Faced with a crossroads in his life, an Indiana man retreats to the tranquility of a log home in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Crossroads On a warm July morning in 2001, Morgan Tharp hiked across a Tennessee mountainside and found himself at a crossroads in his life. The stock market was tanking, and he was looking for a smarter way to invest. Gazing out over undulating waves of forested peaks, he had a wonderful notion: Why not build a second home here, building memories at his favorite vacation destination while building equity for the future? "The scenery is so peaceful and serene. I just forget about everything when I'm there," explains Morgan, a radiation oncologist who first visited Tennessee with his wife Jenny in 1991. As their family grew to include daughters Lauren, 12, Jessie, 11, and Rachel, 9, they made it an annual pilgrimage from their home in Indiana. "As much as we come, I thought we might as well have our own place, a place big enough that we can bring family and friends," Morgan says. And so they called on Tennessee-based Heritage Log Homes and Clifford Loveday, a Tennessee native who has been building log homes for nearly 40 years. They worked together to build their 4,500-square-foot retreat on a 2-acre parcel on the northern border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Gatlinburg. Here's how they did it:
  • Used 8-inch round logs that are assembled with Hertiage's air-tight system.
  • Modified Heritage's "Junior floorplan" to create a five-bedroom, 5 1/2-bath home that sleeps up to 18. This included expanding the great room and dining room and rearranging the floorplan so that each bedroom captures mountain views.
  • Gave each bedroom had a private bath and its own "wow" factor–whether it's a Texas theme (a nod to Jenny's native state), a Jacuzzi bathtub or rustic log furniture.