COOKSBURG, Pa. (EYT) – A dream is about to become a reality for Sandy and Winfield Lutz as the latest major addition to their business, Tuck’d Inn Farm, nears completion.
(Pictured, left to right: Winfield and Sandy Lutz, George Abetti, and Casey Williams)
Sandy and Winfield had been interested in the Dodson Farm (named for the family that built it) for about ten years when they were finally offered an opportunity to purchase it in 2015.
At that time, the farmhouse, which was originally built in 1860 and had already been completely restored, was being rented by the week or weekends.
“When we bought the place, it already had customers, which was nice,” Sandy told CookForest.com.
One of the improvements they wanted to make to the property was the addition of a barn for events, originally thinking mainly of their own family. However, after a couple of years of planning and considering different options, they decided to go a step further and take on a larger project.
“Four years ago when we started talking about doing this, that’s what I was going to do. I was going to just put up a barn and start hosting weddings. But, the more research I did the more horror stories I read, he (Winfield) kind of talked me into let’s do it the right way, and it’s been a lengthier process, a more stressful process, but I’m glad we’re getting it done the right way,” said Sandy.
While doing research on different builders and building styles, they came across Geobarns, a Vermont based company that offers custom design and construction.
“We looked at several of their projects and liked their style,” Sandy noted.
While they knew they wanted a Geobarn as the main structure for hosting events, they decided to build a pavilion first, utilizing local Amish labor. It was completed in 2017 and has been in use for events for the last two years.
The 1,800 square foot pavilion is a timber-frame structure and features a grand fireplace. It can be utilized separately or in conjunction with the main building for a cocktail hour or just as a relaxing spot to take in the amazing view.
In December of 2018, they began construction on the main structure, with a completion date anticipated for late May of this year.
The Geobarn structure is based on an extremely versatile design that is also very robust, based on post-and-beam structures, but with innovative framing and diagonally studded walls. The finish is a channel rustic shiplap.
“George Abetti, Founder and Chief Executive of Geobarns told CookForest.com, “I think like anything special there’s a great backstory and this was born out of a dark time in my life.
“I lost my marriage and my ministry, and I think, sort of out of necessity just to earn a living, God was very kind to me and enabled me to think up this unique design.
“The building is extremely versatile, it’s all free span and open, that just gives us a lot more ability to do whatever they want to do inside of it. We’re not that constrained. It’s also very robust, built very strong, even against earthquakes. We build in California, and we don’t change anything we do. It’s actually been tested seismically in a big earthquake, and so we know they hold up well in hurricanes and earthquakes.”
The structure not only offers ample space for up to 200 guests, the placement next to the pavilion, as well as the glass and wood bifold doors on the opposite side where an additional tent can be added, allows for even greater capacity. The building has a separate back entrance to the kitchen for the vendors/catering crew, and the kitchen is equipped with double warming ovens, double refrigerators, and ample counter space.
“A lot of the caterers we’ve talked to, their biggest complaint is having to carry dirty dishes and things through the crowd, so that’s why we wanted a separate entrance for them directly into the kitchen,” Sandy explained.
The building also offers a second-floor bridal suite, equipped with lounge seating and four vanities, as well as a very large mirror with a salon seat for the bride to prepare. Opposite the bridal suite, also upstairs, is Sandy’s office, which will contain not only her desk but also a table and chairs and a buffet for the brides to bring in food and drink. The suite and the office share an open cupola, offering natural light and brightening the spaces.
There is also a private restroom for the bridal party on the back part of the second floor, as well as a railed mezzanine looking out over the main seating area.
The interior of the seating area will have farm-style tables and a built-in bar and will be well lit by not only two open cupolas but also three six-foot round metal restoration hardware inspired chandeliers and bistro lights hanging from the beams. They plan to keep the decor primarily neutral, so each event planner can add their own touches in terms of decorations.
While the structure is not yet complete, Winfield said that the process has been going very well, and they shouldn’t have any trouble meeting their self-imposed deadline for finishing.
“We’ve been blessed with good local contractors,” Winfield noted.
“I’m very appreciative of all of them. It’s nice because we know or relate to everyone around here. It really makes it easy to work with people. It’s nice to do a big project like this and pull in more resources and use them and get to know them and become friends with people you didn’t know before. This has really been a great project.”
Winfield himself has been very involved in the process, according to Abetti.
“He’s engaged in this as any client has ever been, partly because we’re a little short on the crew, and it’s long distance, and he’s a worker bee, he’s a total worker bee. That’s the highest compliment I can pay to somebody, and he knows that,” said Abetti.
“He’s just super engaged and probably because he loves his wife so much and this is her dream. I know that has a lot to do with it. I’d be crazy not to acknowledge it. But that actually brings tears to my eyes because part of the joy of this is that engagement, it’s that love for what we’re all doing. They’re not just paying me money to do something for them, it’s with them and through them. I would be as dead in the water unable to build this building without them as they would without me right now. It’s just absolutely mutually dependent.”
According to Abetti, not only that engagement and love of the project but also the relationship they’ve built is very important to him.
“The building is the product of what I feel is a really good relationship, and that’s important to me. Buildings are like a piece of your soul,” he noted.
“They wouldn’t want to invest a large sum of money and their hopes and dreams in a company or someone that they don’t like or trust, there just has to be that element for it to work. It can’t work without it.”
Abetti is also big on stewardship, in more ways than one. Accompanying him on his most recent trip to check the progress at Tuck’d Inn Farm was Casey Williams, Geobarn’s Sustainable Site Coordinator, who Abetti said plays a crucial role.
“It’s an honor to build something here. The site is already magnificent. Her role really is crucial because the land is just as important as the building,” Abetti said.
Williams explained, “The building is beautiful and the land, in its natural state, is also very beautiful, but there’s various things you can do with landscaping that can help put it in context and mimic some of the patterns of the natural systems around it that incorporate those in a beautiful way that helps to bring the nature closer to the building.
“Ultimately the people who come here are going to have beautiful experiences and being able to weave in some natural systems and refuge areas, they compliment each other so well. A lot of what I do is suggest and advise on native plantings and the value and the benefits and the functions they can serve to help enhance the site.”
Another one of the focuses of Geobarn building projects is sustainability in terms of waste management. According to Abetti, they normally guarantee a waste coefficient of about .5%, which is very significant for the building industry.
“We do think that’s important. That’s just an issue of stewardship. They’re entrusting a lot of money to us to create this building, and that’s a sacred trust and I don’t want to despise that by carting away a dumpster every month or even week, which is pretty typical in the industry,” Abetti said.
“And so it’s a way of being grateful and of acknowledging gratitude and I this is an honor and a privilege. I don’t want to act like I don’t care about that by saying just throw your cash in the dumpster and cart it away. And also, just as a Christian, and I’m not forcing it on you or anybody, but I also believe all these beautiful materials we have are a gift from God and the creation, and I don’t want to despise that either by acting like that doesn’t matter. It does matter. We have really high-quality good materials and I want to get every last foot or inch out of every board. There’s a lot of design issues in here, the building is literally designed to use up entire boards. This for all of the buildings, it’s literally part of the design. It’s all part of the stewardship.”
“It’s been very good,” Winfield noted. “We wait until we get to a short run and then use shorter pieces we’ve cut out. If we find a bad board, we try to save as much as we can and use what we can, so we’re only throwing away scraps that are a foot long or shorter and then we’re not wasting that much material.”
Between Abetti’s unique design and the Lutz family’s hard work and vision, the new structure is well on its way to being finished. Once the contractors finish their work, Sandy will take over, cleaning up and working on the interior decorations. Then, they’ll be ready for their event season, with their first wedding already booked for June 29.
“I’m thankful because some people booked us before we even had the full plans in place and a lot of the other ones for this year booked when we just had the cement, so I appreciate their faith in our dream and vision,” Sandy said.
Tuck’d Inn Farms offers a number of different packages, from 12-hour rentals up through full weekend packages that include the farmhouse, where people can arrive on Friday and leave on Sunday.