MH+D Inside Out: Maine Post & Beam’s Brett Hellstedt on Celebrating the Process of Building

“A lot of people get hung up on the definition of what we do,” Brett Hellstedt says. “But basically we build with timber.” Hellstedt’s company, Maine Post and Beam, builds everything from structural to ornamental timber beams and frames in homes, barns, and commercial spaces. Hellstedt tells Maine Home+Design about the beauty of exposed beams.

Q. What’s the central purpose of timber frames?

A. We build the bones of the structure as the celebratory feature of whatever we’re building. The idea is that the timber is going to be exposed.

Q. Which type of wood do you like working with the most?

A. To me, the reclaimed stuff that we work with is the most beautiful, but it’s also the hardest to source, fabricate, and cut in the shop. It’s hard. Like literally, hard. It’s dense, too. Everything about it is challenging, but the product is stunning. When we get an eastern white pine frame in the shop, it’s like cutting butter. The tools love it, and the guys love it.

Q. Is interest in timber frames part of a larger cultural trend?

A. Hopefully it’s not a trend, but people don’t seem to want things as overdone as they used to. They may feel overwhelmed by the fast pace of life, so they want something simple that’s going to last a long time. Beams don’t have to be covered up anymore. They want to see the structure of a building.

Q. What’s special about the process of working on a timber project with a client?

A. When we’re putting the structure up in the framing process, clients always want to be part of it. They want to see it go together and go up. People want to be there for the barn-raising or frame-raising, and they want to have parties. Back around the turn of the century, the whole community would come together to help raise a barn frame. People would cook, play music, and have a good time. Today our clients still celebrate the process.

Q. Why are people so excited?

A. The people who want timber frames want it for the whole process. They like visiting the shop and seeing the tools we use, looking at the chisels, and the whole fabrication. They enjoy feeling the timber and running their hands through the joinery. Their excitement is really rewarding.