A New York log home celebrates vistas and openness.
The oft-told tale of the cobbler’s shoeless children rings true for Kurt Propst. He started out working in his family’s hardwood-lumber business in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Yearning to do something with “more pizzazz,” Kurt says that the turning point in his life came after watching a video of a planer making a log. It inspired him to start Estemerwalt Log Homes in the mid-1980s. For the next 20 years, he helped other people’s dreams come true. Finally, Kurt got around to building a log home for himself. He and his wife, Ellie, moved from their stick-built house to a hilltop home with a view that overlooks a not-too-distant lake and extends to New York’s Catskill Mountains, 56 miles away. This idyllic site was on family land that had become so overgrown since the 1920s, no one remembered it even had a view. “You couldn’t see 10 feet because of all the brush and brambles,” Kurt recalls. A few years ago, however, his father wanted to clear the land for a field. Kurt was helping, when he happened to stand up on the bulldozer and spied the lake. “That’s the day,” he says, “I decided to build a house there.”
Since the Propsts had recently begun looking to move, they decided to go ahead and build their first log home. Selecting the company to produce it was, of course, a no-brainer. Like most other log-home buyers who already own their land, the Propsts started working on a design. Two crucial considerations were capturing the 90-degree view from northeast to southeast and accommodating Ellie’s limited mobility due to multiple sclerosis. “I just started sketching plan after plan until I finally got the layout where I wanted,” Kurt says, adding Estemerwalt’s in-house design staff formalized the plans.
The result is a low-profile home that features all the main rooms on one level with a staggered rectangular footprint, 112 feet by 28 feet, that lets every room enjoy the lake vista. The centerpiece of the layout is an open, 1,400-square-foot great room, which includes the entry and a breakfast nook, leaving some 1,700 square feet for a long, furnished hallway, the master suite, two additional bedrooms, a bathroom, a bonus room and a 12-by-20-foot laundry room.
For their walls, the homeowners favored Estemerwalt’s signature 12-inch-diameter milled, double tongue-and-groove Eastern white pine logs. Such large milled logs are rare, especially in the East, but Kurt has found them to be popular with his customers, most of whom are located within 500 miles and don’t want to pay shipping for big logs from the West. Besides their size, Estemerwalt’s logs are unseasoned, or green, rather than the usual air-dried, kiln-dried or standing-dead ones.
The Propsts broke ground about a year after choosing the site. They hired local builder Steve Roy to erect the shell. He finished the job in six weeks. From that point, Kurt relied on friends in the trade, and work proceeded at what he describes as a leisurely pace. “They worked as their schedules allowed,” he says. “I didn’t help much because I’d have just been in the way, although I did move materials, like sorting through the logs to get the right one because the contractor had never built a round-log home before.”
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Eighteen months later, the home was ready to move in. Furnishing the home was an opportunity to mix old and new pieces. Among the latter was the couple’s log-post bed, a housewarming gift. “We have things as old as my great-grandfather’s dining room table and Italian leather furniture for the living room,” Kurt notes. “I wouldn’t say we’re frugal people, but we hate throwing anything away.” Ellie picked out all the electrical fixtures at a local supply house, including the standout ceiling light in the great room, which she knew would be perfect for such a large space. It came in a box so big, it had to be taken apart to fit through the door. The kitchen features low cabinets to maintain openness and a 4-by-14-foot island for storage and workspace. The range hood is positioned to maximize the view.