A couple sets out to build an energy efficient log vacation home in the Northwoods of Minnesota.
When you have the perfect getaway setting, it makes little sense to skimp on the getaway home. The land was originally purchased in 1949 by Ellie Hodgson’s father, who built a small rustic cabin on the property for summer vacations. “The cabin was primitive and needed to be updated, which we did in 1995,” Ellie says. “We were all getting older and ‘roughing it’ was not as appealing as it used to be. Even after the improvements, we lacked the room needed for big gatherings.”
Ellie and her husband, Steve, negotiated with other family members for rights to the land and then began thinking about ways to add livable space. “Building a new cabin was high on the list,” Ellie says. When the property rights were settled, they set their sights on building the ideal log retreat. They checked out the nearby headquarters of Tomahawk Log & Country Homes and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the type of structure Tomahawk offers wasn’t anywhere near your father’s log cabin.
They discovered Tomahawk offers a unique energy efficient log wall system, unlike what they expected in a log home. The hybrid design is built around an Energy-Log system, which combines half-logs with a vapor barrier and 2×6-studded construction to create an R-30 EnergyStar compliant wall ideal for the cold Northwoods.
“We found a plan that had many of the items we were looking for in a cabin,” says Steve, “including an open layout with large kitchen, single floor living, attached garage, easy access to outdoor spaces, and an expansive view of lake.”
They narrowed their choices down to the Squash Lake floor plan, a 1,900-square-foot design with many of the features they wanted. But as many homeowners will do, they customized it to match their individual preferences.
“The Hodgsons were able to see a few changes that would help tailor the plan to their liking,” says Troy Gullo, sales rep for Tomahawk. “They immediately saw that they could gain space by moving the stairway from the foyer to the side hall near the master bedroom. They were willing to sacrifice space in the master bathroom to allow for this, but they gained dining space near the kitchen.”
The Hodgsons also wanted a screened-in porch so they could be outside as much as possible. “We were able to accomplish this by moving the laundry room over to the mud room area and pushing back the guest bedroom,” Gullo says. The rear door from the great room was moved to the side near the screened porch, which allowed for a better furniture arrangement in the porch.
A minor change was the kitchen configuration. The Hodgsons opted for a crescent-shaped island rather than a peninsula counter to serve as a lunch table and a prep area. “This works well when we have large groups here for a meal,” says Ellie. “It has a much better traffic flow and more seating. We had a family reunion here recently and didn’t feel confined at all.”
“The rustic and relaxing feel of the home is more than we expected,” says Steve. “We really love the big windows, especially our French doors in the bedroom. We have the perfect location for seeing the moon rise over the lake at night.”
Once the main floor was organized to the Hodgsons’ satisfaction, the couple set their sites on the lower level. The bonus space, created when the lower level was exposed on the lakeside, provides outdoor access and windows, larger than traditional basement openings. “We saw this area as the perfect place for kids, wet dogs, and fishing gear. To us this floor ties the house and family to the property,” says Steve.
This floor includes another bedroom, a computer room, storage area, a third full bathroom and another great room with a wood burning stove, full bank of sizeable windows and a French door leading to the outdoor patio. They covered the floors with a practical vinyl that holds up to sandy shoes and lakeside traffic that gravitate to this area. The walls are half Sheetrock and half red oak wainscoting made of wood taken from the property.
Furnishing the home was easy. Steve and Ellie love the simple lines of Mission furniture, which they selected for the great room along with a few rustic pieces from local stores including their two-toned master bed.
“I brought a few accent pieces from our home in Minnesota,” says Ellie, “including souvenirs from trips to Mexico, South America, and Alaska. Steve also made a few end tables that fit in perfectly with the decor.”
“We now spend many more weeks here during the summer along with our children and their families, who all live a few hours away,” says Steve. “The added space and comfortable living make the lake a relaxing retreat. It has made the Northwoods even more enjoyable.”