Jane Lane’s new home might have looked entirely different had it not been for two things: a conversation between her, her husband, Mel, and a local sawmill owner, and a dream she’d harbored since she was 9 years old.
Mel wanted to build Jane a house on the five-and-a-half-acre parcel they’d just bought in hilly Brown County, 50 miles south of Indianapolis. Off they went to the Helmsburg Sawmill to see what kind of log-like siding Mel might hang on a conventionally built home. Turned out the mill sold log cabins as well as lumber.
“We were talking to the gentleman who owned the place, Bill Pool, and I told him I really wanted a log cabin,” Jane recalls. “I really liked the style of his log cabins, and he kept saying to Mel, ‘You don’t want to build her a stick house. You want to build her a log cabin.’ I have wanted a log home since I was 9 years old. That has been in my heart forever.”
And a log cabin is what it turned out to be, built in a style that Mel describes as one of the oldest in log-home construction. Six-inch-thick slabs of poplar 16 inches wide and up to 28 feet long are joined at the corners with dovetails, with the wide gaps between each log course chinked against the weather.
Mel and Jane struggled with a design for the house as they searched for property. “We drew several houses,” says Mel, “and two or three of those drawings were fairly complete. We just weren’t happy with any of them. We put an offer on the property and went home, and the house just came right out because it was based on the property.” The one-and-a-half-story house is a simple rectangle, with the living room and kitchen facing a small pond as they had envisioned. The rest of the plan fell quickly into place.
The upper level of the house is conventionally framed, but on the main level, Mel had to take a chainsaw to the log walls to cut door and window openings — something he’d never done before. “I was very nervous at this point,” Mel says. “My experience with logs was zero. If you miscut a 2-by-4, you go and get another one off the stack. These things were huge, and if I cut one too short… I don’t own a log stretcher. It would have been really detrimental to the process to make a mistake.”
Mel and Jane used materials from a variety of sources to help give the house a homey warmth that only comes with time. Long before they started construction, they began collecting furniture, lumber and fixtures. A shuttered restaurant yielded a stained-glass window, cedar door and window trim, and even an etched-glass panel from behind the bar. They scored on Craigslist, painted inexpensive stock cabinets to make them look custom and turned tongue-and-groove flooring into countertops.
The house fulfills a very old dream for Jane. Even though they’re taking care of some odds and ends, she says, “we still have time to sit on the porch and enjoy the beauty of our surroundings.
“When I drive in the driveway and see the house, I think, ‘Wow, that’s where I live.’”