A handcrafted log home in Colorado fits an active lifestyle.
Story by Teresa L. Woff | Photos by James Ray Spahn
Contractors Jim and Mary Darcy had built homes with log accents before but never one of full log. Then they bought 1.7 acres in a subdivision of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The location suited their active lifestyle, with immediate access to golf and only a five-minute drive from world-class skiing.
Even though it’s just a short distance from Steamboat, Jim notes the area feels remote because it is so wooded, and it abuts open space and Routt National Forest. The Darcys decided the setting called for full-round, handcrafted logs. The site also offered opportunities to incorporate passive solar gain into their design, especially with the placement of rooms and windows.
The east-facing kitchen lets the Darcys bask in the warmth of the morning sun. The great room faces south, where the winter sun heats the space, even on the coldest days.
The floor plan was a result of the couple’s researching log-home magazines and visiting many open houses. They wanted a large home so their three boys and their friends could spread out. They also intended for the home to be multi-generational to accommodate their extended family. Jim had worked with architect Tom Jarmon of Eric Smith and Associates on other projects and decided he was a good fit to assist with the design of this home.
“He was able to help determine how to get all the bedrooms, bathrooms and closets to work together,” Jim says. “That was no small feat considering there are six bedrooms, including dual master suites with balconies, eight baths and an elevator in this home.”
The three-story classic log home is built in an L-shape. On the main level, one leg of the L is devoted to the open great room, dining and a large, open kitchen that the Darcys say is ideal for entertaining, although Mary quips it’s often difficult to get everyone out of the kitchen so she can finish her culinary duties.
It can accommodate 12 people comfortably between the window counter and the island, with eight more at the dining room table. The other leg of the main level contains a master bedroom suite, a guest bedroom with handicapped-accessible bathroom, a den, a powder room and the laundry. Outdoor living space includes a patio off the dining room and a partial wrap-around deck flanking the great room.
The top floor holds the second master suite, three additional bedrooms and bathrooms, and the loft.
“When we first moved in, our children set up tents in the loft and slept there,” Jim recalls. “They thought it was much more fun than sleeping in their bedrooms.”
The lower level serves as the home’s main entry, highlighted by an atrium that opens through all three levels, 36 feet from floor to ceiling. Secondary access is from the three-car garage and a short walk to the elevator.
“This may seem a bit unusual, but in reality it is very practical,” Mary points out. “The elevator provides access to the upper two levels. I can pull into the garage, unload all of the groceries into a shopping cart, wheel it into the elevator, send it to the second level and push the cart to the refrigerator. It also is convenient for anyone who is temporarily or permanently disabled. As a skiing family, we have had our share of broken bones, and the elevator is literally a lifesaver. It is also very handy for taking the dirty laundry from the upstairs bedrooms to be washed.”
After completing their design, Jim and Mary took the plans to Greatland Log Homes to fine-tune to work with logs. Then, company engineer and vice president W. Eric Williams and the team, including his dad and brother, set the logs and erected the home. Jim served as the general contractor for the project.
“It took 11 days to put up nine truckloads of logs and five more to put on the structural insulated roof panels,” Jim remembers. “If there was an issue, Eric was able to fix it on the spot. I appreciated having the engineer on-site with a hands-on approach to problem-solving.”
Jim and Mary incorporated as many reclaimed elements in the home as possible. The distressed hardwood flooring in the kitchen, dining room and hallways was once timbers in a Kentucky tobacco barn. Trex composite decking, made from shopping bags, was used for the decks.
The logs themselves are standing-dead Engelmann spruce from trees in Canada that a beetle infestation killed. Jim thinks the bluish tint, a trademark of the beetle-killed pine, adds another dimension of beauty to the logs.
The Darcys selected a rustic motif for furnishings and enlisted Michael Buccino of Steamboat Interiors to help locate pieces to fit their theme. He also assisted them in positioning the furniture for maximum utility of space.
To maximize heating efficiency, separate thermostats control each of the home’s 27 zones. Four gas fireplaces — one in each master suite, the great room and the lower-level rec room — supplement the in-floor radiant heat provided by a natural gas boiler.
“On sunny days in the winter, the boiler doesn’t come on at night because the passive solar heats the place up and logs store the heat,” Jim says. “The opposite happens in the summer. With the higher sun angle, the sun barely comes in, and with a few windows open at night the logs keep the home cool during the day.”
After construction, the Darcys returned their lot to it its natural state, peppering it with native plants except for a small amount of sod that provides a firebreak.
“We planted flowers in the backyard, but the deer quickly feasted on those,” Jim says. “Through trial and error, we have found foliage, such as flax, black-eyed Susans and fireweed, that they don’t like.”
The home constantly delights the Darcys, especially inside. “I can stay indoors all day and be happy,” Mary says. “Because of all the windows, it feels like I am outside when I am actually warm and safe indoors. It is only fitting that the name of our subdivision is ‘The Sanctuary,’ because that is what this home feels like to us. It is truly our sanctuary.”