Cabin on the Hill: A Midwestern Log Retreat

Tucked into the verdant hills of Southern Illinois, a cabin welcomes guests from around the globe and proves that modest square footage can go a long way.

Jill and Dan Fager didn't keep the log-home dream all to themselves. Instead, they wanted to share the magic of a rustic house with hundreds of guests each year.

Log Home at Dusk

With the couple's background in real estate and construction, building a rental home seemed the natural first step. They bought an 80-acre property among the quiet, wooded hills and tranquil lakes of Southern Illinois, just minutes from Carbondale. "We started with one cabin," Jill explains. "Then that really took off, so we built another one. Now "Cabin on the Hill" consists of their own home and four rentals: "the little red barn," two smaller cabins and the crown jewel, a premier luxury cabin.

Each retreat is spaced for privacy, but all overlook a lovely valley that's home to the Fagers' hobby farm. "The layout of the property enables each home to be incredibly private but not too secluded," Jill says. Guests have come from as far away as Finland to enjoy the area's wineries, hunting, fishing and other outdoor attractions. Animal lovers delight in the other full-time residents on the property, including horses, miniature donkeys, pygmy goats, pot-bellied pigs, peacocks and turkeys. "It's a menagerie," Jill says with a laugh. The business allows the Fagers to share with guests their passion for the log-home lifestyle. "I like the rustic look," Jill says. "I like the warmth and the coziness a wood house gives you. All the McMansions with the sheetrock and vinyl siding and brick—they simply lack the character of a log home."  

Using materials from Northeastern Log Homes, Dan constructed the first two cabins himself. For the cabin featured in this story, they enlisted the help of Specialized Services of Murphysboro, Illinois, and opted for Northeastern's top-of-the-line materials. Construction moved quickly: The materials were delivered in early June, and the house was completed and rented by the end of September. "We hustled," says builder-contractor Jim Jenkins. The house is 1,900 square feet with a 1,200-square-foot basement. The main floor includes two bedrooms, a spacious great room, kitchen and bathroom. The master suite is tucked away in the loft, along with an adjacent reading/game room. The Fagers chose materials with renting in mind, opting for Congoleum plank flooring, for example. "It looks like wood, but it's easy to clean," Jill says. "We wanted stuff that could handle a little more wear and tear."

Cultured Stone also plays a big part in the home; the material encases the exterior of the exposed basement and climbs from the fireplace to the top of the great room's cathedral ceiling. "I like the appearance of the high ceilings with the big timbers," Jim says. Jill decorated all the cabins herself, and she found the main cabin's furniture and accessories everywhere from antique stores to Bass Pro Shops to eBay. The home offers plenty of relaxing spaces, from the six-person hot tub to the row of rocking chairs on the porch, and it immediately won over Angela Devaney, who has vacationed at Cabin on the Hill every year since it opened. She and her husband Pat have stayed in the cabin twice and plan to go back this fall.

"I absolutely love the big wraparound porch," Pat says. "I've spent many mornings sitting out there, drinking coffee and watching the horses." The rural setting provides a change of scenery from the Devaneys' home in Champaign, Illinois, and the Fagers' hospitality always makes them feel at home. "They have a lot of personal touches," Angela says. "We've stayed in other cabins, and they didn't have those extra things that make it really special. Jill says many people are intimidated by building a custom home but shouldn't be. "The process isn't that difficult," she says. "If you have a good builder, the home goes up quickly. We've done four of them ourselves, and we're still married!"

Home Plan Details:

Square Footage: 3,100

Log Company: Northeastern Log Homes