"Long Range Planning"

Log Home Design Ideas - Planning Guide 2003

Clearwater 03Linda 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 looking for.

"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.

Clearwater 08 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 effect.

"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 system.

Clearwater 07Although 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 worthwhile pursuit.

"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 cost."

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 all-inclusive package.

"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 questions.

"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 own home."

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 New Jersey.

"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."

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