On the Coast of Maine
A Midwest family chooses logs for their New England home.
Story by Cathy Nelson Price
Photography by Roger Wade
Produced by Brenda Kelley
Think of mid-coast Maine and you might envision clapboard Colonials weathered by the sea air. Log homes just don’t seem to fit. But for native Midwesterners Jan and Mark Miedema, a log home in Maine meant two things: skiing and hot cocoa.
But the Miedemas have broadened that picture postcard with their home in West Bath, Maine.
Built in 1996 by Hilltop Log Homes of Bowdoinham, Maine, the 4,665-square-foot, four-bedroom home is, at last, where this traveling family feels they’ve settled down.
“We’d been leasing a 14,000-square-foot historic Victorian home in which most of the space wasn’t usable and the heating bills were enormous,” Jan recalls. The Miedemas had also owned a Victorian home in California. Looking for a home that would be more efficient, Jan was in a coffee shop one day when she spotted a real estate guide in which Hilltop Log Homes was featured. She made an appointment and drove to the model home that serves as both office and residence for the firm’s owner, Dan McKenna, and his family. That night she told her husband, “I met our builder!”
Mark, a dentist who retired from the Navy in 1998 and now practices at a Veterans’ hospital, remembers being in shock. He agreed to meet Dan, despite the fact that the couple didn’t have any land to build on. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Mark and Jan to find a 2-1/2-acre lot on Quaker Point, near the New Meadows River.
The house design they chose was based on Hilltop’s Big Androscoggin floorplan, with some modifications. “We extended 12 feet along the back and added a 12-by-12-foot mudroom on the side of the house,” Mark explains. “The kitchen is the entire back end of the house; we moved one bedroom to the front.” Groundbreaking took place in mid-May; by the first week in June the first logs had arrived and the Miedemas moved in one week before Christmas.
“It didn’t take them six months to build the house,” Jan says. “The reason we couldn’t move in sooner is that we finished and sanded the entire interior ourselves. We tried to keep up with the builders, but for the last month we were in there by ourselves with halogen lights, sanding away.”
Jan, a homemaker, was able to visit the construction site daily and photograph each stage of building, something she recommends for practical as well as sentimental reasons. “I was lucky that my schedule allowed me to visit almost every day,” she recalls. “Only two people worked on our house; Mark McKenna and Mike Tourtelout. As each room progressed, they would always check with me to make sure it was the way I wanted it. For instance, they told me to measure my hutch to make sure it would fit the wall, then they bumped walls to fit the hutch!”
The day the builders finished, Jan was in tears. “It was the most positive experience I’ve ever had,” she recalls. “I knew if there were any mistakes, they were ours.” Before Mark and Mike left, she had them finish one small project: the installation of a brass plaque with the year the house was built, the company name and their names. It will remain part of the house.
The Miedemas’ home includes three types of logs; western red cedar and lodgepole pine from British Columbia, and northern white cedar from northern Maine. The logs were locally milled as were the tongue-and-groove interior walls and white pine flooring, which Jan and Mark sanded themselves and then stained with a cherry finish.
With three finished levels of construction, Jan stressed continuity of decor rather than choosing different themes for different areas of the house. Of course, decorating a log home was far different than a Victorian. “I went from Laura Ashley to Daniel Boone,” she quips. Maximizing the effect of the various wood finishes, she elected to use area rugs instead of carpeting and fabric only for window treatments. The cabinetry is finished in cherry or mahogany to contrast with the cedar walls. Switchplates throughout the house are antique brass, matching the chandeliers in the kitchen and dining room.
The enlarged galley kitchen includes a large, deep kitchen sink with an open basin. Black and gray slate countertops came from a local manufacturer. “It’s the kind of kitchen where you tell people, ‘Here’s where the coffee is, help yourself,’ ” Jan adds.
When the family took occupancy in 1996, daughters Amanda and Jennifer were both teenagers living at home. The finished basement became, and remains, a recreation room with overflow sleeping space for guests. The house was wired for cable throughout, and the Miedemas and their guests enjoy surround-sound via their 46-inch projection television. The basement, running the full length of the house, is the only room in which drywall was used.
More guest space is available in the loft, closed to provide what Mark calls “another family room and a nice study.” The Miedemas also have a detached, three-car garage finished in log siding to match the house.
“I’d do this again in a minute,” Mark says. “I’d never go back to a conventional house.”
“This is the first house I’ve ever had in which I don’t have a favorite room,” Jan says. “Every day I try to spend a little time in each area.” And even today, more than three years after the family moved in, the house still packs a wallop for visitors. “When people come through the door, they don’t make eye contact,” she laughs. “They’re too busy looking around and going, ‘Wow!’ “
Logs only price: $78,000
Log producer and architect: Hilltop Log Homes
For contact information, see Resources.
The Black Stove Shop, 359 Riverside Drive, Augusta ME 04330; 207-622-6040
Custom Laminates, 68 Whipple St., Lewiston ME 04240; 207-782-5791
Fireslate, 47 Hamel Road, Lewiston ME 04240; 207-784-8746
Hilltop Log Homes, P.O. Box 170, Bowdoinham ME 04008; 207-666-8840
Hunter Fan Co., 2500 Frisco Ave., Memphis TN 38114; 901-743-1360
IKO Mfg., 120 Hay Road, Wilmington DE 19809; 302-764-3100
Maurice Paquette, Box 1446, Bryant Road, East Hebron ME 04238; 207-966-3780
Peachtree Doors and Windows, P.O. Box 5700, Norcross GA 30091; 800-477-6544
Sashco, 10300 E. 107th Place, Brighton CO 80601; 800-767-5656
Sikkens by Akzo Nobel Coatings, P.O. Box 7062, 1845 Maxwell, Troy MI 48007; 800-833-7288
Hilltop Log Homes photos/Styled by Debra Grahl