Home Away from Home: A Weekend Home in Western Virginia

A woodsy setting creates the perfect backdrop for the ideal getaway.

Caroline and David Hickerson's log-home dream may not have started with timber, but it was clearly inspired by the woods—45 lush acres near Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, to be exact.

Although the home's original design called for a powder room off the entryway, owner Caroline Hickerson nixed the idea in favor of more openness. 'We took it out because we wanted to see the logs as much as we could throughout the house,' she explains. 'I guess that's somewhat impractical, but it added so much just by not covering up the logs in the foyer.'

"We bought the land and decided to build our weekend home soon after," says Caroline, who resides outside Washington, D.C., with David and their two teenagers. "My husband was interested in log homes, and I looked into them and decided I liked them, too." The Hickersons knew their rugged, remarkable property—situated on a mountainside and accessible only via gravel road—called for an equally rugged and remarkable home, one that would serve as a family retreat for years to come. To make it a reality, they turned to Michigan-based Maple Island Log Homes. "We were set on a handcrafted home," says Caroline, whose 4,500-square-foot masterpiece is similar to one the log provider had created for another client. "We liked the fact that the logs aren't uniform and that they're hand-peeled. They're very different from the milled ones."

'When we started building, we thought we were only going to do the main floor and the upper floor,' laughs Caroline Hickerson, whose 4,500-square-foot masterpiece boasts expanses of pine and natural stone in the great room and elsewhere. 'And then we ended up finishing the lower level, too. I guess that often happens to people!'

  Eric Gordon, vice president of Maple Island Log Homes, attributes that difference to the fact that not only are the full and custom logs his company uses on its homes de-barked, peeled, scribed and notched by hand, but also the Norway pine it uses "tends to have more knot clusters, giving it more character." And the Hickersons' four-bedroom, four-bathroom home has no shortage of character.

From the gorgeous 11- to 14-inch butt diameter logs used in the exterior structure to the century-old reclaimed heart-pine flooring, the space is a testament to the notion that, when given center stage, Mother Nature's finest can shine. It's something Caroline knew all along. "I wanted everything in the house to be natural," she says. "And I went out of my way to do that." One such instance: the Michigan glacial rock in the home's foundation and fireplaces. Enamored of its appearance, Caroline decided that her home would include that actual stone instead of a look-alike. "We liked it so much that we decided to haul it in," she says. Although doing so added a couple weeks to the 13-month project, builder Gerry Frank of C'Ville Construction agrees that the idea was brilliant. "It's as if the log work is complementing the stonework," he says, adding that he had to offload the weighty logs and stone in a staging area and then truck them up the mountain in small batches. "The logs are obviously a focal point, but the stonework is almost more of a focal point."

That's the beauty of log homes: There's something to be found in every crevice, at every turn. "As you sit on the covered deck next to the fireplace, it's easy to understand why people find this style of home so comforting," Eric says of the Hickersons' place. "There is no feeling like you get in a log home, and this one is no exception."

'We were very set on getting a handcrafted log home,' says Caroline Hickerson of her and husband David's decision to build a weekend retreat on 45 acres near Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. 'We liked the fact that the logs aren't uniform and that they're hand-peeled, and we liked the massiveness of the house. It's just so interesting architecturally.'

Home Plan Details:

Square Footage: 4,500

Builder: C'Ville Construction

Log Company: Maple Island Log Homes