Green Mountain Glory: Planning an Urban Log Home in Vermont

Its rugged exterior is pure log home, but inside, this Vermont cabin is polished, painted and urbane.

Log home exterior with view of landscaping

When you think of log homes, you probably imagine a natural, rustic interior that matches the surrounding woodsy landscape. But that’s not exactly what Hal Conger and Ken Dabbs had in mind when they built their 2,400-square-foot home in Sudbury, Vermont The exterior is rustic, indeed, but the interior is polished and painted in what the owners describe as more of Ralph Lauren’s take on a log home than Daniel Boone’s. “Log homes fit our lifestyle,” explains Ken “We’re both from the mountains. We like to fish and hunt, and we wanted a home that’s comfortable and simple, but elegant at the same time.” Hal agrees, calling the home a “secret dream come true” for a couple of country boys who love nature.

Though each is only 47, they’ve retired to a home that fits their needs perfectly. “As we planned our home, we incorporated the best elements of several floorplans,” Hal explains, noting that the design is all about convenience and organization, with the master bedroom on the first floor and a smaller-than-average kitchen that makes cooking for dinner guests more efficient and intimate. Finishing materials such as granite countertops, wrought-iron hardware, stainless steel appliances and rich cherry wood floors, give the space a sophisticated air while keeping with the structure’s organic nature. Of course, no log home, contemporary, rustic or otherwise, is complete without a fireplace.

The manufactured–fieldstone facing dons antlers and a log mantel, old-fashioned warmth supplemented by a newfangled (and highly efficient) radiant in-floor heating system. The staircase, banisters, treads and other log accents are hand-milled. The hands-on owners stained the logs both inside and out, but admitted they “wouldn’t do it again in a million years,” because it was an enormous, labor-intensive task.

The duo had a clear vision for the house, indeed, but it was Mike Gingras, president of Seven North Log Homes, a dealer for Real Log Homes and the general contractor who transformed the ideas into reality. Hal and Ken hired Mike because they were confident he could meet their standard of excellence with the collaborative spirit they were looking for. “This is not your typical northeastern log home,” Mike says. “In fact, it doesn’t feel much like a log home inside, but the exterior is log all the way. As you approach the home you see a front porch with gable dormers and a thatched two-car garage, but inside it’s refined.”

Ken and Hal chose 8-inch eastern white pine logs in a “D” profile, because they offer a flat interior finish with a traditional rounded exterior, and combined them with heavy timbers on the second floor and square roof beams that bring a contemporary accent to their log abode. The logs were assembled with a mortise-and-tenon, butt-and-pass corner system, which gives the exterior a quintessential staggered-log look.

Mike described the building process as smooth sailing, evidenced by the crew’s ability to complete construction just five months after breaking ground on the 28-acre plot — an angled parcel that allows Hal and Ken to have a breathtaking view from every room of their home. “We had to get creative to shape the land to fit by cutting and filling with the area with earth,” Mike says. But the extra work was well worth the result. When the crews cleared what few trees they needed to from the land surrounding the house, its position paid dividends with a stunning vista of the Green Mountain Range.

The owners have a hard time deciding which room of their sophisticated country-style home they love the most. But after spirited debate, they settled on the living room. “In the wintertime, when a fire is roaring in the fireplace and it’s snowing outside, it’s warm and cozy,” Hal says. “You just don’t want to move from that spot.”