Although they’re owners and operators of some of the largest log cabin-style hotels in the world, Craig and Beth Stark didn’t have a log home of their own until this past year. But they did have a long-standing love affair with log homes. Craig was first attracted to a log cabin he and his father visited when he was just 10 years old.

While planning for their own log home, the Starks attended two log home shows in Madison, Wisconsin, visited several log home companies and toured many models before choosing Golden Eagle Log Homes to build their vacation home. Once they decided on a design, the location was a given: Loon Lake near Shawano, Wisconsin. Craig’s family has vacationed by the lake since his great-grandparents rode the train from Milwaukee in 1900 to build the first cabin there.

“It’s a generational thing,” Craig says. “While we were growing up, we heard about my father’s memories and his mother’s memories. My great-aunt kept a diary about coming up to the lake, so we have a wonderful way to look back on their trips. She told of how the community grew, the people who were here and the farmers delivering milk by horse-and-buggy. Then the next generation kept a diary, and the next, and the next.”

Out With the Old

Craig and Beth already owned a small cabin on the lot where their vacation home now stands. “Like most lakes now, those older cottages were built in the ’20s and ’30s,” Craig says. “They’ve seen better days, and people are taking them down and building new ones.”

Their original cabin, only 600 square feet, was recycled by their next door neighbor at the lake, who moved it onto his lot and added onto it. “That cabin had no insulation and no heat, so we really couldn’t use it much,” Craig says. “We’re able to use this new cottage year-round. Surprisingly, even in the dead of winter, we’re very comfortable within 10 minutes of arriving. We just build a fire in the fireplace, and we’re relaxed.”

Because their lot has just 75 feet of lake frontage, Craig and Beth worked with Golden Eagle’s designers to modify their Eagle II Deluxe model. “They needed the house to be narrower so it would fit on their lot,” says John Batzer, sales manager for Golden Eagle. “So we put the master bedroom where the garage was on the original plan. They wanted a covered porch entry, so we slid the master bedroom forward and put a covered porch on. They also wanted larger bedrooms, so we added 2 feet to the overall design.”

The home is cozy at 1,966 square feet and the Starks have made efficient use of that space. The cottage contains two complete baths and three bedrooms, including a master bedroom wing, plus a carpeted loft that sleeps six to eight extra guests. “We had Christmas at the lake last year, and that was a lot of fun,” Beth says. “My whole family came and it was like a big slumber party. The loft was filled to the brim, and everyone just had a great time.”

Both Craig and Beth love the rustic look, so they selected 8-inch, hand-peeled Norwegian pine split logs for the exterior of their home. “We take a tree, cut it flat on two sides, split it in half and mill the top and bottom so it’s uniform,” John says. “The outside is still the natural surface of the tree, and it’s got a lot of character to it.” The home’s exterior is finished with bronze pine color stain, which blends well with the laminated, two-tone green and black shingles and green window and door trim. The structure has a 2-by-6 insulated wall with log facing, and the corners, as well as the prow front, have butt-and-pass intersections. The couple’s primary residence in Madison is a traditional Mediterranean-style home. “I wanted to go completely the other direction and keep it as woodsy as possible.” Beth says. “When I go away, I want to feel that I’m completely away.”

The couple chose pine flooring on the entire lower level and pine tongue-and-groove paneling and trimwork pre-finished by Golden Eagle. They upgraded to flat panel, knotty pine kitchen cabinets.

Beth, who considers herself a “stay-at-home mom” with their children, Clayton and Chandler, says the family loves “going up north.” “We took quite a few trips during construction,” she says. “It was during the winter, so we’d bundle the kids up and go walk the site. It was neat seeing the way they did the logs.” They credit their builder, John Engel of Shawano, with completing the project quickly despite one of the coldest winters they can remember. “John started this house in late October and it was pretty much finished by mid-February,” Craig says. “His daughter did most of the staining and finishing, and it was great having that kind of a family-type project. They took a lot of pride in their workmanship.”

To accommodate the prow’s wall of windows that overlooks the lake, the couple moved the fireplace to a side wall in the great room. Despite the fact that it was relegated to the room’s fringe, the fireplace is still one of Craig and Beth’s favorite features. “There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting in front of the fireplace,” Craig says. The 36-inch, zero-clearance unit is built and insulated so it can be installed right next to a wood wall. To accommodate northern Wisconsin’s severe weather conditions, it came with outside air and cold climate kits that eliminate cold downdrafts when the fireplace is not operating. The face is finished with manufactured stone in a river rock pattern and Adirondack color scheme.

Classic Cottage Character

With their extensive experience in the hotel industry, the Starks knew where to turn when it came time to decorate their cottage. “I did it with the help of a Sue and Gerry Torgeson, who own a store called Roughing It In Style,” Beth says. “Because we’re currently building Great Bear Lodge, we wanted our own ‘bear lodge,’ so I incorporated lots of bears in the decor. We used the red-and-black color scheme that is a classic look for log homes, and we stayed with earth tones in most of the rooms.”

Sue introduced Beth to Tammi Daeda, who created floral swag window treatments throughout the house. Mini-blinds tuck under these swags when they’re not in use. “We’ve gotten so many compliments on our window treatments because they’re not heavy. Plus we didn’t want to hide the view,” Beth says. “In our son’s room, Tammi wove in pheasant feathers to give it a more masculine look.”

The couple commissioned their friend, Matt Museidlak of Big Wood Rustic Design in Wisconsin Dells, to build all their log beds as well as the 7-foot-long dining room table. “I remember from my childhood how much fun it was to play cards at the cottage at night,” Craig says, “and I thought that nice, big table would be perfect.”

The Starks truly value the family togetherness they share at the house. “Craig travels a lot,” Beth says, “so when we’re at the lake, it’s just complete relaxation. Here the kids have Dad’s undivided attention. I think everybody needs a place where the phone doesn’t ring.”

Craig and Beth look forward to carrying on the family tradition at their cottage. They’re already surrounded by relatives since Craig’s sister, cousin and aunt also have vacation homes on Loon Lake. Someday they expect their children will reminisce about trips to the “Shawano house,” and they’ll share life at the lake with the next generation of Starks.

For a list of companies who contributed to the home, see the October 2002 issue of Log Home Living.