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Building a Legacy: A Multi-Generational Michigan Log Home

A couple creates a multi-generational home in northern Michigan to accommodate their family for years to come.
by Holly O'Dell | Photos by Roger Wade

William Brooks always wanted a log home, and it didn’t take long to get his wife, Kate, on board with the idea. The pair searched for the ideal lot in northern Michigan, where Kate has fond memories. “My grandparents had a home there, and it’s where all the children and grandchildren gathered every year,” she recalls.

Filled with plenty of seating options, one of the most popular spots at Kate and William’s home is the back porch, set just outside the great room, overlooking the lake.

William and Kate purchased a heavily wooded one-acre parcel perched on a hill overlooking Lake Michigan, but they had yet to put much thought into the makeup of their dream home.

To get the creative juices flowing, the pair rented a log home in the area the next year and lived there for four weeks as they began to formulate the layout of their own log home. William and Kate chose Maple Island Log Homes in Twin Lake, Michigan, which uses hand-peeled Norway pine logs. The notches are scribed, then cut with chainsaws.

Two main goals drove the Brookses’ design. “We built this home as a legacy for our three children,” one of whom is a teenager and the other two adults, Kate says.

“We wanted different areas of living where you can have multi-generations without being on top of each other.” To that end, the Brookses crafted a floor plan that included two bedrooms on the upper level, each housing a 12-by-8-foot three-season sleeping porch, a feature borrowed from Kate’s grandparents’ home.

“An entire family can sleep up there because there’s a fully enclosed bedroom for the parents, the sleeping porches with twin beds for the kids, and a full bath for everyone,” she notes. A fully furnished apartment above the garage serves as additional living quarters for guests.

Hand-laid stone, a majestic truss system and an arched doorway welcome guests on the front stoop. "The home was designed to blend into the surroundings and incorporate all the amenities the homeowners were looking for," says Eric Gordon of Maple Island Log Homes. "It is a wonderful design with massive log roof framing members."

Furthermore, Kate and William designed the main level, which includes a master suite, to handicap-accessible standards with spacious doorways, an extra-wide shower and no steps.

“We feel blessed that we haven’t had a situation where someone requires a wheelchair, but you never know,” Kate says. “So we wanted the first floor to be very user-friendly.”

Another important objective for the pair was building an environmentally sensitive house.

The Brookses wanted to remove as few trees as possible from their lot, so they worked with general contractor Dennis Coburn to site the home appropriately.

“We were on-site looking at how the house was designed and where it was placed,” the general contractor recalls. “We had to ask ourselves, ’Did it feel more comfortable positioned a certain way? And did it save another tree?’”

The ash, oak and pine trees they cut down were repurposed for the staircase railing and upper-level floors.

The resulting 7,800-square-foot log home with the saddle-notched corners perfectly met the Brooskses’ objectives, as they wanted to ensure there was plenty of space for everyone who comes to visit. (“It’s not unusual to have 20 people here at once,” Kate notes.)

A homey great room, anchored by a fireplace flanked by Michigan fieldstone, draws friends and family together on cool evenings. A sunroom, accessed through the dining room, and a loft offer quiet places to read a book or work on a puzzle.

Kate is particularly fond of the back porch, which overlooks the lake. From the first cup of coffee in the morning to eating at the dining table the Brookses placed in the space, the porch sees plenty of traffic. The kitchen — adorned with hickory cabinets, rustic hardware, Corian surfaces and a view of the lake — is another favorite spot. “I love to cook, and when I’m in there, I feel like I’m always part of the action,” says Kate.

Kate and William initially had plans to include bunk beds in the loft, but once they recognized how large the logs would be on the ceiling, they included a table and chairs instead — creating yet another space for the Brookses’ guests to gather.

A woven rug, made locally, contains pieces of old cotton and wool. Leather chairs are really broken in with time, not just made to look that way. Some of the curtains are made with grain bags. Even finishes on the roof and outside walls are designed to make materials look broken in.

But no matter where Kate, William and their beloved family and friends are in the house, one theme prevails. “Life is so easy here,” Kate says. “We sit and talk and enjoy the peace and quiet that surrounds us. Everyone who walks through the door is instantly relaxed.”

The back view of the home showcases its strong architectural details, such as multiple roof lines, a large truss that covers the porch and intricately laid Michigan fieldstone. "A one-man mason did the stone work inside and out," notes general contractor Dennis Coburn. "He was at the site doing this by himself for 15 months."

Home Plan Details:
Square Footage: 7,800 (includes basement)
Bedrooms: 5
Bathrooms: 4 full, 2 half
Log species: Norway pine
Builder/general contractor; mantels: Coburn Construction, Traverse City, MI (231-620-6546)
Cabinetry: Traverse Bay Cabinet Co., Traverse City, MI (231-947-6410;
Chinking: Perma-Chink (800-548-1231;
Countertops: DuPont Corian (800-906-7765;
Designer; log producer: Maple Island Log Homes, Twin Lake, MI (800-748-0137;
Doors: Lemieux Doors Inc., Windsor, Quebec (877-845-2739;
Front door; windows: Andersen Windows, Bayport, MN (800-426-4261;
Interior designer: Kate Kingman Interiors
Knobs/hardware: Schlage, Olathe, KS (888-805-9837;
Landscape designer: Drost Landscape Design and Construction, Petoskey, MI (231-348-2624;; LaCrosse Landscaping, Leland, MI (231-256-9900)
Masonry: Lattimore Stone Masonry, Lake Leelanau, MI (231-633-1333)
Railings; stairs: Jim Grieb Custom Stairways (802-272-7894)
Roofing: Tamko, Joplin, MO (800-641-4691;
Stain: Sikkens (866-745-5367;
Tile flooring: TileCraft, Inc., Traverse City, MI (231-929-7207;
Wood flooring: Pine Crest Wood Floors, Traverse City, MI (231-946-2609)


Published in Country's Best Cabins
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