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From Start to Finish: Idaho’s Sun Valley Log Home

In Idaho's Sun Valley, an engineer builds an impressive, energy-efficient log home that saves money in style.
by Cynthia Vesey | Photos by James Ray Spahn

The Homeowner’s Story
Not all homeowners can say that they were involved with every aspect of designing and building their log home. But Art Carlson, an engineer who was the brainchild behind many of his home’s distinctive elements, can say that and more.

“This is my first log home. It’s my dream home — I always wanted to do it,” Art says.

To take advantage of the mountain setting and nearby river, this log home features ample windows and plenty of deck space

Art built his dream-come-true in Ketchum, Idaho, part of the ski-resort area in the Sun Valley region. He and his wife, Susan, owned a summer home in Idaho for years, but eventually decided to make Ketchum their permanent address, moving from Salt Lake City, UT. “We left the big city and went seriously country,” Art says with a laugh.

Although aesthetics were important to Art, his primary focus was on creating an energy-efficient home. He designed a reflective-insulation system featuring radiant barriers and reflective foils, reducing the amount of energy the home requires, and consequently, the cost of his utility bills.

“The engineer in me kicked in. A lot of technology is in the structure, but it didn’t interfere with the design,” explains Art, who founded Radiant to provide radiant barriers for buildings. “I did everything possible to limit our energy use. This quaint log cabin is a high-tech, energy-efficient home.”

The hand-selected ceramic tiles comprising the backsplash pull their colors from the surrounding decor. Custom cabinets, like the ones shown here, also are a great way to personalize your kitchen, providing unique storage, like the drawers beneath the stove, and a chance to create a distinctive look for your home.


Art’s engineering influence can be found in every nook and cranny of his savvy 2,827 square-foot abode. “I touched every aspect of it at least once, including all the mechanicals, heating and plumbing,” he notes.

According to Art, the location of his home dictated the choices he made. The house sits on three-quarters of an acre and has a magnificent landscape. “It’s in a mountain setting, and it asks for something that fits in with the mountains—something natural. We built a home that looks, acts and feels right,” Art says.

Though the project was demanding, Art says it was worth all the effort: “I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of positive feedback from people who’ve visited. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

The Log Company’s Story
After careful research, Art Carlson selected Wisconsin Log Homes to supply his log home’s package. Brian Delwiche, design manager at the Green Bay-based company, clicked with Art right from the start.”We had a great design relationship. I’d present an idea to Art, and with his background in engineering, he understood the positive aspects,” recalls Brian. Art agrees, saying, “Brian and I talked shorthand. I really enjoyed working with him.”

Since energy-efficiency was of paramount importance to Art, Brian made it a priority in the design. “Combining energy-efficient windows and doors with our thermal log-wall system provides a highly efficient home,” explains Brian. “With the reflective-foil insulation, Art’s home requires half of the supplemental heating and cooling that an average home in the same area needs.”

To enclose the exterior, Art selected 10-inch half-log pine siding, while the interior features an 8-inch pine-plank log style called “Timberlock.” The clear stain lets the grain and knots of the pine show through, boosting the home’s character.

In his quest for an environmentally sound home, Art also thought it important to use chemical-free building components. “A majority of the framed structure is comprised of toxin-free materials,” Brian says, “and the interior log and trim are non-toxic as well.”

The diminutive kitchen melds rustic details with modern conveniences. The distinctive island countertop was crafted from a pine log, and the bar stools are embellished with cow-print cushions.

Brian and Art worked together on the unique floor plan, which includes a master bedroom with a spiral staircase to a loft above, a narrow-yet-open kitchen and a canopied porch adjacent to the great room.

The exterior elevations were designed to embrace the home’s surroundings. Brian utilized stone bases for the log posts at the front and rear porches and added decorative gable braces to draw attention to the front of the house.

For Brian, watching the design evolve was his favorite experience during the process. “The most memorable part was updating the photos as construction progressed,” he says. Indeed, it’s a powerful thing to play a key role in helping someone’s dream home take shape. But it’s a role that Brian and the folks at Wisconsin were born to play.

Published in Country's Best Cabins
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One Response

  1. hmmm, I don’t quite understand why it’s so big with such a small kitchen and other seemingly small rooms. Mr. Carlson, you would have saved a lot of energy not importing so much stuff from elsewhere too. Building materials good, other stuff not so good, and where is your solar in “Sun” Valley?

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