|In his youth, Pat Hamill competed on the Junior National Ski Team. Now, the Denver developer finds himself in the competitive residential construction arena, building nearly 1,000 traditional homes each year. Both vocations require a vast amount of coordination and a fast pace. Yet when Pat and his wife Kitty decided to build a Colorado vacation home, they slowed the pace down a bit by choosing a more time-consuming building method: a handcrafted log home. |
The location the couple chose is the alpine community of Bachelors Gulch Village. Attracting both American and international residents, the village offers home owners ski-in/ski-out access to more than 1,600 acres of slopes, not to mention close proximity to Vail’s quaint shops and acclaimed restaurants.
The Hamills’ home, in keeping with the area’s architectural style, emulates the grand lodges of our national parks, with angular lines, massive logs and timbers and impressive stonework. This combination of natural materials and colors create a cozy, inviting environment for friends and family to enjoy, which is just what Kitty and Pat were looking for. “Everyone knows that Vail offers the best ski terrain and powder, but the summer is the area’s hidden secret. It’s fabulously beautiful. We’re up here almost every weekend all year round,” Kitty says.
“When we walk in our log home, we immediately begin to relax and retreat from the busy life we live. It’s our escape from the city,” Pat adds.
Change is Good
With all his expertise in the construction business, it was easy for Pat to assume the role of general contractor, but he says his hero was his brother, Rick, an expert framer, who was onsite every day. “It was a year out of my life, but I enjoyed every minute of it,” Rick says.
The building site, a steep 38-degree slope, offered unique engineering and design challenges. To create a stable base for the home, the crew had to cut into the hillside and install a 17-foot-tall foundation wall, which is covered in green and yellow moss rock. Steel I-beams give the wall added support, and retaining walls divert snow melt away from the home. The driveway is narrow, and at a 15 percent grade, it was a fairly steep pitch for the log delivery trucks and construction vehicles to navigate. Many days, Rick acted as traffic director and scheduler just to facilitate moving logs and materials onto the site.
Because the home would be built into the hillside and the primary living area would be on the second level, the Hamills faced another challenge: creating “an entry that didn’t make you feel like you were coming into the lower level,” says Don. He worked around this problem by designing an open, atrium-like space and a grand flagstone stairway that leads to the main level. Alongside the stairway is a textured, faux-painted wall that gives the illusion of being built of matching flagstone at a fraction of the cost.
Go With the Flow
When guests aren’t congregating in the great room’s finery, they can be found gathering in the kitchenâan attraction Kitty attributes to our American culture. When she and Pat dine in European friends’ homes, meals are prepared in advance in small out-of-the-way kitchens, then enjoyed in a more formal, self-contained dining room. By contrast, friends visiting the Hamill home pull up chairs to the L-shaped granite-topped bar and help with meal preparation in the gourmet kitchen.
Last New Year’s Eve, eight couples donned chefs’ hats and prepared their favorite recipes. Dinner wasn’t served until 10:30, but everyone had fun getting to know each other better while cooking the food and sipping wine from the Hamills’ cellar. To keep the bottles at the proper temperature, the cellar is built against the back foundation wall, where the earth’s natural coolness comes through. “The wine cellar is full now,” Pat says. “It’s ready for friends and the holidays.”
Catch the Sun
The lower level is self-sustaining, containing a recreation room, fireplace, full bar and mini kitchen, as well as three bedrooms, including a “boys’ bunkroom,” and adjoining baths. Kitty calls the upstairs loft the “girls’ bunkroom” because she decorated it in a more feminine fashion with a red floral print on the bedspreads. With all these sleeping quarters, there’s plenty of room for holiday visits from the couple’s five grown children, their spouses and their three grandkids.
Each room in the home is special and has its own view and personality. “Like children, you love them all equally but differently,” Kitty says. The couple furnished and decorated the home together, drawing frequently on the work of local artists. But for all of the home’s charms, it’s the patio where the couple most enjoys passing the timeâparticularly during the summer when the weather is always perfect. They spend many evenings around the firepit, relishing the mountains and the outdoors. Often, they’ll see deer, fox and sometimes even bear.
Goes Great with Nature
“The quality of the craftsmanship of Pioneer’s logs was really good. It was amazing how well they fit together,” Rick says appreciatively.
There’s a good reason for this level of precision. At Pioneer, everything is pre-crafted. After the logs are cut, the home is assembled in the company’s logyard, then marked, disassembled and shipped to the building site. “We always send an advisor to work with the general contractor to erect the logs. That way we maintain quality control,” says Jay.
This kind of quality and attention to detail recalls the workmanship of past generations, and Pat sees modern log homes as a tribute to our heritage. “It’s part of where we all came from. You probably wouldn’t build one in an urban setting, but in the mountains of Colorado or Montana, a log home is what you think of. It’s a perfect fit with nature.”
For Pat, this home is particularly special because, “Kitty and I did it together,” he says. And for the couple who not only have a love affair with each other, but also with the quiet solitude their mountain location affords, this collaboration is only natural.
For resource information, see the November 2003 issue of Log Home Living.
Story by Candace Allen