A wicker couch, peeled coffee table and ceramic vases create a romantic, Old World setting on the sleeping porch.
Alan and Susan Rogers did not intend to build a log house. Their plans involved sensibilities, not materials. "Beautiful, wild: those were our criteria," Alan recalls. The Birmingham, Alabama, attorney and his wife wanted a weekend and family vacation house in the isolated splendor of real wilderness, yet within a 2 1/2-hour drive of home. "We wanted hiking trails, wildlife, the sounds of nature," Susan says. "Fishing holes," Alan adds.
Their search led them to northern Georgia, where the long escarpment of Lookout Mountain runs southwest from Chattanooga, TN. In this wild, wooded country, the couple built the ultimate example of log-house architecture on a 6-acre lot in a 200-acre private preserve: 2,300 square feet of custom-designed space, handcrafted of ancient, recycled logs, under a steep, dark-green metal roof. While they insist that house styles never crossed their minds, they agree that this is exactly what they wanted. "We wanted the outside to look as though it grew up out of the ground and the inside to feel like an old shoe," Alan says. "The last thing we wanted was another suburban-looking home."
The first-floor master bedroom provides extensive views of the surrounding woodland, yet feels like the private retreat it is. Susan used an old door to create the shelf above the headboard, finding that this kind of repurposing of old pieces creates the perfect aesthetic fit for a log home.
The couple chose Dan Robinson and his partner, Scott Kelly, of Walden Log Homes in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to capture their vision. The duo builds log houses from recycled logs. "We always use existing, reclaimed logs," Dan explains, "hand-hewn more than 150 years ago by the craftsmen of the frontier era, chosen from the largest, densest trees in the forest. All were hewn from heartwood, and the soft bark and outer wood were hewn away."
Besides great strength, these survivors have an unmatched patina that perfectly describes both the appearance of growing out of the ground and the unassuming comfort of an old shoe. The shell of the cabin is built of poplar logs, the flooring is antique heart pine, and stair railings utilize old tobacco poles.
Not one of the interior doors in Alan and Susan Rogers' fits a standard profile. All are antiques, just as the stair railings and banisters are fashioned from old poles that were originally used to dry tobacco in sheds throughout the South. In the dormers above the first floor, weathered barnboard sheathes the interior walls.
Susan decorated the home herself, using soft greens, blues and earth tones, while carrying on the spirit of reuse and recycling via old furniture and architectural elements. "I didn't know what would look good with log construction," she says. "But I always knew that I'd use second-hand furniture and that the house should look as though we had lived there for a very long time." Susan is especially happy with the old doors used throughout the interior. "We had to build each one into the wall individually, because none of the old interior doors fit a standard measurement," Dan says with a smile. "But they sure are beautiful."
Among the other personal elements that Alan and Susan asked Dan and Scott to produce were large porches that act as exterior living spaces, including a sleeping porch, an outdoor shower and back-to-back fireplaces that face both into the living room and out onto the broad porch. For the fireplace and its wall, masons gathered stones from the surrounding mountainside, fitting each into place. "We weren't thinking 'green,'" Alan says of their planning process. "But the natural house we had in mind—that is exactly what it is." Home Plan Details:
Square Footage: 2,300
Log Company: Walden Log Homes