As vice president of Michigan-based Maple Island Log Homes, Eric Gordon has seen trends come and go and knows handcrafted homes are here to stay.
What are the hallmarks of a hand-crafted home?
Handcrafting is a term that gets used rather loosely, but by definition, it should be just that—a home crafted by hand. At Maple Island, we truly believe in maintaining the integrity of a handcrafted log home. We’re still building homes that are as historically accurate as possible.
Of course, the design and size of the homes are a little different than they were 100 years ago, so we’ve had to adapt the engineering. But the methods of constructing them has basically remained the same.
Besides the obvious aesthetic difference, the one thing that really makes a handcrafted house stand out is when you walk in the door and notice how quiet it is, thanks to the sheer mass of the timbers. That feeling is unmistakable.
Ever had any wacky design requests?
I have a client right now who’s building a home that’s going to be somewhat unique. It isn’t a complicated design, but when it’s finished, the center section will be a handcrafted log home flanked on either side by geodesic domes that are more conventionally constructed. I wasn’t too sure about the project in the beginning, but my client was very persistent, and now I look forward to seeing it when it’s finished.
How has handcrafting changed over the past 10 years?
What’s really changed is the amount of technology that’s going into homes. We haven’t seen a great deal of difference in the style of our houses, but they certainly have become more modern. Mechanical systems, electronics and windows and doors all have improved dramatically.
With the movement toward smaller homes, what do you think is going to be the next big thing in handcrafted home design?
We are certainly seeing a “green” movement now, but as far as the basic design, I don’t see a great deal of change coming to the handcrafted log home industry. People see a handcrafted log home as their sanctuary away from their busy lives, and I hope we continue to build homes that help them achieve that. Log homes should fulfill a dream, so we will continue to design homes based on our clients’ wants and needs.
For our readers who are still trying to decide between going with a milled company or a handcrafter, how should they make their decision?
I always tell people to base their decision between milled and handcrafted on their hearts rather than the sales pitches of a log home company. People should choose based on the specific style that they are after and not be swayed because someone tells them that their system is better, or their log species is better, or for any other reason than simply the look of a particular style of home.
Are there any major differences between handcrafting companies?
There isn’t really a great deal of difference between handcrafters; however, there are some differences of opinions. Most handcrafters build custom log homes of very high caliber and I don't think there is a great deal of difference in quality. I think some companies are better suited to build certain types of structures, though. Some companies prefer not to build using full log gables or log roof framing, but we have been successfully specializing in full log structures for more than 30 years now. We certainly can build just log walls, but most of our clientele come to us for full log structures.
What are the specific design elements that you think complement log homes?
Oftentimes today, people come to us with plans that they have had designed by their own architect and they tend to be much more contemporary, which is fine, but I prefer designs that are more traditional and more conducive to log homes. By that, I mean designs that aren't overly complicated or have too many corners. They should have large overhangs and covered porches, and should fit in perfectly with their surroundings. Nothing’s worse than a log home that doesn't fit the site conditions. Fortunately, we design about 95 percent of the homes we build, so we can help our customers with their designs.
What should no handcrafted log home be without? What would you want in your own log home?
I don't think any handcrafted log home is complete without indoor plumbing. I'm kidding, of course. My own specific needs are fairly simple; I couldn’t have a log home without a huge fieldstone fireplace, covered decks and a kitchen big enough to fit everyone. I love open floorplans and the fact that kitchens have become part of the living space and not just a place to cook in.
We have designed and built more homes around kitchens than all the other rooms combined. It doesn't matter how big the house is, people still congregate in the kitchen, so it should be designed to accommodate however many people will be staying there. Another favorite space for me is the nooks and crannies that we tend to have in the lofts of these homes. A comfortable chair in a full-log nook created by a dormer window can be a wonderful place to sit and read a book or take a nap.
What are some new design trends you’ve noticed in working with clients?
I think advancements in technology have created the biggest changes I’ve seen. It’s affected the designs, too. Communication is so much easier now than it was even 10 years ago, so it’s very easy for people to work from their homes. Because of that, we’re seeing more home offices being planned for.