Lakeside Delight

Wisconsin natives Jim and Sue Alexander were drawn to their state's northern lakes and forests for vacations and decided to buy land and build a cottage as a first step toward retirement.

Exterior view of the Binder home

Sue recalls one of their three daughters suggested diving into the project “right now, before Jim retired, so we could build before we were on a fixed income.” The couple purchased land in 1994 on one of the many lakes just outside of Rhinelander, about an hour’s drive from their Wausau home. It came with a stone cottage that had four bedrooms but only one bathroom, with a tiny shower. There was also a shallow well with undrinkable water. They tolerated conditions for 10 summers before deciding to replace the cottage with a new log home. Jim was the one who had his heart set on a log home. Sue was more concerned with the floor plan. She thought she had it right until the day before they met with their designer, when Jim informed Sue that he wanted a loft, which her plan lacked. She wanted all of their living space on one floor, but Jim was willing to spend extra for a study where he could find solitude, view the lake and watch eagles, loons and deer, who cross it in winter. They changed the plan one more time and now agree the loft was money well spent. They chose Tomahawk Log and Country Homes in nearby Tomahawk, Wisconsin, to produce their home. First, they wanted a half-log wall system to avoid having logs in certain areas of the home, like the master bedroom.
Living room in the log home

Second was Tomahawk's closeness to their home site. The company serves as a turn-key builder on projects within an hour's radius of their mill. Jim and Sue welcomed working from start to finish with the same team. Despite the closeness of Wausau, the home site and Tomahawk, the couple and the company communicated largely by e-mail. "Unlike verbal communications, which can be misunderstood or, worse, completely forgotten, e-mails provide written documentation," Sue says. "This makes for less likelihood that mistakes will occur on the project." The home is approximately 3,200 square feet, including the finished walkout lower level with its own great room for living, dining and kitchen areas. Construction began in August 2006, and Sue did the final walk through on February 24, 2007—right on schedule. Jim, a vascular surgeon, was especially pleased with the construction crew, saying they were "as good with a chain saw as I am with a scalpel." More on this home, including additional photos and floor plan, ran in the magazine.