Natural Attraction: A Victorian, Lodge-Style Log Home

A striking Michigan log home belies its centuries of family history.

It's not unusual to find a photographer in Jim Hardie's driveway or a note from an admirer in his mailbox. No, Jim isn't a celebrity; but he does own one of the most striking homes on Michigan's Iron Lake — and people have noticed.

The lakefront entrance greets guests who arrive by water as well as by land.

Jim and his wife, Lois, built their log home on lakefront property that once housed the summer cabin of Lois's family. That cabin, converted from an 1855 granary, was unsalvageable, so the Hardies started from scratch. As antiques buffs, they first considered building a Victorian-style home, then decided their antiques also fit with the timeworn look of log construction. "I love the warmth and heritage of log," says Jim. "It feels more substantial than conventional homes." The couple bought a package from Garland Log Homes, modifying the bunkhouse exterior to create a dramatic, peaked Victorian meets Western lodge-style design.

They hired builder Gordon Merritt of Merritt Contracting after seeing an ad in a log home magazine and were delighted that Gordon further personalized their home to accommodate their antiques. Then Jim got started on his work: landscaping. Jim has landscaped for friends and for hire, and his former home was often on a garden tour. "I love that you're able to create your own little world with landscaping," he notes. For his new home, Jim laid 2,000 yards of sod and planted 70 trees and countless shrubs and flowers. He brought in boulders, driftwood and statues for garden accents, and added a Victorian reproduction iron fence from his former home. He even had custom, hinged copper gutters installed — they fold up at the downspout to facilitate lawn mowing. The combination of lush landscaping and lovely logs leads passersby to reach for their cameras and to ask Jim for advice on landscaping and log construction. And Jim isn't done yet: he’s adding a 150-foot water garden, complete with waterfalls.

The home

The Builder's Story

The Hardies got the right man for the job when they contacted Gordon Merritt, president of Merritt Contracting, to build their home. Using the logs they purchased from Garland Log Homes (now out of business), Gordon used a Swedish cope system, primarily with 12-inch-diameter Engelmann spruce logs that had been salvaged from fire-damaged forests. The property, gorgeous though it may be, added a challenge to the project. Since it drops sharply to the lake, getting equipment in and working 40 to 60 feet in the air wasn’t simple. Also, knowing that Jim was a consummate landscaper, Gordon worked hard to leave existing trees on the land intact. Another issue? At the time of construction (back in 1999), they couldn't find any trim to fit the home's dramatically arched windows. Luckily, Gordon was resourceful. "We made a steamer, set it up in the house, steamed the materials, formed the trim on the floor, and installed it. With log homes, you need to be a handy, creative carpenter," Gordon chuckles.

Antiques give the home a softer touch.

Flexibility remained key even during final stages of construction. At Jim's request, Merritt created a storage area under the porch and reconfigured and added closets. Changes also were made to accommodate the Hardies' collections. "Jim started bringing in some collectibles, and he couldn't find a place for some of it. So we helped him plan shelves, or nooks and crannies," Gordon notes. That included building shelving across the top of the great room walls and adding bedroom display areas. "We used our creativity to help with their displays, but made it look like it was always in the plan," Gordon adds. Like the Hardies, Gordon loves the results. "The home has become a landmark in the area," he says. "Even people from 60 miles away have told me they know the house because of its beautiful setting and landscaping. It completely captures the Hardies' personalities."  

Home Details:

Square footage: 4,440

Builder: Merritt Contracting Inc.

Log Provider: Garland Log Homes