof.


Between Ruth’s vision and our existing Temple template, this must’ve come together super-quick, right? Well … billionaire class aside, most of us are familiar with budgets and how limiting they can be. This project almost didn’t get built.

Ruth had attended a HorseTenders training clinic across the road from these 10 acres, and saw that the property was for sale. Stephanie Kokal, whose family owns and runs HorseTenders, showed Ruth the land. She wasn’t yet ready to build, Ruth said, but “when I walked it, I saw potential, and so it became (here, Ruth gestured toward the rolling green hillside) this, over the years.”

Site work is one thing, homebuilding is another.

“I honestly didn’t think this was going to happen,” said Brooks owner Paul Freeman. “It felt like there was a disconnect between what she wanted and what she could afford.”

“I had a budget that wasn’t going to work,” Ruth agreed.

She’d started working with Paul because Brooks had designed and built the Kokals’ home. She paused the discussion with Paul about this as-yet unattainable project in 2021.

But the COVID-19 pandemic had changed the New England real estate landscape in a really important way: Cramped “city folks” were snapping up available country property, and suddenly Ruth’s home in Pelham, NH, was worth a good deal more than she’d planned for. She’d owned the home for 35 years, didn’t need all the space, and her driveway was very long and hard to maintain.

It was under contract 24 hours after it went on the market.

The rest was history. Brooks got to work on Temple design modifications, Ruth got busy ordering most of her finishes online; remember all that point-and-click shopping during the worst of the pandemic?

“Everything here I pretty much ordered online. You don’t always know what you’re going to get,” she said. “I got lucky.”

Ruth’s floor tile (in grays and earth tones silently warmed by radiant heat) was ordered from Italy, but also from a local Home Depot. The iron balusters came from England via Etsy. The rustic metal over-sink light fixture came from Ukraine, and after the Russian invasion there, it couldn’t be returned. She made some needed alterations to it, and now it fits in beautifully. Many of the lampshades Ruth chose just happened to come from France – a click away. The quartz countertop divided by thick white veins, purchased closer to home, is lighter-hued than she expected, but she’s warmed to it.

“Ruth pulled together the pieces that she liked, and she could picture it in her mind, but until you get it here, you don’t really know,” said Mark, Ruth’s partner. “She had a very solid vision, she knew how she wanted it to look.”

By trade, Ruth is a senior project manager. In life?

“I think I was a born project manager.”

Ruth’s Temple
Greenfield, N.H.
Cozy, not claustrophobic, open, but energy-efficient

Builder: Ron McClure
Painter: Jim Ferry
Photo Credit: Bradford Road Imaging
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