Rekindling Summer Memories
Log Home Living - 2011 Annual Buyers Guide
For Wisconsin natives Julie and Ted Spillius, summers are meant
to be spent at the lake. Both of their parents had North
Woods properties when they were children, so they dreamed of having
a cabin where daughters Katie, Jackie and Stephanie could enjoy
that same special summer experience. "We found 10.5 acres
with 300 feet of lake frontage on Lake Lucerne," Ted recalls.
"It is a probably one of the cleanest lakes in northeastern
Wisconsin and perfect for swimming. The lake also is very
cold and deep, so it boasts wonderful fishing for lake and brown
trout, smallmouth bass and walleye."
Julie and Ted hoped to renovate a cottage already on the
property, but it turned out to be too damaged to salvage.
That meant building their lakeside retreat from scratch. In
their 20 years as owners of City Lights Design Showroom in
Brookfield, Wisconsin, they furnished lighting for many log homes
and thought the log look would fit perfectly with their
woods-and-water site. The only drawback is that neither is a
fan of full-log construction. "In our business, we know that
lighting makes a major difference in a home," Ted explains, "and
you are much more restricted with lighting options with full
They felt that half-log construction- full logs, cut in two and
sandwiched around conventional framed and insulated walls - would
give them more versatility while providing the full-log look inside
and out. They toured several log-home models and admired one
by Expedition Log Homes. They especially liked the company's
9-inch cabin log, which costs less than the standard half-log but
offers the same custom-log profile. "I loved their
handcrafted vertical post corners," Julie adds. "It
gives the exterior a very finished look and makes it look
like full-log construction."
Ted and Julie decided to build smaller and spend more money
making the interior details special. They laid out the floor
plan with two goals in mind.
they wanted every room to have views of Lake Lucerne and their
backyard pond. "When the sun comes up, it reflects off the
pond. When the sun sets, it reflects off of the lake," Julie
explains. "This gives us wonderful natural light throughout the
cabin, regardless of the time of day."
A bigger goal was to create a fun place for their
daughters. The second level is their space, with a bedroom on
one end of the catwalk, a bunkroom on the other end and a bathroom
The lower level is completely finished, with walkout access to
the pond area. It includes two guest bedrooms, a full bath
and a family room. "We were able to salvage enough of the
tongue-and-groove cedar paneling from the old cottage to use in the
lower-level bedrooms," Ted notes. "This gives us a
sense of connection to the history of the old cottage."
When they were ready to build, the couple enlisted their
Expedition builder-dealer, Ron Charon, to erect the structure and
complete all of the exterior and interior finish work. This
arrangement was especially convenient since the couple lived almost
four hours away. "We made the trip to the cabin at least
twice a month, and in between we consulted with Ron as needed," Ted
says. "We found the quicker we made decisions, the more time
he could spend building. He just took this project on as if
it was his own home."
Charon and Julie designed the kitchen to accommodate her wish
for a pantry and as much cabinet space as possible. "I
definitely wanted the dining room table in front of the big windows
so we could enjoy the view of the lake while we were eating." She
adds. "Since I didn't know how many people we might have at
any one time, I also asked for a snack bar with stools for
additional guests. The kitchen at the cabin has so much charm
and is much nicer than the one we have at our home in
Another highlight is the white pine floor. "We placed the
rough-sawn side of the random-ridge, tongue and groove floor boards
up and coated it with a dark stain." Charon says. "For the
next four months, we dropped hammers on the floor and dragged
equipment over it. When we were finished with construction,
we gave it a light sanding and applied a medium stain and six
coasts of a water-based gym floor finish. That floor looks
like it came out of a barn 100 years ago."
Furnishing the cabin was simple. Ted and Julie choose
pieces from product lines they carried in their showroom at City
Lights and selected light fixtures to create a special ambience for
each room. Julie incorporated bulky, heavier furniture to
enhance the rustic feel.
Originally, they considered having a see-through
fireplace between the great room and dining area but then decided
on two separate fireplaces. Although the home has a
forced-air propane fueled furnace, the wood-burning fireplace they
installed in the great room is sufficient to warm the cabin all by
itself. The dining-area fireplace is gas and especially
convenient. "When I put the coffee on in the morning, I can
just turn on the gas-burning fireplace in the dining room and be
toasty warm in just a few minutes," Ted says.
His only regret is that after a weekend at their cabin, they
find it very difficult to return to the city. So they make
the most of their time there. "I just love to listen to the
frogs on the pond or watch the loons on the lake. When we are
here, we feel so relaxed," Julie says, adding, "We have realized
our goal: Our children have their special memories of summers
at the lake."
Intersted in seeing the
Nicolet floorplan? Click here!