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Food for the Soul: Planning a Pioneer Log Home

Planning a pioneer log home in the California mountains. Built by Pioneer Log Homes, featured in Log Home Living.
by Maureen Littlejohn | Photos by Russ McConnell

Crisp, clean and blessed with four seasons, the small community of Pine Mountain Club is only 70 miles north of Los Angeles, but it might as well be light years away. For Russ McConnell, a photographer, teacher and gallery director, and his artist wife, Gina, it was the perfect spot to build a relaxing getaway where they could refuel their creative souls at the end of a frenzied week.

Log cabin fire pit and yard area


“A log gives me a place to reflect and breathe,” says Gina. “I can paint for hours in front of our large windows and feel like I’m outside. Russ will ask if I want to go to town, and the answer is always no. I love my space among these 18-inch logs.”

Russ, a transplant from upstate New York, grew up spending weekends at his parents’ place in the Adirondacks.

“I had always dreamed of owning a log cabin,” he recalls.

The couple began exploring the mountains outside Santa Barbara, where Russ enjoyed changing leaves and winter snow that reminded him of home.

“When we discovered Pine Mountain Club, we fell in love with the community.”

They had planned to buy a finished house, but in 2002, while driving back to the city, they came across a log home with a sign listing the builder’s web site. “It intrigued us,” Russ recalls. “The builder was Pioneer Log Homes, based in British Columbia, and the homeowner was Bryan Reid, the company’s owner. We went back a few days later and met with him and his wife. They were wonderful and have become good friends.”

Log cabin wood carving detail

As gorgeous as it was, the location called for some special attention from Pioneer’s designers.

“It’s seven miles from the San Andreas Fault Line,” notes Bryan, “so it had to be earthquake proof. The logs act as shock absorbers, and the foundation was designed for seismic considerations, so it will move if the ground shifts.”

Russ acted as general contractor and brought Bruce Gordon Construction on board to oversee the subcontractors. The home’s shell was put together at Pioneer’s headquarters in British Columbia and moved to the McConnells’ site in California in March of 2003. By that fall, the couple was enjoying Thanksgiving dinner in their new log home.

Russ and Gina’s artistic touches are evident throughout the home. Gina’s mosaic designs were installed in the bathroom and around the gas stove, while Russ created a bed from leftover logs and installed an eat-in counter made from a slab of eucalyptus donated by a friend of Gina’s. Russ also undertook the backbreaking work of sanding each log of the house.

Or, as Gina puts it: “It was a labor of love for my husband, and it houses me while I pursue my labor of love.”

Home Details:
Square footage: 1,300
General Contractor: Bruce Gordon Construction
Log Producer: Pioneer Log Homes

Published in Log Home Living
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