Log Home Living - 2011 Annual Buyers Guide
For Wisconsin natives Julie and Ted Spillius, summers are meant to be spent at the lake. Both of their parents had North Woods properties when they were children, so they dreamed of having a cabin where daughters Katie, Jackie and Stephanie could enjoy that same special summer experience. "We found 10.5 acres with 300 feet of lake frontage on Lake Lucerne," Ted recalls. "It is a probably one of the cleanest lakes in northeastern Wisconsin and perfect for swimming. The lake also is very cold and deep, so it boasts wonderful fishing for lake and brown trout, smallmouth bass and walleye."
Julie and Ted hoped to renovate a cottage already on the property, but it turned out to be too damaged to salvage. That meant building their lakeside retreat from scratch. In their 20 years as owners of City Lights Design Showroom in Brookfield, Wisconsin, they furnished lighting for many log homes and thought the log look would fit perfectly with their woods-and-water site. The only drawback is that neither is a fan of full-log construction. "In our business, we know that lighting makes a major difference in a home," Ted explains, "and you are much more restricted with lighting options with full log."
They felt that half-log construction- full logs, cut in two and sandwiched around conventional framed and insulated walls - would give them more versatility while providing the full-log look inside and out. They toured several log-home models and admired one by Expedition Log Homes. They especially liked the company's 9-inch cabin log, which costs less than the standard half-log but offers the same custom-log profile. "I loved their handcrafted vertical post corners," Julie adds. "It gives the exterior a very finished look and makes it look like full-log construction."
Ted and Julie decided to build smaller and spend more money making the interior details special. They laid out the floor plan with two goals in mind.
First, they wanted every room to have views of Lake Lucerne and their backyard pond. "When the sun comes up, it reflects off the pond. When the sun sets, it reflects off of the lake," Julie explains. "This gives us wonderful natural light throughout the cabin, regardless of the time of day."
A bigger goal was to create a fun place for their daughters. The second level is their space, with a bedroom on one end of the catwalk, a bunkroom on the other end and a bathroom in between.
The lower level is completely finished, with walkout access to the pond area. It includes two guest bedrooms, a full bath and a family room. "We were able to salvage enough of the tongue-and-groove cedar paneling from the old cottage to use in the lower-level bedrooms," Ted notes. "This gives us a sense of connection to the history of the old cottage."
When they were ready to build, the couple enlisted their Expedition builder-dealer, Ron Charon, to erect the structure and complete all of the exterior and interior finish work. This arrangement was especially convenient since the couple lived almost four hours away. "We made the trip to the cabin at least twice a month, and in between we consulted with Ron as needed," Ted says. "We found the quicker we made decisions, the more time he could spend building. He just took this project on as if it was his own home."
Charon and Julie designed the kitchen to accommodate her wish for a pantry and as much cabinet space as possible. "I definitely wanted the dining room table in front of the big windows so we could enjoy the view of the lake while we were eating." She adds. "Since I didn't know how many people we might have at any one time, I also asked for a snack bar with stools for additional guests. The kitchen at the cabin has so much charm and is much nicer than the one we have at our home in Pewaukee."
Another highlight is the white pine floor. "We placed the rough-sawn side of the random-ridge, tongue and groove floor boards up and coated it with a dark stain." Charon says. "For the next four months, we dropped hammers on the floor and dragged equipment over it. When we were finished with construction, we gave it a light sanding and applied a medium stain and six coasts of a water-based gym floor finish. That floor looks like it came out of a barn 100 years ago."
Furnishing the cabin was simple. Ted and Julie choose pieces from product lines they carried in their showroom at City Lights and selected light fixtures to create a special ambience for each room. Julie incorporated bulky, heavier furniture to enhance the rustic feel.
Originally, they considered having a see-through fireplace between the great room and dining area but then decided on two separate fireplaces. Although the home has a forced-air propane fueled furnace, the wood-burning fireplace they installed in the great room is sufficient to warm the cabin all by itself. The dining-area fireplace is gas and especially convenient. "When I put the coffee on in the morning, I can just turn on the gas-burning fireplace in the dining room and be toasty warm in just a few minutes," Ted says.
His only regret is that after a weekend at their cabin, they find it very difficult to return to the city. So they make the most of their time there. "I just love to listen to the frogs on the pond or watch the loons on the lake. When we are here, we feel so relaxed," Julie says, adding, "We have realized our goal: Our children have their special memories of summers at the lake."