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A Log Home Getaway on the Rockies

A Florida family favors Colorado's Steamboat Springs for their dream vacation home.

Written by Teresa Wolff
Photography by Roger Wade


After Mike Donnelly graduated from high school, he and several school chums started a tradition of taking a ski trip from their homes in Florida to one of the Rocky Mountain resorts. They skied some of the premier slopes in Utah and Nevada, but only Colorado made Mike feel like he could live there.

His fascination with Colorado continued after his marriage to Mary and the births of their three children, and it became the family’s vacation destination. After visiting most of the major resorts, Mike and Mary selected Steamboat Springs to build a vacation log home. “Steamboat Springs was a community before it became a ski resort,” Mike says. “It is a very family oriented and retains its Old West feeling. In addition to the winter skiing, Steamboat Springs offers a wide variety of summer activities for children.”

Then there’s the land itself. “I’m a professional landscaper, and I appreciate the beauty of the outdoor spaces,” he explains. “There is something so special about the Yampa Valley where Steamboat Springs is located. It is a vast open plain surrounded by majestic mountains. To me, it is the most peaceful scenery I have ever encountered.”

Even before the Donnellys purchased their 1.6-acre lot, Mike diligently researched log-home companies and favored the look of Montana Log Homes, specifically its full-length, skip-peeled, Scandinavian-scribed, large-diameter white pine logs. “The way Montana Log Homes’ log joinery comes together gives the homes the appearance of a large piece of beautiful custom-made furniture,” Mike notes.

Even better, the company was represented locally. “Gabe Butler, the co-owner, along with Doug Smith, of Montana Log Homes of Colorado, lived right in Steamboat Springs,” Mike says, explaining that having a local builder increased his confidence in the company.

Mike met with Jim Bachofner, founder and president of Montana Log Homes of Kalispell, to discuss log selection. Wanting to be 100 percent involved in the choice of logs from the standing-dead timbers the company harvested, he had Montana Log Homes e-mail him photos of various logs for his approval. Although this process took 10 months, Mike insists it was worth the wait.

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The Donnellys had some preliminary ideas about the home’s layout. They selected one of Montana’s standard plans as a starting point and met with Jake Henry of owner of Jake’s Drafting Service to work out the details. “A major issue in planning this home was the steepness of the property and the curvature in the street bordering the lot.” Butler recalls. “Jake customized, expanded, chambered and angled the plan until it was exactly what the Donnellys wanted.”

To maximize the panoramic views of their lot on Mount Werner, Mike positioned a stepladder where he envisioned each of the rooms would be. Translating his observations to the plans resulted in the home’s enjoying close to a 240-degree view of the mountains and the Yampa Valley.

Besides the 4,845-square-foot house, the couple added a separate 870-square-foot guesthouse, which is attached to the main home via a covered breezeway. It features a sitting area, full kitchen, bedroom and full bath on the main level and a loft sleeping area accessible by a ladder. “I’m one of eight children, so we generally have lots of guests,” Mary says. “My philosophy is that what is mine is also my family’s, so they know they are always welcome.” The Donnellys also rent out their home when they aren’t using it.

Decorating was a labor of love for Mary. She visited many different furniture showrooms and took photographs of possible pieces that would fit. She spread the photos out on their hotel room bed so she could choose exactly what she felt necessary to create a vacation home that was homey and comfortable. “I know what I want,” she states, “and I will look until I find it.”

Since Mike is a professional landscaper, he spent a great deal of time with Mark Tarzian and his crew from Windemere Landscape and Garden Center to determine what species of foliage would survive and thrive at an elevation in excess of 8,000 feet. He augmented the native vegetation with blue and green spruce, aspens and white pine. Voeltzel Construction completed all of the excavation, including putting in the roads and constructing the retaining walls for the steeply sloped lot so Mike could create tiered gardens. “We situated log posts along the driveway for both safety and aesthetic appeal,” Mike notes. “I found an old ship’s chain in Florida and shipped it to Gabe to put between the posts to prevent any cars from driving off the mountain.”

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When they are in residence during their children’s school vacations or during the summer months, the Donnellys enjoy the outdoor amenities of this Rocky Mountain region. They ski, snowboard and snowmobile in the winter, and fish in nearby Steamboat Lake or hike one of the many trails in the surrounding national parks in the warmer months. They also take in as many of the community’s nonstop special events as possible. “Every time we go to Colorado, we get excited,” Mary relates. “The newness never wears off. I don’t ever need to leave the house. I just love being there with our family and friends. I am truly thankful that God has blessed us with this beautiful home.”

Home details

Square footage: 4,845
Log company: Montana Log Homes