Yet Stephanie, who once envisioned designing commercial buildings with her architecture degree, is now president of Town & Country Cedar Homes and is happily settled in a charming log cottage that she designed herself.
"I'd grown up with cottages; that's the style I like," Stephanie notes. So when she and her husband, Eric, decided to build their first home, they had a comfy cottage in mind. Then they discovered the perfect piece of land in a development along the Chestnut Valley Golf Course in Harbor Springs, Michigan, which offered wooded lots with spectacular views of the greens—but also required all home exteriors be log.
"I wasn't too thrilled about building a log home initially," Stephanie concedes. "I didn't want my home to look like the others—a traditional, natural brown log exterior. I had a different vision for my home." But she soon learned how versatile log construction could be.
By the time they broke ground, Stephanie had worked her way up Town & Country's ladder from draftsperson to general manager of construction and operations. With that experience, she decided to act as her own general contractor, using the log provider's package and recommended subcontractors. She began by designing a conventionally built home with log applications and cottage-style accents to create a decidedly untraditional log home exterior. The home's lower half has 2-by-8-inch, hand-hewn white-cedar siding with a 7-inch profile, stained with Cabot Stain's "Sagebrush," a semi-transparent green hue. On the top half, dormers and gables are covered in cedar shakes stained with Cabot's "New Redwood," while the trim is, again, a hand-hewn white cedar that's tinted a warm beige. To enhance the cottage look, Stephanie chose white clad windows with grilles. "People either love the colors, or they hate them," Stephanie says with a laugh. She and her husband Eric luckily fall in the first camp.
A welcoming front porch sports a white-cedar beadboard ceiling; red-cedar stairs and decking; and railings with log spindles and lattice detailing. Fieldstone porch columns and log-bracketed window boxes complete the home's "log cottage" character. It's a look that's as at home in the landlocked Midwest as it could be on the shores of an ocean. Stephanie's design was such a hit that it's now included in Town & Country's recently added "Cottage Classics" floor plan collection.
Inside, the three-bedroom, two-bath house features white-cedar trim throughout, as well as two interior walls of white-cedar siding in the living room and foyer. All other rooms are drywalled. "Drywall allows for more flexibility, and the bright wall colors make the trim pop," Stephanie explains. Ceilings in the foyer and living room are cedar paneling with non-structural, 8-inch-diameter cedar log beams to continue the rustic theme.
One of Stephanie's favorite features is the oval window along the front staircase. "The craftsmen pieced the white-cedar trim together to make it look like one solid piece of wood," Stephanie says, noting her 5-year-old son, Gus, loves to peek out the window at arriving guests.
The Baldwin home is furnished with vivid colors—most notably red—seen in everything from the living room's couches to the kitchen's wallpaper. A smattering of furniture handcrafted by Stephanie's dad, David Niewiadomski, like the trunk in the master bedroom and a guest bedroom desk, adds to the warm, family-friendly atmosphere.
"I love this house, it's perfect for our family," Stephanie enthuses. "I am totally at peace when I shut the door. It's just so nice to come home."
Home Plan Details:
Square footage: 2,006
Log provider: Town & Country Cedar Homes