A World Away

Log Homes Illustrated - May 2003

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Log Homes Illustrated - May 2003

Conrad and Mary Golonka love wood.  They love wood furniture, wood ceilings and wood walls.  They filled their conventionally built home with all kinds of wood.  After installing oak paneling in the basement, they realized that the look they were really trying to achieve occurs naturally in a log home.  They decided to build one.  "A log home takes you back to a different time and place," Conrad says.  "There is an ambiance of creativity that just seems to fit who we are."

The couple sketched out their floor plan on paper and then entered it on a computer program.  They sent out the plans to several log companies and received bids from five.  Some of the companies weren't able to do what the couple wanted, such as place the staircase in a certain way.  "They were all great, and they all had terrific suggestions.  We even incorporated some of their ideas into our final plans,"  Conrad recalls,  "After considering all of the options, the selling point for us was having a local builder.  When we met Stan and Jeff Fryzel of S&R Midwest Log Homes Consultants, representatives for Expedition Log Homes, we decided this was the company for us."

The property the Golonkas selected just "fell out of the sky," Conrad relates.  When he saw the ad in the paper for the 3/4 -acre lot in St. John, Indiana, he was so excited that he called the realtor at 9 o'clock that night and drove out in the dark to look at it.  The owners had property adjacent to the lot and used this piece as their private garden.  It was partially landscaped, with plenty of hawthorn and red maple trees.  It also featured a gazebo, which the Golonkas were able to save during their construction process.

The couple's only concern was that the soil was full of clay, which retains water and can cause problems with the foundation.  To overcome this, they had the property graded.  The house sets on higher ground, and the water drains off.

"When the Golonkas came to us, they knew exactly what they wanted," Craig Seider, director of design services for Expedition Log Homes, says.  "Conrad designed the intersecting tie beams found in the ceiling of the great room, not typically seen in log construction.  Some of the beams contribute to the structural integrity of the home, while others are strictly for architectural appeal.  All add to that rustic look the couple wanted to achieve."

The home features half-log construction, which begins with conventional 2-by-5 framing.  Expedition cuts pine logs into random lengths, from 8 to 12 feet, then splits them, leaving approximately 16 inches of whole log on each side.  This results in half-log siding, giving the look of full-log construction both inside and out but with high-density insulation between the walls.  "If there isn't a contractor in the area who is familiar with log construction, the owner can engage their preferred builder and, using conventional techniques, still have the look of full log construction," Craig says.  "Also, winters in the upper Midwest can be very cold, and the insulation provides a higher R value."

The Golonkas hired Darrell Karstensen of DK Construction, who has experienced with both whole-log and half-log construction.  He explains that the latter homes don't experience the settling found with whole-log construction.  Additionally, they lend themselves to greater flexibility in interior finishes and access for electrical wiring.

Stan and Jeff's role in the construction process was coordinating between the customer and the contractors, getting any additional material that might be needed during the building process.  Jeff relates the process for this home was easy as Darrell has been their choice as a builder due to the quality of his workmanship.

Since Mary comes from a very large family, which enjoys getting together, one of the main features the couple wanted in their new log home was a large kitchen with a working island and adjacent dining are.  "The area came out great" she notes.  "The traffic pattern works beautifully for serving a large gathering."

The great room, two bedrooms and two baths with laundry facilities complete the 2,400 square feet on the main level.  The 525-squre foot loft doubles as a recreational room and office and could be converted to a bedroom as needed.  The full basement is not finished and is used strictly for storage.

The Golonkas are especially fond of their fireplace hearth as it contributes to the home's old-fashioned feel.  "I just get the urge to throw a pot on the hook over the fire and cook our dinner," Conrad says, quickly adding, "Fortunately, we now have microwaves so we can just enjoy the ambiance without all the work."

During construction, Conrad and Mary came out every day after work to review the day's progress with Darrell and discuss any changes.  One alteration, implemented at Darrell's suggestion, was to make one wall in the hallway knotty pine paneling while keeping the other wall half-log to give a more distinctive look.

Though most of Expedition's customers opt for the knotty wood paneling supplied as part of the package for the cathedral ceiling in the great room, and drywall on some of the interior walls and flat ceilings in the bedrooms, the Golonkas wanted only wood. "Our home was 4,700 square feet of knotty pine," Conrad points out.  "Mary, our daughter Cathy and some friends we enlisted form work stained and sealed every inch of the pine prior to it going up."

A further distinctive feature in the home was to create wainscoting by running the logs vertically with a chair rail on all interior walls except in Cathy's room.  Berber carpeting was installed in the great room, bedrooms and loft, while ceramic tile is found in the kitchen, dining room and hallways.

Craig notes the exterior roofline is also distinctive.  Typically he sees the gable-style roof, but this home has lots of hips, which adds a contemporary look to the otherwise rustic style.

Mary decorated the home informally, combining wood, brass and prismatic glass.  Over the years, she and Conrad have collected many cherished pieces of furniture.  Some are special because they have a specific memory attached to them; others are heirlooms.  Thus, they designed the home to accommodate the pieces where they wanted them.  Although this approach does limit the different ways they can arrange a room, they are unconcerned because they enjoy a sense of constancy in their home.

Stan and Jeff were involved with the landscaping, adding timbers around the perimeter, installing sod, and planting wildflowers, shrubs, bushes and evergreens while retaining the existing trees and wild grass.  Though the home is in a subdivision, the result is a park-like atmosphere.

Inside and out, the Golonkas couldn't be happier with the way their home turned out.  They even allow Stand and Jeff to bring prospective customers to look at the home.  "They love showing it off, Jeff notes.

"After 20 years of planning and dreaming, it's hard to believe it's real," Conrad says.  "This is our permanent home, our permanent getaway.  When we come home, it is a comfortable as putting on a pair of old jeans and a sweatshirt.  We feel secure and tranquil, and we feel like we step backing time a hundred years.  When the door closes on our log home, the rest of the world just goes away,"

Interested in seeing the floorplan?  Click here!

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