Inspiration & Perspiration

A picturesque parcel of land influences a Wisconsin couple’s building decision

Story by Linda Vaccariello
Photography by Roger Wade

or David and Cindy Tork of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, the inspiration to build a log home came from the land. “It just said log home!” says David, describing the property along the Wisconsin River that they bought when they married in 1966.

The Torks enjoyed the land house-less for years. When their five children were young, they visited often, boating during the day and camping at night. In the late 1990s, with their family grown, David and Cindy set out to build a house there so that they could enjoy this wonderful place year-round.

Like so many people who plan for a long time, David and Cindy had gathered a lot of ideas. They’d even sketched a floorplan they were very happy with—a home that would be just under 5,000 square feet with an open first floor accented by posts and beams and a massive fireplace as the focal point. Essential to the plan were windows across the rear of the house. Not only did the house face the river, it was also circumscribed by canals on both sides. Avid boaters, the Torks wanted to see water wherever they could and planned for dramatic windows to capture the views. They took their ideas and rough drawings to Wisconsin Rapids architect Jim Lucas, who drafted plans for a custom home.

When it was time to look for a log home producer, the couple found that living in Wisconsin had benefits in addition to the beautiful scenery. A large number of log home companies serve the state, and the Torks had many opportunities to visit models and talk with producers and home owners. They considered three manufacturers before making their final choice: Wilderness Log Homes in Plymouth, Wisconsin. The couple especially liked the package that the company offered—a complete weathertight shell exclusive of foundation. “They offered more of a complete package,” David says, “and we liked their quality and price.”

In talking with manufacturers and home owners, they’d learned about half-log construction. Half-log homes are conventionally framed, then insulated and clad with log siding so that they have the appearance of full-log homes.

Although the Torks had been thinking full-log for years, half-log began to make sense.

“We were open-minded about it,” Cindy says. “Once we talked with everybody, we decided that half-log was the way to go.

“It just seemed to be more energy-efficient,” she adds, “and we liked the idea that we wouldn’t need to deal with the issue of settling.”

Working with representatives from Wilderness, the couple decided many of the details of their home. The Torks were glad they were able to visit model homes. “They showed us the difference between a rustic look and a lodge look, and we saw the difference between caulking and chinking,” David says.

For the lodge look they wanted, they chose 10-inch pine logs—caulked rather than chinked—butt-and-pass corners and, for the roof, fiberglass shingles made to look like wood shake shingles.

Begun in 1998, the house took about 18 months to complete. “Not as fast we would have liked, but when you’ve waited 35 years,” David says, “it’s not so bad.”

The couple helped things along by limiting the number of changes they asked for once construction was underway. Their local representative for Wilderness Log Homes was onsite when the log package arrived; then the job was handled by the general contractor.

The design of the house was shaped by “the view, the view, the view,” according to David. But, vying with the view for attention is the fireplace that anchors one end of the comfortable living room.

The large, natural-stone fireplace was built with traditional masonry techniques. The Torks worked with Vern and Nate Peterson, a father-and-son masonry team. The Petersons built the hearth from the ground up, lining it with firebrick rather than a steel insert, and using rocks that had been excavated from the site when the foundation went in.

For Cindy, that was one of the most interesting aspects of construction—watching rocks being washed and sorted, then studying Vern and Nate as they selected stones and laid them up to form the fireplace. “It’s really an amazing process,” she says.

Outside, beyond the fireplace, are the canals and the river. To maximize the Torks’ view, the main floor features an open floorplan. The kitchen is made for a household that frequently hosts children and grandchildren. That means lots of workspace—”I raised five kids; I wanted room,” Cindy says—and no walls so the cook can see the view even when she’s at the sink.

Custom-built cabinets are glazed in a sage green color, which helps define the area. A floral rug sets off the Windsor chairs in the dining area. In front of the fireplace, overstuffed chairs and a curved chocolate brown sofa with leather arms create a conversation area. Ash floors throughout the home provide a bright background for the dark furnishings.

The first-level floorplan includes a master suite, sewing room for Cindy, utility room and home office. Guests have privacy in the second-floor suite, and grandchildren have the run of the playroom over the garage, which holds an array of toys. An unfinished basement offers future possibilities for their growing family.

As wonderful as all of it is, the Torks admit that everyone’s favorite area is the sunroom—an octagonal sitting room with a pitched roof and sturdy beams. A wet bar along one wall makes the room perfect for breakfast coffee, a late-night snack or “just sitting and talking,” Cindy says.

From campground to log home, Cindy and David certainly think their building project has been a success. And so do the folks at Wilderness Log Homes. With some modifications, they’ve added the Tork house to their catalog of floorplans for other families to enjoy. •

For a list of companies who contributed to the home, see the October 2001 issue of Log Home Living magazine.

Wilderness Log Homes photos/Styled by Debra Grahl