Country's Best Log Homes - September 2002
To Mark and Teresa, family is everything. With five children and one on the way, the two have built their lives around the notion of living life to the fullest with everyone in tow.
Mark, a physician, and Teresa, a full-time mom, were humming along nicely tucked into their suburban life near Sheboygan, Wisc. "Yes, we lived in a very nice ranch house on a cul de sac, but I had always wanted a log home," says Mark.
The desire to live in a log home probably stemmed from the couple's three-year experience living in Denver, Colo. "Being in the Rockies afforded us the opportunity to experience the beauty of the environment. I think we just wanted to duplicate that type of lifestyle," says Mark.
When Mark's job took them to the woods of Wisconsin instead of the mountains of Colorado, fishing and cross-country skiing would have to replace rock climbing for the time being.
As the family of five continued to grow, it was apparent that the burgeoning brood was busting at the seams in their ranch home. They decided it was time to start looking for allocation to build. "Our next-door neighbor John Zelm was a builder and happened to mention that Oostburg-based Expedition Log Homes wasn't far and was worth a look." Mark adds, "John had sold us our first ranch house and we trusted him implicitly."
Teresa and Mark searched for over a year for a perfect spot to build. One Sunday, an ad came up in the local real estate section of their paper. "Ten acres, stream, woods, secluded area," that's all it said. Once they arrived, they knew this lovely piece of property would afford them a taste of the outdoors, yet was close enough to the hospitals for Mark. "Actually it was already a development that included city sewer and water just a bit farther out than we expected," says Mark. But they shrugged off the distance and made an offer; they bought the property and haven't looked back since.
Proceeding with plans to build a log home, the couple pieced their dream home together on graph paper and took their ideas to the Expedition offices.
Craig Seider, Expedition's Director of Design Services, met with Teresa and Mark and everyone hit it off right from the start. Mark admits that he was a bit more enamored of log homes than Teresa, but one thing they both agreed on was that they wanted a big house. Explains mark, "We're seven and growing. We're always having people over, whether it's our families or friends, so we needed space for them. And with five kids everything's always in motion.
"What we designed for this family was a two-story, approximately 6,000 square-foot log home using standing dead 12-inch (diameter) lodge pole pine throughout," says Seider. "We all decided on a traditional Swedish cope with saddle-notched corners." The walls are actually made of standard 2-by-6 stud framing, packed with insulation. The lodge pole pine logs are split down the middle - except at the corners - and attached to exterior and interior. It is a building technique popular in the Midwest.
"We wanted a very open two-story house with the kitchen, great room, dining and master bedroom all on the first floor," says mark. Front and back staircases lead to the upstairs where Seider designed a loft adjoining two bedrooms: one for the girls, one for the boys.
The foundation was poured in February 2001. When the first of two semi trucks pulled up the next month, Mark and Teresa's neighbor and builder John Zelm and his five-man crew were ready to stack the materials and erect the house.
"John was terrific. Having worked on logs before, he knew that if something wasn't right, he'd start over. He would give us assignments," Mark laughs. "He'd say, 'Here's your next task, go pick out flooring, or go pick out lights.' It was all very systematic, with our goal to be moved in by Memorial Day 2001."
The building process went smoothly with few hitches. The completion date to move in by May 2001 was on target. "Teresa and the kids visited the building site routinely - the kids were actually getting a pretty good education watching the house progress," admits Mark.
"Because the family wanted a room-to-room concept with few hallways, we designed the house in a 'Y' shape," says Seider. "It was fine with them to have the house built with a plain front façade. Then we could emphasize the back of the house with banks of thermal double-pane windows opening onto the woods beyond. Since 80 percent of our designs are custom, accommodating the homeowner's plan wasn't difficult."
"For example," continues Seider, "Mark and Teresa wanted a 28-foot cathedral ceiling in the great room. It was designed so everyone could enjoy the expansive views out the back from either the first floor or the second story loft. To accent the dynamic vault, two 25-foot trusses were made to span across the aspen wood ceiling."
Teresa points out that "the original great room design had a number of dead spaces. Then John suggested we make a gable running from front to back. This would both simplify the roofline and make the whole more energy efficient and cost effective." Mark and Teresa estimate their average monthly winter heating bill to be around $138.00.
"Because of the height of the room, a veneer of river rock was applied to the fireplace," says Mark. "Had we used real stone, the walls and flooring would have had to have been reinforced."
Even though the family uses their fireplace, the home is heated in six zones with two forced-air furnaces. "We put high-density insulation in between the ceiling and roof so that the 36 R-value is maintained," says Seider. Additionally, there's six inches of insulation in the walls between the log walls yielding an R 19 to keep this house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Stained a very pale honey color throughout, the home is accented with a very functional kitchen featuring a "U-shaped, granite-wrapped island. Everyone pulls up a chair in the morning because Mark likes to cook breakfast.
Between meals, the kids are content to pile into the downstairs walkout basement. Here, it's toy central where the kids can play to their heart's content. The basement is also large enough to accommodate a spare bedroom and bath for guests.
When it's time for bed or just a bit of time-out, the kids go upstairs where the carpeted loft outfitted with a computer adjoins two expansive bedrooms. "Everyone has their bunk (or will have as they grow into it) and putting the boys together in one room and the girls in another is our way of teaching, sharing and caring," says Mark.
To supplement his passion for working with his hands, Mark retires to his workroom under the three-car garage where he enjoys building wood projects. "I had to have another hobby to replace rock climbing when we left the mountains, so now I build tables, chests and bookshelves," Mark proudly admits.
Teresa and Mark currently enjoy all the extra space their home affords. "I'm actually a minimalist so the house isn't fussy. Five kids fill up the space pretty quickly," says Teresa.
The overall tone of the house is soothing and comfortable. The couple chose bird's-eye maple with a clear polyurethane coat for all the hardwood flooring, which stretches through most of the house. In the kitchen, a monochromatic color scheme dominates, accented only by the flecked granite countertops. In the main living areas, decorative highlights combine texture and good looks. The living room features cushy leather couches for relaxation. All hardware on knobs and pulls is stylish brushed nickel.
No treatments cover the windows. At most, there are slim shades enclosed in the windows for privacy; otherwise the windows are bare, allowing maximum sun exposure. "It's a holdover from our days in Colorado where we saw lots of sun," says Teresa.
In this family happy with their home? "You bet," says Mark" "The staff at Expedition was great to work with and Craig Seider now considers us like family."
"Now, if you'll excuse me,' the man of the house says, "I have to go build a tree house."
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