Making decisions about your dream home is never easy. Even if you’ve decided once and for all to build a log home, you’ll still face questions about the home’s style. Log-home styles abound, so how do you choose just one for your dream home?
You can start by considering the area where you plan to build and learning about its regional, or vernacular, architecture. Vernacular styles typically evolve in response to local climates and the building traditions of the people who have made the area home.
Log-home styles developed differently in different areas of the country. To simplify this survey of styles, we’re dividing the country into East and West. As you design your particular home, you and your designer should take into account your region’s precipitation, temperature range and wind patterns, and build accordingly. Your home will be more comfortable and, with the help of vernacular style, will look more pulled together, too.
Of course, it is a free country, and you don’t have to follow tradition in your area—but in the spirit of knowing the rules before you break them, read on.
Among the log-home styles that flourished in the Eastern states are Early American, Appalachian and Adirondack. Appalachian style relates to Southeastern mountain homes. Adirondack homes were popular in the upstate region of New York.
For those who love antiques, either primitive or refined, an Early American-style log home can be a dream setting for your treasures. Homes in this style often feature squared logs with wide bands of light-colored chinking showing between the courses of logs. You can even take the extra step of purchasing logs salvaged from old barns or cabins to create your new home.
If you’d like an Early American feel, keep your design simple and boxy in shape, and try to keep its size in check. Thinking “cabin” instead of “mansion” will put you on the right track. Rooflines of Early American homes should be simple, too, although dormers, in doghouse or shed style, can add character and bring more light into the home’s interior. Consider a metal or wood-shingle roof for
this kind of log home.
When choosing windows for Early American style, select units that have rectangular grids or grilles. Large picture windows with no divisions into smaller panes will ruin the effect of a historic-styled home. Choose salvaged doors (or new doors that look old) for the interior and exterior. Pay attention to knobs, hinges and locks—old-looking hardware will make new doors and windows feel more authentic.
The Appalachian style of log building is quite similar to Early American style. Pick squared logs with chinking and wood shakes or metal for roofing. Keep in mind how the warmer Southern climate influenced the look over the years. Appalachian homes often have more of a connection to the outdoors. A long covered porch allows for space to sit outside, even during a rain shower. Dogtrot-style homes are common in the region as well. The dogtrot combines two smaller log structures (called pens) under one roof with an open space (the dogtrot) between. Again, this space allows for ventilation and provides a degree of shelter from rain and the hot sun.
Originally fashioned as vacation resorts for the wealthy, the Great Camps of the Adirondacks in New York set a long-lasting trend in log-home style. The look combines the opulence of Victorian homes with the organic beauty of natural materials. Full-round, handcrafted logs with intersecting corners were used to build the Great Camps. To highlight the natural style, bark was sometimes left intact on the logs. Twigs, branches and small logs were woven into decorative railings on the homes, as well.
Because the style is eclectic, it can accommodate Alpine, Western, Victorian and even Arts & Crafts touches. Still, some similarities hold true: Porches play an important role, whether screened or open. Gable roofs were the easiest to build decades ago and are still part of the style. Wood-shake roofs with dormers complete the look. Whatever doors or windows you choose, trim them in red or blue-green for a most authentic look.
For many, Western style is the most natural for a log home. But as you’ll see, the Western look is more than just cowboys and Indians; mountain style and Southwestern style also draw a crowd. But first, let’s look at an American classic: the ranch.
The pioneers who built the first log cabins out West didn’t worry about making a style statement. Their goal was to create shelter fast. Round logs would have stacked up quickly; if the builder had the time or talent, he might have squared the logs and carved dovetail notches. Today, you can choose either style for your Western home.
The classic ranch house is rugged and utilitarian, designed to accommodate a crowd and stand up to heavy foot traffic. A traditional ranch has one long roof ridge, with a fairly shallow pitch. The home’s horizontal lines make it look best on a flat site. Metal roofs are a wise pick for standing up to the hot sun and drifting snow. The ranch house should feel communal, with a wide-open sense of welcome. Wraparound porches permit entry into the home at a number of places. The “front” door, if there is one, shouldn’t be highfalutin. A simple, plank door will suit the style best.
Although it may not be tied to a particular historic era, today’s mountain-style log home has a distinctive air that’s rustic, but refined. Part of the feel comes from the massive handcrafted logs often used to build a mountain-style home. Décor that takes its cues from Old World hunting lodges will complete the look.
A significant part of mountain style is the roof. Steep roof pitches keep snow from piling up. The roofs look heavy, too, in part because they must offer a good deal of insulation and because they must be strong enough to shoulder heavy snow loads.
A home’s porches often will have a shallower roof pitch to allow for light and views on the inside. The porch also creates space for outdoor living and protects you from the elements as you shed boots or skis before going inside.
Mountain style plays to the views. While small-paned windows look authentically old, you want plenty of glass to see the mountains. Grouping windows together is an elegant solution. Windows set high in the walls define mountain style, too, and capture those lofty vistas.
Historically, the homes built in the Southwest tended to be adobe with log beams and trim. Today, a full-log home can be built in the tradition of Southwestern style. Start with round logs for the walls and continue the theme inside with round-log ceiling beams. The texture and look of adobe are essential ingredients, so plan for adobe walls somewhere in the home. Roofs in arid regions can be flat or have a shallow pitch covered with roof tiles. Arrange your home around a central courtyard that you can live in all year.
Mix Old World craftsmanship with a Spanish flair and New World folk artistry in your home. Pick wrought-iron railings for stairs and balconies. Choose doors decorated with European carving or more primitive plank doors, either hand painted or left plain.
Still looking for a style that suits you? One that proved popular across the country was a style known variously as Arts & Crafts, Mission or Craftsman. While the style can be traced to Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence in Chicago and the Midwest, its simple lines, earthy colors and honest craftsmanship attracted followers from coast to coast. Bungalows were outfitted with Craftsman-style furniture and accessories created by Stickley and the Roycroft community in New York. Architect brothers Greene and Greene practiced their craft in California. The style also shows the influence of Asian, especially Japanese, motifs.
To create your own Arts & Crafts home, choose squared log walls punctuated with tall rectangular windows set in groups. You can choose a rectangular or diamond-shaped grille for windows and patio doors. For door and window hardware, choose pieces made by hand or those that at least look handcrafted.
This article ran much longer and with pictures in the Log Home Plans 2008 issue of Log Homes Illustrated.