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A Lifestyle Change

Tennessee bachelor relishes mountain home escape.
by Laura Stapleton | Photos by Brad Simmons | Styled by Joetta Moulden
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The rundown farmhouse Michael Pollock had rented and called home for 10 years had finally gasped its last breath. He had dealt with the lack of running water, heat and air conditioning. But then the roof fell in one night—literally. So Michael decided to make a lifestyle change and build a log home.

Michael’s original interest in log homes was sparked by a cabin he’d seen years before while attending a friend’s party. “I looked out into the woods and saw this log cabin. It was the antithesis of the Tudor-style home I was standing in,” Michael says. And to his surprise he later discovered that Scott Kelley, an old high school chum, had built the cabin and was the owner of Walden 19th Century Antique Log Homes, which had supplied the logs for that home.

He told Scott, “Someday I want you to build a log home for me.” Almost 20 years—and one farmhouse later—Michael called on Scott to do just that.

“A lot of people say they want to build log homes, but Mike is the type of person who would say that and then actually do it,” Scott says. “So, when Mike told me it was time, we found some logs and started earmarking them for his home.”

Michael had looked at a lot of magazines through the years, and flagged home features he liked. However, he traces his main design influences back to a camp lodge he saw in Mentone, Alabama. “It was basically a box with everything in one room,” Michael explains. “Then, on each side, there were wings of offices and bedrooms.”

Having selected Walden to build his home, Michael’s next step was to determine his home’s flow. “When I started looking seriously, I didn’t want outside influences to affect me. I wanted to really think about my lifestyle,” Michael says. Scott encouraged Michael to do some soul searching for his ideal home plan and assured him Walden could use their antique logs for just about any design he created.

“We build our homes to fit the plan, and we do it all by hand,” Scott says. “The most important thing to remember is that our building process is not going to be like a traditional home. There’s going to be some give and take in the shape and form. You just have to have faith that it will work itself out.”

Michael approached a local man, who he knew was rather eclectic and had some design experience. “I wanted to see what kind of ideas he would come up with,” Michael says. “But the ideas he was bringing back to me were what he would have built for himself, not what I really wanted.” So Michael enlisted Frank McDonald and Josh Cooper of Frank McDonald Architects out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, for design help.

“You always have to finesse the site to put the house so it fits in right,” Frank says. “To be in this setting was a real joy for Michael, so we really tried to pay particular attention to the bluff side of the house when designing it.”

Satisfied with the final plans that Frank and Josh had created, Michael sent them to Walden’s design team to incorporate the logs.

The home was designed with a main area and two wings, similar to the style Michael had seen at the Alabama lodge years before. Walden laid the log walls in the wings and set the cypress timber frame, which forms the frame of the living room.

Within a month, the shell of the home was complete. BEC Development and Construction owned by Barry Evans, John Coffelt and Oscar Brock, served as the general contractors for the project. “Michael’s log home was the first one we built,” says Barry, who worked with John on the project. “We cut our teeth on that one. It was definitely a learning experience.”

Although Barry admits it wasn’t the easiest house to build, he claims it is one of the most creative projects he has ever been a part of. “You do have to be extremely patient and creative,” he says. “You have to think outside the box, but still meet building codes.”

Michael couldn’t be more pleased with the end result. “Watching it explode in size and height was the most interesting part of building,” he says. “I can recall when Frank and Josh started staking the outline of the home, and I kept saying, ‘It’s got to be bigger.’ And it just got really big, really fast and I never expected it.”

Ten months later, Michael was content with a 2,800-square-foot log home that, unlike his previous home, includes running water, heat and air conditioning, not to mention an amazing view.

Prime Property
Michael had selected a building spot on Lookout Mountain, which overlooks Little Man’s Gulch and is within a stone’s throw of Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia. “Being kind of remote, sort of distant from everything, helps me escape,” Michael says of his location.

Michael was fortunate in finding his plot of land when he did, since the original owner was in the earliest stages of developing it and willing to negotiate. “It was kind of a serendipitous find,” Michael says. “I was in the right place at the right time and it all came together.”

Modern Day Contrasts
Taking advantage of the great views and the beauty of the antique square pine and poplar logs, Michael kept his interior decor simple. However, he is most amazed at the contrast between the home’s logs and the kitchen’s modern touches.

“I have this ultra-modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and pendant lights. Contrast that with 200-year-old tobacco barn beams from Kentucky and West Virginia-the juxtaposition between the really old and the very contemporary is incredible,” Michael says.

Because of his love for cooking and entertaining, Michael also really enjoys his spacious kitchen. “The kitchen is intimate but includes everything I need. It was a treat to myself,” he says.

Although Michael did most of the decorating for the home, Beth Van Duesan, from HGH Construction, helped with the kitchen and bathrooms, and consulted Michael on lighting selections. “Beth and I worked together, and she made sure everything I chose fit,” he says.

The lighting through the home is a mix of different styles. In the living room, kitchen and dining room, Michael opted for track lighting to highlight accent areas. The foyer and kitchen utilize pendant lighting and the bathrooms use wall sconces. Square box banded mission-style lights lead the way from the bathroom to the master bedroom.

The interior of the home includes various types of wood, from the fir divided-light doors to the cedar support posts used for the front porch. The ceiling is lined with spruce, finished in a clear coat. A local craftsman transformed old barn wood into doors for all the bathrooms and then BEC added classic black iron hinges and thumb latches.

The loft, which includes storage space and an office, is accessible from the living room. A catwalk was welded into the main frame of the house, so its floor system rests on beams that are 28 feet long. To make sure the beams wouldn’t be compromised structurally, joists were added in the cypress timber frame.

The posts and railing in the loft are made from old tobacco poles. Several poles were cut in half, placed upside down and notched into the posts to create handrails.

Possibly the most interesting feature of the loft is the way Michael spanned the space between the posts. He used climbing rope to copy a design he had seen once before, which utilized industrial wire in the railing.

“We terminated the ropes with u-bolts,” Michael says. “You can’t tell the u-bolt is holding the rope-we tied climbing knots to look like they were held like that on purpose.”

An Open Invitation
“I tried to create a home that was open and real inviting for entertaining,” he says. “I want my house to be as comfortable as possible for whoever comes to visit or stay.” His feelings of hospitality lead him to believe one day he may fulfill another dream and open a bed and breakfast.

Today though, Michael is pleased with his newfound surroundings and the lifestyle that he’s living. “It’s definitely different than I imagined,” he says. “Visually, it’s very stunning and appealing. The value is really in the pleasure that other people get from it when they come to visit.”

Published in Log Home Living
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