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Reader’s Corner: Back to Nature

North Carolina couple searches high and low to find the ideal accessories for their log home.
by Laura Stapleton
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Cashiers, North Carolina, is one of those towns where you actually take a moment to watch the sun steadily fall back behind the mountains. It’s where the sky turns different shades of red, purple, pink and blue all at the same time, and you take the time to keep watching it. It’s a town that offers such splendor outdoors, you can’t help but want to create the same indoors.

So it’s no wonder that it is the town where Dottie and Taylor Bruce have created a log home inspired and decorated with nature in mind.

From the sconces that look like branches to the hand-molded ceramic tiles with translucent maple leaves, you quickly realize you haven’t entered just any house–you’ve entered one that truly stands out among others. “I’m known as the queen of accessorizing,” says Dottie, a full-time interior decorator.

The Bruces’ 1,700-square-foot house emanates a uniqueness not found in most other log structures.

“The location of the home is in a thick wooden forest of hemlock near the Whitewater River,” Taylor says.

Two Amish rocking chairs steadily glide in a cool breeze that whispers across the front porch, allowing visitors to take a rest and admire the surrounding trees or listen to the river flowing behind the house. The entrance features a handcrafted iron door knocker, which the Bruces had specially made by an iron forger in Cashiers.

Inside the home, it’s easy to see the miracles that can happen when you take a simple house and add some choice decorating features.

The theme of the home, produced by Hearthstone of Dandridge, Tennessee, is natural creativity. The Bruces chose mostly earth tones–greens, browns and reds for interior colors. The white pine rectangular logs are 12 inches in diameter and stained a shade lighter than the honey hue used on the exterior.

The house is comprised of a dovetail joint corner system and includes about 4 inches of chinking, which is a light sand color, contrasting perfectly with the surrounding woods.

“The home has a very calming effect on people,” Taylor says.

Walking around inside the house will lead your eyes on a journey of delight, as you see the various pieces of furniture, artwork and accessories that work perfectly together in their surrounding environment. From the vintage school desktop–which serves as a knickknack shelf–to the European woven textile basket, there’s something unique in every corner.

From flea markets to yard sales to auctions, the Bruces have searched them all. Although these places may not be your everyday shopping locales for a new house, they certainly include some one-of-a-kind items you’re not likely to find at your local decorating store.

Dottie and Taylor now relish weekends.

“Before we decorated, our entire attic and garage were full of stuff we had picked up,” Dottie says. “We had the most fun finding accessories.”

And this is just the beginning. From small items such as the handcrafted door knobs to larger items such as the kitchen cabinets, the pleasure derived from exploring the Bruce home is surely one not to be forgotten.

“We tried to keep it comfortable but be true to the log home feel,” Dottie says.

The couple bought six old heart pine doors for the home’s interior and a French door for the back. Dottie and Taylor brought out the uniqueness of their doors when they stripped five coats of paint off of them. Beneath the paint they discovered the doors were actually traditional, six-panel doors.

The couple has since restored the doors to their original wood finish and has bought more heart pine doors to match the originals. The screen door to the back porch features handles made from an old mule harness.

Wood, which is the most common element in the Bruce home, takes on various functions throughout the house.

“A little unique characteristic is the railings in the house where we used mountain laurel that was cut from our North Carolina property,” Dottie says.

The floors also are made of wood–11-inch heart pine planks. Covering various parts of these wood floors are kilim–a rug with a Southwestern flair, which is complemented by a brown leather sofa and loveseat. A log bed made from standing dead lodgepole pine takes the warmth of the wood into the bedroom.

In the kitchen, the cabinetry is made of birch wood and bead board and is painted hunter green. After painting the cabinet doors, the couple then lightly sanded them for a classic, worn look.

The lighting also helps bring out the warm feeling of this captivating home, while adding style at the same time. From the simplicity of the track lighting to the dining room lights that resemble miniature pine trees, nature’s presence abounds. Handmade lights shaped like trout–having a metal background and globe lights in front–bring the river into many of the rooms. Also, some sconces throughout the home include tiny log cabins with tree cutouts around them.

The items all are the result of the Bruces’ nonstop desire to add to the home’s decor. “We never stop looking for new ideas,” Dottie says.

Other items purchased for the home include furnishings such as the many tables made from local mountain laurel.

As for the surrounding yard, the couple didn’t let the creative ideas stop flowing. They’ve installed an 80,000-gallon trout pond, which is 100 feet long, 30 feet wide and about 6 to 8 feet deep in the center.

“We moved about 12,000 pounds of rock ourselves to get that pond done,” Dottie says.

The pond water slips over a rock waterfall and drops into the river through a dam and then is recycled through the pond. Dottie and Taylor added about 250 trout into the pond, which they adopted from a local hatchery.

But it is the overall location itself that the Bruces believe is their favorite feature of this home. The spot was worth the effort of their quest for land.

“We searched for months looking for a place to put this log home. We ended up picking Cashiers because it’s a resort town, and it has good restaurants,” Dottie says. “We were away from the city life but were still near nice shops.”

The Bruces knew they had picked the right location when, as Taylor says, “I stopped playing golf and started going to the mountains.”

These days, come Friday, it’s time to pack up the car and head to their wonderful retreat. The Bruces’ two dogs–a bicheon and a cocker spaniel–always are ready to get back to the mountains and their comfortable fireplace beds.

“They get all excited come Friday,” Dottie says. “They know it’s time to head to the mountains.”

And thanks to the rich decorating styles and natural setting, it is no surprise that the Bruces look forward to returning weekend after weekend

Dottie and Taylor’s Helpful Hints:

  • Start collecting items and storing them during the home building process. Once your house is complete, you’ll be ready to fill it with all the great items you’ve collected.
  • If you’re looking for a natural look, pick colors that complement nature such as browns, greens or reds. Natural materials from your land, such as tree limbs, birds’ nests or leaves, add to a home’s decor.
  • To get an idea for the regional decorating flair near the location of your log home, take a look at area stores and shops. Area craftsmen can create unique items to enhance the charm of your house.
  • It’s ok to mix and match items from flea markets, yard sales and auctions. You’re sure to find one-of-a-kind accessories that are just right and fit your decorating motif perfectly.
  • If this is a vacation or weekend home, be different in your overall style or decorating schemes. Vary them from what you have in your primary residence to create the feeling that you’ve really “gotten away.”
  • Lighting can play a big part in accenting furniture, collectibles and architecture. It can also be a unique decorating tool based on the character of your lighting fixtures.
  • Don’t forget to decorate the exterior of your log home, especially if you have plenty of usable outdoor living space.
  • Style is an evolving process. Don’t be afraid to change!
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