It started with a tiny, steep lot in a scenic subdivision and a design based initially around a colorful, hand-painted sink from Mexico. But when Duncan and Vivian Morris finished construction on their dream house in 2006, the end result was a residence that deftly managed to demonstrate all of their philosophies about art, the environment, and the unlimited potential of building with logs.
“So many people think that log homes have to be dark and they have to be built on a lot of acreage,” says Duncan, who owns Traditional Log Homes in the picturesque lakeside town of Salmon Arm, British Columbia. “With this house, we’ve been able to prove that that’s not the case at all.”
Indeed, the Latin-inspired home, with its harmonious blend of Norwegian dovetail log and simulated stucco-adobe accents along with the strategic use of sun tunnels and “infinity” windows, manages to be as light and breezy as anything built in the Southwest. And since many of the surrounding homes are also made using stucco, it fits right into the neighborhood.
“This home is really the accumulation of 30 years of designing, building and researching wooden structures,” Duncan says, noting that the home has three levels, 2,600 square feet and three bedrooms, including one for son Leland, 18, who still lives at home, and a first floor guest bedroom for daughter Phedra, 30, and son Galen, 21, who both visit frequently. “It manages to be both traditional and 21st century at the same time.”
The couple also used the home as a palette upon which they could display some of the most effective natural, green home-building techniques routinely utilized in Europe to create a more climate-friendly dwelling.
“With a modicum of thought to materials, design and detail, as I believe we have done in our house, log home owners can enjoy more with less and with very little sacrifice,” Duncan says.
Beauty, for example, was one major component that was definitely not sacrificed in the Morris house, which one friend recently described as “like walking into a piece of art.” The house features dovetail and chinked log construction, authentic Mexican tilework, copper accents, handmade doors, custom-made cabinetry modeled after antiques, burnished American clay walls and wood beams, and flooring and other trim milled from historic structures that once dotted the countryside around Salmon Arm.
Perhaps the most aesthetic and conversational highlight in the Morris home, though, is something completely new and personal: a major piece of artwork painted by Duncan himself. The painting, done on a pair of closet doors in a third floor hallway, is intended to mimic a real bookcase, a technique popularized by the wealthy classes of Europe in the 18th century.
“It’s called a trompe l’oeil or a trick of the eye,” explains Duncan, who describes himself as an old art college dropout and spent a year working on the piece. The painted bookcase details all of the family’s favorite books, including all the Harry Potter editions, as well as family photos, Vivian’s favorite coffee mug and the family’s long-haired miniature dachshund, who can be seen lying on the bottom shelf.
A full-length mirror on the wall opposite the closet provides the effect of “being in the stacks at the library,” Duncan explains.
More about this home, including a list of eco-friendly features, ran in the May 2008 issue of Country’s Best Log Homes.