Country's Best Log Homes - May 2007
What does it take to make a modern look with a touch of rustic tradition from traditional plans and by using traditional research methods? If you're Daphne and Tim Livingstone, it takes more than 25 years of planning and effort.
The Livingstone log home near Perryopolis, Pennsylvania, first appeared on the couple's radar shortly after they were married. "I introduced the idea of a log home to Tim in 1980," Daphne says. "At that time I though it was something we would do for retirement and it was put on the back burner. It came up again when we purchased two lots in the country about 20 years ago." That's when the couple began researching log homes in earnest.
"It was more of a chore back then," says Daphne. "Twenty years ago, there was no internet, so it was a matter of getting catalogs through the mail and pondering things."
The Livingstones spent time visiting log home models in their area and attending log home shows. "I had a two-foot high stack of all the catalogs I sent for and all the magazines I bought," Daphne remembers. "To organize the whole thing, I got myself a great big scrapbook and started clipping our pictures - views, dormers, front porches - and putting it all into my scrapbook. I think when you've dreamed about something for so long, you've got some pretty clear mental pictures."
Daphne calls their choice of a log home company "a matter of fate or providence or God's leading." She studied the back pages of log home magazines and found a phone number for Dave and Sally Mitchell, authorized representatives of Expedition Log Homes. When she called, she learned that Dave Mitchell was planning to visit the county fair in her hometown. "I went to the fair, got the literature, and was almost sold from the start," Daphne says.
She and Tim are happy with the home Expedition provided them. "Their concept was what we were interested in - a regular two-by-six studded home with log on the inside and outside," Daphne says. "I really like that idea because I know that between me and Mother Nature are 13 ½ inches of good, solid insulation - including logs - and that really impresses me."
Their 2,700 square-foot home has eight-inch white pine logs with standard butt-and-pass corners. "I call that house two houses in one," says Mitchell, "because the front is so conservative with a Cape Cod look, and yet from the back it has the much more modern, attention-getting stance with those trapezoid windows flanking the chimney on either side." Indeed, Daphne says many people have asked why they didn't turn the house around on their lot.
The folks at Expedition Log Homes were so impressed with the couple's floor plan that they asked them to name it, and the plan is now in the company's plan book. "[The Livingstone] has been a key house for us," Mitchell says. "We've shown it to so many people, and it's in all our company literature."
The Livingstones chose Roy Horrell as their general contractor. He and Tim went to high school and played football together. "This was the first log home he ever built," says Tim, "but his track record as a builder was excellent." Tim and Daphne were more than pleased with Horrell's work, and Horrell enjoyed the project so much that he's eager to tackle another log home. "I've built over 300 homes," says Horrell, "and building that log home was like being a little kid again. It was a lot of fun."
Although the couple didn't do any of the actual construction work themselves, they put considerable sweat equity into the project. Their son Timbo, friends and other family members spent hours clearing the lot in preparation for building the home. They did all interior painting and staining, and last summer, with the help of Tim's Uncle Ed, they refinished the entire exterior of the home with Sikkens "Natural Light." "Looking at the house now, it seems to glow," says Daphne. "It's very beautiful. Tim just stood back and smiled when he watched the rain beating off it."
Daphne had a long wish list of features she wanted to include in her dream home. She always envisioned a long, rustic front porch where she could sit in her rocking chair and watch the day pass by. She loved the idea of dormers, and she knew she wanted the center one slightly larger than those on either side. She felt they needed a huge back deck to accommodate their family, and she wanted a bump-out bathroom. "Soaking in that tub with the morning sun shining in is such a welcoming way to start the day," Daphne says.
At first she thought she'd like the coziness of a standard height ceiling in every room, but their plan ended up "as open as you can get" with high cathedral ceiling in the living room. Now she likes the fact that she can be anywhere in the house and still be connected. "I can be in the kitchen and holler clear up over the loft into my son's bedroom to make sure he's down in time for dinner," Daphne says. A laundry chute in Timbo's upstairs bedroom does double duty as the house intercom. Tim convinced Daphne to incorporate the tiny powder room off the front entry so guests didn't need to walk through bedrooms to reach a bathroom.
The Livingstones didn't consciously plan for all the angles in their roof system, but they're happy with the interest they add to the house. They definitely wanted the large tie beams that cross the living room, but the original plan also called for decorative V-beams above them. Horrell took them up into the loft one day and asked them to look toward the fireplace. He wondered whether they really wanted to obstruct the view with more logs. They opted to eliminate the V-beams.
A massive fireplace of cultured stone that soars 22 feet is the focal point of the living room, the family's favorite gathering place. Daphne and Tim excluded a family room from their floor plan so that everyone would spend time together in the living room.
The fireplace has a heatilator that blows warm air into the house, and ceiling fans help circulate it supplementing the heat from their propane forced air furnace. "We've been able to reduce our heating costs pretty significantly on a monthly basis by doing that," says Daphne. And because of the home's extra-thick walls, Daphne is convinced that they are heating the house rather than the whole outdoors.
Daphne covered the floors in the foyer, kitchen and powder room with ceramic tile for easy cleanup, but she chose 8-inch tongue-and-groove oak flooring for much of the living area over the objections of their builder. "Everyone told her that it would warp and cup, but she insisted," says Mitchell, "and I'm so glad she prevailed. It is one of the finest floors I've seen in any of our homes anywhere." Horrell's crew fastened the flooring with nails and adhesive to ensure the planks wouldn't move.
The house was Daphne's dream, but Tim was behind her 100% and is proud of the finished product. "It's not a run-of-the-mill home," he says. "When my son and I are out working in the yard, people will slow up and ask to see the inside. It makes you feel good."
Daphne is content, too. "This house has been in my head for so many years that when it finally became a reality I knew this is where I wanted to be for the duration. I expect to live out my days here."
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