Planning a Low-Impact Log Home: Tree Hugger

A Chicago couple builds a dream vacation cabin getaway without disturbing a single century-old pine tree on their lakefront property.

When designing their log retreat in Wisconsin's North Woods region, Dave and Jenny Kavanaugh took their love of wood a step above simply using the timbers for their home's walls. They actually mandated that not a single of their property's stately pine trees should fall during the construction of the home.

The result? A meandering design hugged by the forest that envelops it. "We had to work the house into the existing landscape," explains architect Joseph Augitto, with Archibello LLP in Minocqua, Wisconsin. "If we'd sculpted the land, we'd tear up the root system of the pine trees, and some are probably 120 years old."

A view of the exterior on the Kavenaugh home.

Five years ago, the Chicago couple sought waterside property that would accommodate getaways with their four children and six grandchildren. The lot they purchased on Lake Minocqua contained an old lodge, but they quickly realized that they wouldn't be able to renovate that building to suit their needs. So the Kavanaughs started fresh by building a new home; one in the style of log, but with a conventional-home feel.

For guidance, they turned to their longtime builder, Michael Coffen of Coffen Construction in Minocqua, Wisconsin. "Dave wanted the home to be indicative of its North Woods environment," says Michael, "But he also wanted a lot of high-end amenities." With the help of the architect Joseph, Michael and the Kavanaughs designed a hybrid log structure that matched the couple's vision. The resulting house, built with logs provided by Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin-based Golden Eagle Log Homes, has 4,160 square feet of living space, encompassing four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a great room, a three-season room, an oversized rec room above the garage and stunning vistas of the idyllic lake.

"The views are the most irresistible feature of the house," says Joseph. “There are dynamic scenes of Lake Minocqua from the primary rooms; nearly all of the windows are directed toward it." The exterior logs—2-by-8-inch western red cedar with deep V-grooves—were custom-milled for the couple, according to Golden Eagle John Batzer. Vertical pine beams are used as posts at every corner and stained to match the log courses. And a copper-shingled roof tops it off, adding a unique look to the residence. The pine-shaded home has two grand entrances: one from the lake and another from the road. The roadside entrance boasts a 20-foot-high, drive-through portico leading to the foyer, while stairs leading up from the lake gently ascend the sloping hillside to the three-season room—an upscale version of a screened-in porch, complete with carpeting and a fieldstone fireplace.

"This room is the transition from the house to the lake," says Michael. "The family spends a lot of time in this room, except during the coldest months of the year." But even during the brutal winters of northern Wisconsin, they can be found enjoying their rustic-yet-luxurious log home. "They go ice-fishing and snowmobiling," Michael says. "They can vacation together comfortably because it's so spacious, and that was the Dave and Jenny's goal." That, and preserving their pristine locale for the generations of Kavanaughs that are to come. Click for larger version of the image:

Home Details

Square footage: 4,160

Architect: Archibello LLP

Builder: Coffen Construction

Log Provider: Golden Eagle Log Homes