Cabin in the Smokies | A Smoky Mountain Retreat

A couple builds a rental cabin in the Tennessee mountains.

The exterior of the Lewis home

Anyone wanting to escape to the Smoky Mountains and retreat to a comfortable log cabin will find plenty of opportunities in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Steve and Rochelle Lewis built a spacious rental log cabin for visitors to the area and for themselves on special weekends. “We knew exactly what we wanted in this home,” says Steve. “We’ve had other rentals and were familiar with what families looked for when choosing a place.” The retreat includes a first-floor master suite, additional suites on separate levels, and an outdoor hot tub overlooking the mountains.

The project began nearly three years ago when Steve and Rochelle were searching the internet for land in Gatlinburg and they found Jeff Schoenfield’s Remax All Pro Realtors website. Jeff and his wife Karen sell homes and land and know the local market. The Lewises called Jeff about a newly listed 1.3-acre lot near Great Smoky National Forest, and Jeff offered to drive up there personally to check it out. “After his inspection of the lot, he said that if we didn’t buy it, he would,” says Steve. The lot is on a steep slope, but the view was clear. It was also located just down from Great Smoky National Park entrance and all of the park amenities, so there was easy access to hiking, fishing, and horseback riding. Downtown Gatlinburg was also only 12 miles away.

feel to the home's decora

Once the land was purchased, a floor plan was needed. Steve got in touch with a local contractor, Russell Bryant of Greenbrier Builders. Between the two of them, they laid out a plan that would fit the needs of potential renters and work with the sloping lot and fantastic view. They developed a modified chalet style home with 23-foot-tall cathedral ceilings, a large loft, and a finished lower level. The 1,800-square-foot first floor was planned to offer everything: storage, a first floor master suite, a central gathering room, and a deck with a breath-taking view. “My wife and I were tired of stairs. It was important to keep as much as possible on one floor,” says Steve. The Lewises designed two other bedrooms with attached bathrooms on other floors to provide privacy for multiple families. Total square footage of the home comes to about 3,800.

One important practice Steve and Rochelle started with this project was using a binder to hold all their ideas and final purchases in plastic sleeved pages. “This was the smartest thing I’ve ever done,” Steve says. “ When I build another home, I definitely will have another binder. It holds all ads, brochures, and receipts of all things related to the home. If I need to replace something, I know what I have and what can be used to replace it.” The binder also helped Russell see exactly what styles, colors, and materials the Lewises wanted when building the home. “Building a home from a distance is a big enough challenge, so being organized is a must,” he says.

A rustic bedframe completes this bedroom's decor

Only a few changes were made from the original plan. One addition was more lighting in the kitchen. “I wanted to be sure this was a bright and functional workspace. We installed 16 recessed energy-efficient halogen lights,” says Steve. “Another change was an upgrade to hickory flooring. I think this gives the rooms more character.” A specification that was eliminated from the plan was underground wiring. “We saved about $8,000 by bringing the wiring up along poles rather than burying it,” Steve says. “With all the trees in the yard, it is practically invisible.” In the end, the contractor came in $75 under the $315,000 budget. “Russell was going to write out a $75 check and I told him to keep it,” laughs Steve. “We’re very happy with the finished product and wish we could spend more time here.” Currently the cabin is rented more than 200 days a year; the Lewises set aside about 15 days for themselves.