"Long Range Planning"
Log Home Design Ideas - Planning Guide
and Tony Em took their sweet time planning a retirement home.
Now, after more than a decade of researching, planning and
revising, they spend lazy days in a log home designed for lake
views - and how sweet it is.
If you want something done right, do it yourself. New
Jersey natives Linda and Tony Em took this approach when designing
their South Carolina retirement home. As a result, they have
a log home that fits them like a glove.
Most successful journeys begin with a good map. The Ems
took more than 10 years to plan their log home. They pored
over stacks of log home magazines and attended several open
houses. When it came time to plan their log home, they just
compiled ideas they turned up during research.
"We'd say, 'I want those windows, but…,' and 'I want that
fireplace, but….," Linda says. "Then we took our favorite
rooms and put them together into one house."
The couple knew they wanted a rustic style but they weren't
completely sold on full-log construction. When they attended
an open house featuring a half-log home built by Expedition
dealer/builder Larry Braun, they knew they had found what they were
"We walked in and said, 'Oh my god, this is our dream house,"
Linda says. "We just feel in love with it."
Linda drew up a rough plan, then the couple worked with
Expedition designer Scott Remington until they had exactly what
they wanted. The result is a 2,400 square foot half-log home
with expansive windows, dramatic roof lines and a healthy marriage
of rustic and modern style.
The time and effort Linda and Tony put into planning their home
paid off. Now the couple whiles away afternoons 50 feet above
beautiful Lake Murray in a one-of-a-kind log home designed to take
advantage of lake views. The home turned out so well, the
best view may be from the lake looking up.
There's a saying you can take the boy out of the country but you
can't take the country out of the boy. Apparently that
applies to city folks as well. Linda and Tony were looking
for something rustic, but they weren't ready to give up city style
and modern convenience.
The only interior log walls in their home are in the great room
and dining room. The rest are drywall. The contrast
gives the home a best-of-both-worlds effect and allows the logs to
stand out as a dominant, but not dominating, design element.
"We wanted it to be comfortable and laid-back like the country,
but with a city touch," Linda says.
Half-log construction was a perfect fit for the Ems. The
logs lend the home a traditional feel while the drywall offers
design flexibility and a clean, modern look.
The couple perfected this marriage of materials in the great
room. Drywall and an elegant wall of windows work in concert
with log work, hardwood floors, leather furniture and a Mississippi
river rock fireplace to create an eclectic yet harmonious
"The great room is what we're most happy with," Linda
says. "It's very cozy, it feels like a lodge."
Tony liked that half-log homes incorporate conventional
stick-frame construction techniques. Having spent more than
20 years running a plumbing and heating business, he planned to do
the plumbing for this home, so anything that made the job easier
was a bonus.
"It was just like (plumbing) a regular stick-frame home," Tony
says. "In fact, it was easier because it was 2x6 framing
instead of 2x4, so there was more room to work with."
OSB (Oriented Strand Board) sheathing was attached to the 2x6
studs and sandwiched around R-21 high-density insulation. The
8-inch pine half logs were then toe-nailed to the studs and
attached to adjacent logs with OlyLog fasteners. The logs
were hand-scribed at the corners to form a full saddlenotch corner
Although the Em home isn't what you would call
extravagant, some of its features are extraordinary. Take,
for instance, the octagonal bump-out off the dining room.
"We built it around an oak table we bought 10 years ago," Tony
says. "We always had it in mind to build a little nook off
the dining room."
That little nook added a lot of labor and cost to the
project. "Those types of installations are a challenge,"
Braun says. "From the octagonal footings to the final trim,
it's a very labor intensive project." But for what it adds to
the home, Braun and the Ems are in agreement that it was a
"The space doesn't add much square footage but it adds
interest," Braun says. "It's beautiful," The expansive Pella
windows are the Ems' pride and joy, however.
"That's the one thing we had to have," Linda says. "They
are top of the line windows. They're easy to open and close,
easy to clean, they're very well insulated….they were well worth
The tall windows, which reach nearly 26 feet in the great room,
forced the Ems to incorporate unique roof lines into the home's
design. A gable roof line spans 50 feet and cradles the
octagonal bump-out and a gabled extension over the master
bedroom. A dormer juts off the side of the home from a
second-floor guest bedroom. The resulting dramatic angles
frame the round-top windows and complement the horizontal pattern
created by the logs.
Although Expedition's half-log system was a big selling po9int,
the Ems chose the company for other reasons, including their
"They were very up-front with what was included in the package,"
Tony says, "and it was pretty much everything we needed to build
the home except the hardwood floors."
Since the couple was acting as their own general contractor they
needed to know they could rely on Expedition to answer their
"If I had to call 10 times a day with 10 different questions,
they were always there to answer me - and quickly," Linda says,
"which is important because time is money when you're building your
In early 2001, the first delivery was made to the site. It
included the floor system, wall framing, sheathing, roofing,
structural logs - basically everything needed to enclose the
home. The second package, which included the logs, stairs and
railing, arrived a couple months later.
Larry Braun, who had patiently answered the Ems' questions for a
decade while they planned their home, kept tabs from his office in
"I gave them a bunch of film and some mailers and had them take
pictures of the construction to keep me updated," Braun says.
"I knew where they were the whole time."
The Ems moved into the home August 2001. "The house went
up fast," Tony says. "It went pretty smoothly." Fast
wasn't fast enough for the Ems, though.
"We couldn't wait to move in," Linda says. "We were very
anxious to start living in the home we had been dreaming about for
more than 10 years."