A Kentucky couple’s log home dream pays off in the long run.
Story by Linda Vaccariello
Photography by Jim Battles
Folks who have never built a house before are often surprised to learn that it may take a year or more before they’re happily settling into their new home. For Vickie and Giles Schuckmann, the wait was a bit longer. It took 20 years for their dream of building a log home to become a reality. But, both say, the wait paid off greatly.
In the late 1970s, the couple visited a home show, saw their first log house and knew right then that it was what they wanted someday when they had the resources to do it. That someday finally came in December of 1998, when they moved into a 4,000-square-foot, full log home on 40 secluded acres in suburban Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s only the second house we’ve ever owned and the first one we’ve ever built,” Vickie says. And it truly is their dream home. “We don’t plan to build again,” she says with a laugh.
Northeastern Log Homes of Kenduskeag, Maine, the same company that built the very first log home the couple ever saw, produced the Schuckmann house.
“We did look at other manufacturers,” Vickie says. “But we really liked the quality of the product that Northeastern made, and we liked the floorplans. They were also willing to customize a design that would work for us.”
In the spring of 1997, eager to get started on their house, Vickie and Giles went looking for land. They found the beautiful 40-acre rural parcel in an area that firefighters had used for trainingan area that already had city water, thanks to the fire department.
The site, a former farm, included a house as well as a barn. The couple didn’t really want the existing house, but they realized having it would allow them to live on the property while their new log home was being built.
The couple worked with Northeastern’s Louisville representative, Dan Weintraub, as they began three years ago to plan for their house. After 20 years of thinking about it, they already knew some of the features they wanted. “We definitely wanted a natural look,” Giles says. “That first log home we saw had some drywall finishes inside. But right away we said, ‘No, a log house should be wood throughout.'”
But some household needs had changed in the intervening years. They had, for example, added quite a few four-legged family membersmultiple dogs, cats, donkeys, horses and a burro. And their personal needs had changed, too. “We’re not young anymore. We’re 50; our daughter Sarah is 22 and our son Greg is 18,” Vickie says. “Even though they live with us now, we wanted to plan our living space on the main floor so that when they’re gone we won’t have to deal with the second floor if we don’t want to.”
“When they came in they had a design in mind,” Dan says. Although Northeastern didn’t have exactly the design they were hoping for, the company created a plan for the Schuckmanns based on existing models. “We were able to do a customized design in-house,” Dan says.
In September of 1997, the log package arrived. It took two days and five truckloads to deliver the materials from the Northeastern Log Homes factory in Maine to the Kentucky site. “We usually deliver everything in one day,” Dan says, “but this was a big house, so it made sense to stage the materials.” Then the log crew went to work.
Being able to live on the site was exciting for the family, since they got to watch the house rise from the ground up. “I’m sure the log crew got tired of seeing me,” Giles says. “But they were great. They even let me drive a couple spikes.”
As general contractor, the couple worked with Hank Christian of Louisville, a builder with experience working on Northeastern Log Homes’ products. Hank knew the look that the family sought, as well as what elements should receive particular focus.
Wood and stone are the most striking features of the house. Only one room, a lower-level area where Sarah, an art student, showcases her work, has drywall-finished surfaces. Elsewhere, the warm color of eastern white pine dominates. A massive two-sided fireplace opens onto the great room on one side and the living room on the other.
“That was one of the adjustments we made,” Vickie says. “We took out a wall and just used the fireplace as a divider between the two rooms.
“Dan advised us that if we wanted to use real stone for the fireplace, we would need more support,” she adds. “In the end we went with cultured stone by Coronado Stone. I was really leery about it, but I’m amazed at how real it looks.”
The kitchen’s custom cabinets mix light maple with a dark cherry finish in the unfitted European fashion. Giles inherited an antique glass-fronted cabinet from his mother, and the couple wanted to use it in the home. It was built in as part of the kitchen, and the dark cherry finish of some of the cabinets was chosen to match. In the kitchen, they use a table and chairs made by Giles’ father. The apron-front sink and the dramatic copper range hood were suggested by interior designer Suzanne Higdon of Ewald Associates.
“She had never done a log house before, and she had a ball,” Vickie says.
There are oak floors throughout the house with a few exceptions. Tile is mixed with wood in the kitchen, and there are tile floors in the sunroom and in Vickie’s office off of the garage. “My room is really the sunroom,” she says. “It’s all windows, and there’s no TV.”
In the design phase the Schuckmanns were uncertain if the loft would be big enough and if the roofline would have the effect they wanted. It was hard to visualize, so Dan referred them to a home owner in their area who had used the features. They went out to see the home and were amazed at how happy the home owners were to show them around. “They treated us like we were neighbors,” Giles says in surprise.
Now that their house is finished, Giles understands why: “I told Dan that he has an open invitation anytime he wants to show this house.”
Logs package price: $134,000
Square footage: 4,000
Log producer: Northeastern Log Homes
General contractor: Christian Brothers Enterprises
Cabinetry: Mouser Kitchen
Dining room chandelier: Ruff Lighting
Front and interior doors: Morgan Manufacturing
Interior decorator: Ewald Associates
Kitchen lighting: Kalco Lighting Inc.
Landscaping: Minish & Potts Florist &a Nursery
Masonry: Coronado Stone Products
Roofing: Owens Corning
Windows and patio doors: Andersen Windows