Rising airfare. Fees for checked bags. Gas prices. It's tough out there, which means that for many, taking a family vacation this year may not be in the cards. But why travel at all when your new log home can be a residence and a getaway rolled into one? Design your home with your favorite pastimes in mind, and every day can feel like a holiday. The trend is called the "staycation"—investing your money in all kinds of amenities in your permanent home, rather than blowing a huge wad of cash on hotels and other temporary expenses associated with taking a vacation.
"Everyone used to want the most highly decorated home, with plush carpet and expensive art on the walls," says Ahmed Hassan, host of DIY Network's Blog Cabin. "The trend is now moving toward creating livable, enjoyable spaces; incorporating things you typically do on vacation right at home."
For some, going away provides the excuse to enjoy all of those activities you normally wouldn't do. For others, a vacation is just that—a break from everything, when you can spend your time relaxing. Whether you want to create an activity haven, a peaceful retreat or a combination of both, these tips show you how your home can help you get away—every day.
Option #1: Create an Activity Oasis
No matter the weather, you can enjoy your favorite outdoor pursuits as often as you'd like, no travel required, by adding the right touches to your home.
Camping. Outdoor enthusiasts can design outdoor kitchens, complete with fire pits, for cookouts at home, minus the sore back that comes from sleeping in a pup tent. "You can roast marshmallows in the back yard once a week rather than once a year," says Ahmed.
Water sports. If you love rafting or kayaking, don't wait for an annual getaway to paddle away the hours; put your log cabin near the water and build storage facilities to house your own watercraft. Many log homes have second-story decks that provide ideal storage space underneath, says Barbara Winfield, author of Dream Log Homes & Plans. "There's covered storage for boats, kayaks or other sporting goods," she says. "Some people have even built gazebos with storage underneath so they don't have to bring a wet kayak, into the house or garage."
Fishing. Anglers who use the same storage spots for poles and lures have an excuse to cast off regularly. If the fish bite often, install a fish-cleaning area in the mudroom to keep the mess out of the kitchen. "Put in an industrial sink in addition to your washer and dryer, and you can clean your fish there," suggests Ahmed.
Golfing. If hitting the links is your passion, make room at home for a golf cart in the garage or a putting green in the basement or back yard. "You can put in your own artificial turf," says Ahmed. "It's Dad's getaway, but now he can play at home … and for a lot less money."
Hunting. Game enthusiasts can display their guns and bows or store them more subtly, says Gene Ulmer, managing director of architecture for Mountain Architects for PrecisionCraft Log & Timber Homes. "Some homes have secret doors where you don't see the guns, like behind a hidden wall," he says. "Or you can design a hunting room with everything out for show."
Snow sports. If you live near the slopes or enjoy cross-country skiing, you can create a ski-in, ski-out area from your home. Designing such a space is easy if you have a second-story deck. "You can ski right up to the house under the deck, take your gear off, leave the skis outside to wax and wipe down and go into the next room, the mudroom, to store your jackets and boots," says Barbara. Many homeowners line the walls of their ski-in areas with racks, hooks and cabinets for ample storage and easy access to their snow gear. They love the convenience, reports Gene. "Rather than taking a trip to the lodge to put everything on," he says, "they can go straight to the lifts."
It's also possible to store other winter sporting equipment creatively throughout your home, which adds an outdoorsy theme to any room. "In some cases, homeowners will use snowshoes or sleds as wall decorations but will take them down to use them," says Barbara, "mainly those old rattan snowshoes or vintage sleds."
Option #2: Create a Peaceful Retreat
From movie theaters to spa amenities, there's no need to leave your home for entertainment and relaxation.
Media Rooms. Lately, the technology behind large flat-screen TVs has improved and the prices have dropped, making media rooms popular. Many people include plans for such a room when designing their home, but it's also possible to retrofit a media room into a loft area, home office or garage.
If you're thinking about a full-blown home theater, keep in mind that such a space can be as simple as installing a flat-screen TV with surround-sound, or you can get more extravagant with your design. "Some of our clients have even added sound walls and sound absorption panels so they can replicate the cinema experience in their own home," says Gene. Here are some guidelines for creating your home theater room:
- If the room is in the design stage, use the industry's "golden ratio" of 1:1.618. For example, a 15-foot-wide room would be 24.27 feet long. This would make the room about 9.4 feet high. Formally defined by the ancient Greeks, this formula creates rectangular rooms that are proportionately pleasing to the eye.
Locate doors in the rear or back corners of the room, so people won't have to walk in front of the screen to exit.
The front of the room should be lower than the rear, just like a movie theater. Steps and risers will accomplish this task.
With a 100-inch screen, the first row of seats should be about 11 feet from the screen to your head. The second row should be on an 8-inch riser and allow enough room to use recliners if desired.
To recreate the movie-theater feel, add whimsical elements, like a popcorn popper and vintage movie posters.
In-Home Spas. No holiday getaway feels complete without a little pampering. To recreate that vacation-like feel at home, install features that will help you relax and revitalize.
"In the master bathroom, there should be a spa-like feeling, maybe a steam shower and a whirlpool tub," says Barbara. "It's a good idea, because the people are usually so physically active, they need it." The essential for any bathroom is the tub or shower. Whirlpool baths offer invigorating jets that mix air and water into targeted pulses of gently massaging bubbles. Air tubs shake things up with effervescent bubbles from below. They're generally more affordable than whirlpools, come in many ergonomic shapes and don't require any special upkeep. If you prefer long, quiet baths, a soaking tub is for you. For any of these options, do yourself a favor and actually sit in the tub before you buy it to gauge its size.
To design this kind of bathroom, though, you can't forget the basics. "If you don't have the proper water pressure or volume, your spa extras will become nothing more than a troublesome expense," advises Ronald Hedges, a former president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and owner of Ted Ron Kitchens in Littlestown, Pennsylvania. "Make sure you deal with those things first." For example, larger tubs can hold more than 100 gallons of water. Since water heaters come standard at 40 gallons, you may need to upgrade, choose a smaller tub or select a model with a water heater built in."
Option #3: Make Your Home Party Central
Part of the staycation mentality is opting to stay in rather than go out to meet up with friends and family. But, to do this you'll have to bring the fun home.
Bars. Media rooms sometimes have bars in their corners, as do great rooms and rec rooms, since these are the areas where people are likely to host guests. A home bar can be as simple as a sink, cabinets and bar counter, says Gene, or it can be more elaborate, with shelving, wine racks, fixtures hanging from the ceiling or lighting to create ambiance.
Size. The average home bar is 42 inches high and 24 inches deep. To make life easy on the bartender, allow several feet of floor space between the front bar and the back wall or cabinetry. Also save room for the under-counter refrigerator, which is likely to be about 2 feet deep, behind any cabinet door.
Plumbing. If you're planning a "wet" bar, you'll need to run water lines and a drain system. Most folks opt for a standard stainless-steel sink (though some upgrade to copper) with legs and two or three bowls under the main bar. This is a great way to clean glassware—or splurge on a single dishwasher drawer. If water is a no go, add an under- counter area where you can "bus" dirty glasses and dishes.
Refrigeration. A mini-refrigerator or wine cooler is perhaps the most essential appliance for a home bar, though you can certainly use a stylish ice bucket and tongs for occasional use. Choose from glass-front fridges for their great style and convenience or coolers with custom wood panels that match the bar or cabinetry.
Electric. To power up that refrigerator, you'll also need access to electrical outlets. Same goes for ice machines, blenders, novelty lighting, popcorn machines and other modern amenities. Sports lovers may also want to include a big screen TV with cable or satellite programming.
Game Rooms. Sometimes referred to as the rec room, this is the space where you can really let your creative juices flow. First, you'll have to think about your furniture, which can be tricky since some pieces tend to be oversized. Our advice: If you're going to include one, start with the pool table. Because of its size and oftentimes nature-inspired style (think burl logs and milled legs with quarter-round log trim), the pool table can set the stage for the rest of your room and will undoubtedly be the center of attention during any get together. Other large tables you may want to include: foosball, poker and shuffleboard. But make sure you purchase your tables based on the room's dimensions.
A game room may be built for play, but don't forget about comfort for the rest of your guests. Sure, you may want to include throw pillows, blankets and rugs in your favorite team's colors, but keep your walls and large furniture neutral. Also, make sure to install the proper lighting where needed. Specialty three-bulb fixtures in classic or contemporary styles provide plenty of light for an 8-foot table; subtle recessed lighting throughout will brighten the dark corners where game tables fit best.