Against All Odds: Planning a Lakeside Cabin

With a deadline looming, a couple oversees the construction of their log home in southern Virginia — and beats the clock.

When Tricia and Ken Crowley decided to have a log vacation home built on the shores of Virginia's Lake Anna, they chose a contractor with absolutely no experience — Tricia.

Log home exterior

  "We were looking to save some money on the project and figured that I'm organized and I could hire the subcontractors and keep the process going," she says. "I knew I would be in for a lot of work." She was right. For one thing, their primary home was two hours away in suburban Washington, D.C., which meant Tricia racked up tons of mileage going back and forth to the job site several times a week.

"That's when it showed us how valuable it is to have a local general contractor who can oversee the project daily," she says. "Managing it on my own from a distance was a little tricky." On top of that, the Crowleys faced a ticking clock as they broke ground in October 2005. They needed to be done in 12 months or their construction loan would adjust to an unfavorable interest rate. But that was reason enough for Tricia to kick it into high gear to beat the clock, and when their deadline rolled around, they wiped away the last of the construction dust off the windows and were more than ready to move in. "Our primary home in Maryland is nice, but this new home was so much fun we didn't want to leave," says Tricia.

The couple decided on a log home after visiting the area and falling for the property developments around the lake. "We had been to places like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and were familiar with log homes, but something about that trip made us decide we wanted one of our own," she says.

Log home family room

They found a 2.5-acre lot with 130 feet of lakefront that was going on sale the next day. Ken got up early to reach the sales office by 5 a.m. and found two buyers ahead of him. Fortunately though, they had their eyes on different sites. Going through log home magazines and brochures, the Crowleys decided on a custom design by Suwannee River Log Homes of Wellborn, Florida, that featured four bedrooms, a basement and a dramatic, vaulted ceiling.

Log home deck porch

"The Crowleys loved this design, which needed a complicated structural roof system," says Bill Mathews of Suwannee River Log Homes. "It was a bit of a challenge because of the unique design, but we all worked together on it to give them a great finished product." Their ultimate goal was to make the house a gathering place for their children, ages 24, 21 and 18, as well as extended family and friends. "Our kids come here with friends, and we've celebrated holidays here. What we wish we had for it was a name. We started calling it "Crowley's Cabin" but that hasn't stuck," says Tricia. "We just call it 'the house,' so maybe keeping it simple is best."    

Home Details

Square footage: 2,600

Log Company: Suwannee River Log Homes