Hilltop Haven

Log Homes Illustrated - March 2005

Willow Springs 02Roger and Kathryn Wirth did not necessarily intend to build a log home when they set out on their quest to establish a quiet place where thy could escape the pressures of their law practices in Boulder City, Nevada, and perhaps eventually retire.  All they knew for sure was that they wanted a large parcel of secluded land.  They found just that when they responded to an ad regarding property for sale east of Kingman, Arizona, and purchased a portion of a ranch that was being subdivided.

Their newly acquired 47 acres consisted of rolling hills on the edge of Cottonwood Mountains in northern Arizona.  Intending to build a home that would fit in with the natural environment, and they began to search the Internet and peruse magazines for ideas to find something they felt had a connection to Arizona.

Although pinion and juniper trees abounded, the couple did not think this high desert land had the feel that would lend itself to a home constructed of round logs, which they associated more with mountain settings.  After considerable research, they selected the square log package offered by Expedition Log Homes.  Expedition's square-cut half-logs feature a planed front with top and bottom draw knifed edges, giving as much depth to the log's appearance as if it were a full log.

The Wirths were crystal clear about their vision for their vacation home.  To take advantage of the magnificent vistas, yet be protected from the wind that can and does blow from any direction, they planned for covered and double-decked porches that wrapped around the home.  "We also wanted an abundance of windows, vaulted ceilings and a loft bedroom." Roger says.

After reviewing their specifications, Expedition's design team recommended that the Wirths engage architect Tom Terry of Distinctive Homes in Prescott, Arizona.  Tom took Expedition's designs and made the necessary adjustments so that the home would suit its distinctive site.  Dan Rotvold, owner of Rotvold Construction  Company and a dealer for Expedition Log Homes in the Southwest, shared general contractor duties with the Wirths.

Built using conventional framing, the home features half-log square timbers attached to both the exterior and interior walls.  Round log accents add architectural appeal.

Willow Springs 07"The home comprises 2,300 square feet on its main and loft levels, with an additional 1,400 square feet in the basement.  The main floor features the great room, dining area, kitchen with pantry, garden room, two guest bedrooms and one bath and a laundry room off of the back porch.  The loft is reserved for the couple's private use, accommodating their master bedroom and bath and a study over-looking the great room.  The daylight walkout basement, typical of many Arizona residences, includes a guest bedroom and a bath, a root cellar, and a recreational room complete with a pinball machine and table shuffleboard.

Several features in this home add to the preventive maintenance of the logs.  Extended overhangs and wrap-around porches, for example, protect the logs beneath them from the wear and tear of the Arizona sun.  Also, the view-end gable is almost completely glass, reducing the amount of log work on the southeast side.

Because the Wirths' building site is 40 miles from the nearest town, finding construction workers willing to travel that far was difficult.  Fortunately, Roger had supported himself through college and law school as a carpenter and felt as comfortable in a workshop as he is in a courtroom.  Besides performing general contractor duties, he installed all of the cabinets and completed the rockwork around the kitchen bar and the exterior foundation.  He also assisted hanging the drywall, which he and Kathryn textured to give a classic plaster appearance.  Together, the couple built their freestanding, one-car garage out of 2-by-6 tongue-and-groove pine.  "All in all," he recalls, "it was very rewarding to be tired at the end of the day, knowing we had a hand in creating our new home."

The Wirths chose Pella double-hung windows to provide the ranch look they hoped to achieve.  This style is also more suitable than casement windows, which Roger says can get in the way of furniture or traffic flow on the deck or patio areas when they are open.  "this type of window works very well in our area," he explains.  "We are able to open the windows from either the top or bottom to regulate the amount of air flow."

For the floors, Dan suggesting using ponderosa pine tongue and groove in lengths varying from 2-by-4 to 2-by-8 to create a distinctive pattern for the floors.  This one layer serves as both the sub floor and finished floor.  Overhead, the ceilings were finished with 1-by-6 knotty pine, also tongue and groove.

When selecting new furnishings, the Wirths included those that would exemplify the  earthiness of the home and its surroundings.  They opted for a casual style, which they label "comfortable rusticness."  Their log package from Expedition Log Homes included $1,000 credit toward furniture form Moosehead Rail & Log Company.  Roger and Kathryn used it to buy kitchen barstools.

The remoteness of their property resulted in the home's being four miles off the local power grid.  They took advantage of the abundant sun and wind to power, installing solar panels and a wind generator from Arizona Solar and Wind on the garage.  A propane generator serves as a back-up during the cloudy winter holiday season when they host family and friends at the ranch.Willow Springs 06

As this portion of Arizona is classified as semi-arid, the Wirths are endeavoring to restore the property's natural appearance, using vegetation that can thrive on the average annual rainfall of 15 inches.  Besides adding cottonwood trees to the existing pinions and junipers, Roger is experimenting with other plants, although he points out that no matter what he tries to grow, even if it is supposed to be less than appealing to rabbits, they will eat it anyway.

One of the Wirths' favorite activities is hiking, especially up  Elk Hill on the western edge of their property.  To reach it, they must first climb down 160 feet to willow Creek, which runs through their property, and then up the mountain.  "on our outings, we often find the skeletal remains of ancient juniper trees, which are very picturesque as they darken over the years." Rogers says.

The couple named their vacation home Cliffrose Ranch, after a common shrub with a yellow spring flower native to northern Arizona.  Cliffrose also happens to be one of the favorite lodges, located just outside of Zion National Park.

To appreciate their new home even more fully, Roger and Kathryn just completed a year's sabbatical from their law practices to spend time at their ranch.  "the whole process has been a challenge to be able to complete all of the work involved," Kathryn says.  "it also has been very fun and exciting."

Interested in seeing the Willow Springs floor plan?  Click here!

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