"A World Away"
Log Homes Illustrated - May 2003
Conrad and Mary Golonka love wood. They love wood
furniture, wood ceilings and wood walls. They filled their
conventionally built home with all kinds of wood. After
installing oak paneling in the basement, they realized that the
look they were really trying to achieve occurs naturally in a log
home. They decided to build one. "A log home takes you
back to a different time and place," Conrad says. "There is
an ambiance of creativity that just seems to fit who we are."
The couple sketched out their floor plan on paper and then
entered it on a computer program. They sent out the plans to
several log companies and received bids from five. Some of
the companies weren't able to do what the couple wanted, such as
place the staircase in a certain way. "They were all great,
and they all had terrific suggestions. We even incorporated
some of their ideas into our final plans," Conrad
recalls, "After considering all of the options, the selling
point for us was having a local builder. When we met Stan and
Jeff Fryzel of S&R Midwest Log Homes Consultants,
representatives for Expedition Log Homes, we decided this was the
company for us."
The property the Golonkas selected just "fell out of the sky,"
Conrad relates. When he saw the ad in the paper for the 3/4
-acre lot in St. John, Indiana, he was so excited that he called
the realtor at 9 o'clock that night and drove out in the dark to
look at it. The owners had property adjacent to the lot and
used this piece as their private garden. It was partially
landscaped, with plenty of hawthorn and red maple trees. It
also featured a gazebo, which the Golonkas were able to save during
their construction process.
The couple's only concern was that the soil was full of clay,
which retains water and can cause problems with the
foundation. To overcome this, they had the property
graded. The house sets on higher ground, and the water drains
"When the Golonkas came to us, they knew exactly what they
wanted," Craig Seider, director of design services for Expedition
Log Homes, says. "Conrad designed the intersecting tie beams
found in the ceiling of the great room, not typically seen in log
construction. Some of the beams contribute to the structural
integrity of the home, while others are strictly for architectural
appeal. All add to that rustic look the couple wanted to
The home features half-log construction, which begins with
conventional 2-by-5 framing. Expedition cuts pine logs into
random lengths, from 8 to 12 feet, then splits them, leaving
approximately 16 inches of whole log on each side. This
results in half-log siding, giving the look of full-log
construction both inside and out but with high-density insulation
between the walls. "If there isn't a contractor in the area
who is familiar with log construction, the owner can engage their
preferred builder and, using conventional techniques, still have
the look of full log construction," Craig says. "Also,
winters in the upper Midwest can be very cold, and the insulation
provides a higher R value."
The Golonkas hired Darrell Karstensen of DK Construction, who
has experienced with both whole-log and half-log
construction. He explains that the latter homes don't
experience the settling found with whole-log construction.
Additionally, they lend themselves to greater flexibility in
interior finishes and access for electrical wiring.
Stan and Jeff's role in the construction process was
coordinating between the customer and the contractors, getting any
additional material that might be needed during the building
process. Jeff relates the process for this home was easy as
Darrell has been their choice as a builder due to the quality of
Mary comes from a very large family, which enjoys getting together,
one of the main features the couple wanted in their new log home
was a large kitchen with a working island and adjacent dining
are. "The area came out great" she notes. "The traffic
pattern works beautifully for serving a large gathering."
The great room, two bedrooms and two baths with laundry
facilities complete the 2,400 square feet on the main level.
The 525-squre foot loft doubles as a recreational room and office
and could be converted to a bedroom as needed. The full
basement is not finished and is used strictly for storage.
The Golonkas are especially fond of their fireplace hearth as it
contributes to the home's old-fashioned feel. "I just get the
urge to throw a pot on the hook over the fire and cook our dinner,"
Conrad says, quickly adding, "Fortunately, we now have microwaves
so we can just enjoy the ambiance without all the work."
During construction, Conrad and Mary came out every day after
work to review the day's progress with Darrell and discuss any
changes. One alteration, implemented at Darrell's suggestion,
was to make one wall in the hallway knotty pine paneling while
keeping the other wall half-log to give a more distinctive
Though most of Expedition's customers opt for the knotty wood
paneling supplied as part of the package for the cathedral ceiling
in the great room, and drywall on some of the interior walls and
flat ceilings in the bedrooms, the Golonkas wanted only wood. "Our
home was 4,700 square feet of knotty pine," Conrad points
out. "Mary, our daughter Cathy and some friends we enlisted
form work stained and sealed every inch of the pine prior to it
A further distinctive feature in the home was to create
wainscoting by running the logs vertically with a chair rail on all
interior walls except in Cathy's room. Berber carpeting was
installed in the great room, bedrooms and loft, while ceramic tile
is found in the kitchen, dining room and hallways.
notes the exterior roofline is also distinctive. Typically he
sees the gable-style roof, but this home has lots of hips, which
adds a contemporary look to the otherwise rustic style.
Mary decorated the home informally, combining wood, brass and
prismatic glass. Over the years, she and Conrad have
collected many cherished pieces of furniture. Some are
special because they have a specific memory attached to them;
others are heirlooms. Thus, they designed the home to
accommodate the pieces where they wanted them. Although this
approach does limit the different ways they can arrange a room,
they are unconcerned because they enjoy a sense of constancy in
Stan and Jeff were involved with the landscaping, adding timbers
around the perimeter, installing sod, and planting wildflowers,
shrubs, bushes and evergreens while retaining the existing trees
and wild grass. Though the home is in a subdivision, the
result is a park-like atmosphere.
Inside and out, the Golonkas couldn't be happier with the way
their home turned out. They even allow Stand and Jeff to
bring prospective customers to look at the home. "They love
showing it off, Jeff notes.
"After 20 years of planning and dreaming, it's hard to believe
it's real," Conrad says. "This is our permanent home, our
permanent getaway. When we come home, it is a comfortable as
putting on a pair of old jeans and a sweatshirt. We feel
secure and tranquil, and we feel like we step backing time a
hundred years. When the door closes on our log home, the rest
of the world just goes away,"