An East Texas Log Home on the Lakefront

This East Texas log home showcases a variety of wood species, including some salvaged after the devastating one-two punch of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

Rather than design an unvarying uphill staircase, architect Leah Shute eased the climb by creating layered entrance stairs that convey a sense of a journey up to and into the house. Elevating the front entrance allows both the main floor and the basement floor as broad a view of the lake and woods as possible.

Steve and Linda Ough can hardly believe that they're finally living their log-home dream. The high-school sweethearts spent nearly two decades in Texas before moving to Montana in 1997.

With their three children grown, Linda focused on horseback riding and decorating, while Steve got involved in real estate and investments. Among his ventures is part ownership of a resort called the Retreat at Artesian Lakes, which is located about an hour north of Houston, near the Big Thicket National Preserve. It includes a second-home development with about 100 lakefront sites on 400 acres.

The Oughs spared no detail, even in the basement media area. Two kinds of wood create a rustic coffered ceiling, while a variety of fabrics, slate flooring and custom cabinetry add visual appeal.

This spot is where the Oughs decided to build a log home that would serve both as their primary residence—they still spend warm-weather months in Montana—and as a showcase for Artesian Lakes and an occasional rental property.

Working with their architect, log-home company and contractors, the Oughs were able to build a distinctive log house on a challenging but lovely lakefront lot. Rugged and serene, it's exactly the kind of retreat the Oughs had envisioned for years.

The master bathroom achieves its rough-hewn charm by blending faux stone for the tub surround, flat-plate steel with a hammered edge for countertops and wood paneling.

The couple enlisted architect Leah M. Shute of Van Bryan Studio Architects in Bozeman, Montana, to design the house, intending it to be as natural and inviting as its location. From the outset, the Oughs had a clear vision of what they wanted: a master suite and three guest bedrooms; dark wood with a rustic, pioneer look; access to the lake; and an informal feel for casual entertaining.

Leah designed a 3,600-square-foot house with a distinctive wood-and-stone mix, intersecting rooflines and a spacious great room that capitalizes on lake views. It employs breezeways and changes in elevation to make dynamic connections between private bedroom spaces and public entertaining areas.

"There is this incredible choreography of experiences as you meander through the house," Leah says.

After settling on a design, she brought in Hearthstone Homes of Dandridge, Tennessee, to work out the engineering and cut the log package. The home features Hearthstone's Timberwright log system, which uses eastern white pine 6-by-14-inch hewn timbers and hand-carved contouring.

 A long, screened-in porch capitalizes on views of the surrounding lake and showcases heavy timber posts and beams. The porch is just one of many places in the home that offer solitude and reflection.

Because of the custom design, the secluded location and the sloping building site made of engineered fill, the team relied on computer modeling software to visualize the completed house before its construction.

"The software feeds the cutting machinery, which is liberating from a manufacturing standpoint because of its consistency," says Chris Wood, Hearthstone's vice president of sales. "But the final step in preparing the logs is done by hand."

When the construction crew arrived on the secluded spot to build the home, it discovered that cranes were nearly impossible to find. The Gulf Coast region was still recovering from the one-two punch of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and every crane, bulldozer and other piece of heavy machinery was earmarked for reconstruction efforts.

Eventually, the crew secured a crane, but it had to be delivered from hundreds of miles away. The home was completed in spring 2008. The dark-stained heavy timbers that make up the walls, rafters and supports contrast with lighter-colored wood used throughout the house, including for some custom pieces that Linda, contractor BKC Custom Homes and carpenter Troy Whitmire of Triple W Construction created.

For instance, the team used reclaimed cypress trees felled by Hurricane Rita to frame the kitchen island and other key spots in the house, and fashioned a broad-based cypress trunk into a sink for one of the bathrooms. Linda also designed the flooring for the front entryway, which features cypress log end-cuts of various sizes. The beauty of the home and the serenity of its location make the Oughs grateful for how perfectly their home turned out.

Frequent guests echo those sentiments. "We wanted a place where you could walk in, take off your shoes and be comfortable," Linda says. "It's so inviting, in fact, that when we entertain, people tend to stay for the whole weekend."