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Room in Focus: Great Rooms

Open floor plans present opportunities and challenges.
by Country's Best Log Homes staff

Log Home Great Room

Credit: Sitka Log Homes/Gibeon Photography

Building your new log home can be an exciting experience, especially if you’re ready to embark on the first phase from dream to reality: designing it. Planning the look and layout is what building a custom home is all about. Of course, log homes have special considerations, but generally the process unfolds the same as for any home.

As you assemble the notes and photos you’ve gathered over the months or even years to incorporate into your design, you will be giving thought to the rooms and their relationship to each other. A major decision affecting these two aspects in whether you want a floor plan that is open or compartmentalized. A compartmentalized plan features partition walls to separate individual rooms. An open plan lets rooms look and flow into each other.

Open layouts are usually associated with informality. A main feature of open plans—the great room—is especially appropriate for log homes. For one thing, the soaring ceilings that characterize most great rooms lend themselves to showcasing the majesty and artistry of solid wood. What’s more, unlike stud-framed houses, whose dimensional lumber has to be closely spaced for the walls to provide adequate support, logs promote open space because their strength enables them to span significant distance.


Design Overhead
High ceilings help large rooms avoid seeming cavernous. You can further accentuate this soaring feeling with tall fireplaces and log trusses. Such rooms remind us that openness isn’t just two-dimensional. The popularity of cathedral ceilings creates vertical opportunities. Lofts and catwalks add additional levels that catch the eye.

At the same time, traditional flat ceilings merit consideration. For one thing, they allow overhead beams that keep the beautiful wood close enough to appreciate the character and nuance of the wood. Also, cathedral ceilings take away floor space from the second level. In a large home, this lost space may not matter; it can be more than made up. In a smaller home, however, unusable space seems regrettable.


Close Quarters
Despite the popularity of open plans in larger homes, they are actually more practical in smaller ones. They help avoid that closed-in feeling and enable rooms to borrow light from each other. South-facing walls, for example, usually have large windows to capture sunlight. By keeping the floor plan open, rooms on the north side benefit by sharing this light, which makes them seem cheery and larger. Some homes are even laid out more horizontally so that the rooms occur sequentially and only one at a time, as in the old shotgun house. Homes with a great view often have an entry that opens directly into the great room to expose this view.


Transition Elements
You can visually distinguish open spaces by using fireplaces and counters to divide space. Consider different levels, such as having a sunken living space. The positioning of posts also can define an area, as can flooring materials, such as wood for the living and dining areas, tile for the kitchen. Varying ceiling heights is especially effective at creating interest and defining room areas. So is using furniture groupings.


Final Stages
As you can tell if you haven’t already thought about the details of open plans, the possibilities are great and will surely fire your imagination. To see how successful home designers have achieved openness, study a variety of plans and pictures. As you become accustomed to open space, both horizontally and vertically, you will start to visualize it in terms that pertain to your own situation.

Once you reach this point, you will be able to communicate your vision to the person who will design your home so as to advance your idea of open space in ways that satisfy you and promote your comfort. It is just as wrong to build a home that is too open to suit you as it is to make one that is too confining. Adjust the dimensions in your mind and on paper before you break ground, and you will find the result is a home that exceeds your expectations.

Published in Country's Best Log Homes
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One Response

  1. Budgets in this day and age are the corner stone of a log home. Ours is smaller than we originally planned but things happen for a reason. We are working through it and feel blessed that we have 70 acres and a stream full of fish, moose, elk and deer. Look around you. Size isn’t always the greatest, only makes more work! Lots of dusting!

    Nancy WojahnMarch 10, 2011 @ 5:13 pmReply

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