Let It Snow
A Wisconsin log home offers year-round pleasure in a cozy atmosphere

Story by  Laura Stapleton
Photography by Roger Wade

A recent snowstorm has sent miniature drifts under the car portico, next to the front entry. A log with “Cedar Hill Ranch” branded into it hangs from an overhead beam. Upon first arrival, the site may resemble some distant ski resort, buried among the larger snowdrifts. Only, this is not a commercial resort by any stretch of the imagination—it is Roberta and Roger Polark’s dream log home.

Of course, this is no ordinary home. Hidden behind its massive white cedar, half logs lies a haven to escape the outdoor winter wonderland, without ever straying too far from nature’s captivating view.

Roberta says family and friends who come for a visit fondly refer to the home as “the resort.” And with the amenities found inside its walls, it’s easy to understand why.

Like many potential home buyers, Roberta and Roger wanted to create a home that would be both fun and relaxing for them and their family. They quickly determined that the best way to create such a home was with logs, and soon the process was underway.

“We went to a home show and met a representative from Town & Country Cedar Homes,” Roberta says. “Julie was the first one we talked to, and she had a floorplan we liked, so we went with them.”

Julie Abrahamson, Town & Country’s representative in Platteville, Wisconsin, worked with them to create an ideal plan. “The Polarks se  lected one of our floorplans, and we customized it to accommodate their needs. The size of the home was increased significantly, and many unique features were designed into the plan.”

Since the Polarks planned to build on 130 acres they already owned in southwestern Wisconsin, they went to the next step: finding a contractor. Julie helped them locate Aaron Konrardy of Konrardy Construction in Dubuque, Iowa, and work began.

“We build a lot of high-end homes, and I have a lot of quality workers and carpenters,” Aaron says, referring to his decision to try his hand at building a log home for the first time. “I know my guys enjoyed working on it. It was a pretty impressive job.”

Roberta and Roger visited the site often and watched their dream home take shape in May 1999, coming to fruition in June 2000. The couple chose northern white cedar logs and vertical log corners.

“Coming from our permanent home to see how much they had gotten done—and watching them put up the logs—was pretty incredible,” Roberta says.

“There are a lot of materials involved in building a log home, because it requires a lot more structure to hold all the logs up,” Aaron says.

However, Aaron’s confidence in Julie and Town & Country made the process flow smoothly. “I wasn’t really sure how it was all going to go, but I was really impressed with Julie and Town & Country’s wall system. They were very easy to work with,” Aaron says.

Ultimately, the Polarks ended up with an 8,000-square-foot house that seems expansive, at first, but invites visitors to cozy up to it upon entering.

“The beauty of the house is what people notice,” Roberta says. “It makes you feel secure.”

With fully stuffed sofas and chairs, Mission-style furniture and Tiffany-style lamps, the great room offers a welcome retreat to visitors coming in from the cold. The wall of sliding glass doors and windows gives guests an opportunity to watch as snowflakes fall on the spacious deck at the rear of the house.

“There is a rise in the property, and we have just a beautiful view of the Mississippi River,” Roberta says.

The kitchen is just as welcoming, with small chocolate trinkets deliciously hidden in various containers on the countertop. The cherry cabinets with glass doors make finding dishes easy. The kitchen range is surrounded by a cultured stone archway that creates a little cooking haven for the couple. The stainless steel appliances radiate a clean, sleek design against the terra cotta-colored ceramic tile countertops and oak flooring.

The main floor also is home to the master suite, which includes a spacious bathroom. The soaking tub is set into the bay window, offering more views of the snow-covered landscapes.

In the finished lower level, the Polarks added a sports bar that features cherry wood cabinetry, custom-made by Aaron’s father, Gene Konrardy. Plenty of seating is available at the bar or around the unique antique logging sled, which now serves as a coffee table.

Roger’s office, which is adjoined to the bar, also was crafted by Gene. He handmade the fire  place mantel, the wood furniture in the office and the wainscoting along the wall. Roger’s antique desk originally belonged to the president of Walgreens.

The majority of the home is decorated employing traditional furnishings, with the exception of the loft, which has more of a cabin motif.

With six fireplaces dispersed throughout the house, it is sure to be cozy all winter long. The family room and great room include masonry fireplaces, whereas the other four are sealed gas fireplaces. Five of the fireplaces also include cultured stone surrounds, giving all of the rooms a homey feel. Although the fireplaces provide extra warmth, the family relies on propane and gas for their whole-house heating. “It is very efficient and clean,” Roberta says.

For flooring, the couple used beveled-edge oak boards in the great room, kitchen and dining room. The remainder of the home’s flooring consists of various types of carpeting. Roberta and Roger also used drywall in various rooms to break up the look of the wood. “I didn’t want it all to be real dark and all wood,” Roberta says. “I wanted some drywall and some log.”

As with many log homes, special nooks and crannies lurk behind every wall and up every staircase, but this home is extra special. It includes an enclosed, in-ground pool at one end of the house and an in-house movie theater in the lower level.

“The pool enclosure was easily the most interesting part of the project,” Julie says. “It was the first time we had designed something like it for a residence. It is a lovely addition to the house.”

The attached, two-story pool enclosure includes three kingpost trusses that support the roof system, each one spanning 32 feet.

As for the home theater, the Polarks simply decided it would be a fun addition. “We always have family at the house,” Roberta says. “We wanted to be able to do all kinds of things that would be fun for the family. Besides, we love watching movies.”

Most of the time, Roberta and Roger’s only full-time guest is their dog, Samantha. They also receive visits from various family and friends year-round, including their son Christopher, his wife Kelly and son Joshua. 

“We’ll always keep a home near our kids, but this may very well become our primary residence one day,” Roberta says. “We plan on having this house in our family forever.” •

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

Town & Country Cedar Homes/Styled by Debra Grahl