Set In Stone
The Rockies bring out the best in a Colorado couple’s log home
Story By Jenny Dalen
Photography by Roger Wade
When Mike and Karen Schutte bought a piece of land in northern Colorado in 1992, Mike thought it could be a great spot for a cozy log cabin. Karen, though, had her sights set on something bigger. “Once I started working on the floorplan for the house, I think Mike realized that his cabin had become a lodge,” she says with a laugh.Today, both Mike and Karen love the spacious 4,800-square-foot log home and have dubbed it “Eagle’s Nest” for the way it sits high on the lot while remaining tucked in, like a nest, among rock outcroppings.The road to log home living began while the Schuttes were living the city life in San Diego. “We liked it there, but we had raised our family in Wyoming and were anxious to get back to the Rocky Mountains,” Karen says.On a vacation to Fox Acres golf resort in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, they discovered a 2 1/2-acre lot for sale within a nearby private subdivision. Seeing the parcel’s aspens, Ponderosa pines, granite boulders and wide-sweeping views of the Mummy Range of the Rockies, the couple told their real estate agent, “We’ll take it,” without knowing quite when they might build a house.It would be five years before Mike and Karen could put their dream into action. Knowing that they wanted a log home to accent the site’s dramatic natural setting, they called on Don Weixelman, the agent who sold them the site years before and who also works as a general contractor, to spearhead the project. “Don recommended that Lodge Logs provide the log package,” Karen says. “We figured a local guy would know best.”
Karen took on the job of brainstorming the home’s basic design concepts, as well as all the nitty-gritty details. Qualified for the task at hand, she had spent more than 20 years with her own design firm, Interiors By Karen, after returning to college at age 40. “It was exciting to go to work on our dream home,” she says.
As Karen began sketching the layout, she tackled a few priorities first. She wanted a second-floor loft for guests, with a double-insulated floor to muffle the sound of pitter-pattering little feet; a ground floor containing all the daily-use rooms (“We’re planning for a time when climbing the stairs isn’t such an attractive daily exercise,” Karen says.); and a walkout lower level with his-and-hers offices. She drew the house to include a host of view-maximizing windows and creative, angular rooflines.
After taking her sketch to a local draftsman, Karen shipped the plans off to Lodge Logs in Boise, Idaho. The company assured her that their logs could fit Karen’s plan both structurally and economically. “It’s our job to make sure that our packages match the home owner’s dream and budget,” says Bill White, the company’s general manager.
The Schuttes chose a package with 10-foot lodgepole pine logs. “We offer longer log lengths, but this home has a lot of angles to it,” Bill says. “The shorter length allows for a more precise fit and easier assembly.” The logs, 9 inches in diameter, were kiln-dried to less than 15 percent moisture content to reduce the amount of shrinkage over time.
In the fall of 1998, the package, pre-cut in Idaho and numbered for later assembly, was shipped to the Schuttes’ parcel, where Don supervised the log stacking. The smooth tongue-and-groove, machine-milled logs were joined with a micro-foam sealant between for a tight fit, and the crew used Lodge Logs’ through-bolt system to anchor the logs to the foundation. According to Bill, who frequently visited the site during construction, one of the most notable events was watching the vaulted great room take shape. “Karen designed a wall of west-facing windows, and the view is quite stunning,” he says.
The great room’s trusses have no vertical logs in the center so as not to take the eye away from the floor-to-ceiling windows. For support, 12-inch Douglas fir beams run horizontally the full length of the room and meet with logs that follow along the cathedral ceiling, forming three giant triangles.
Mike and Karen custom-mixed a brown-toned stain, hoping to avoid a yellow look. “I don’t look good in yellow,” Karen says with a laugh.
The construction team topped the home’s angular lines with a green tin roof. “We love to hear the rain on the roof,” she says. “Plus, it’s fire-resistant, and the snow slips right off in the winter.”
In August of 1999, the Schuttes moved in, and it was Karen’s turn to add her finishing touches.
“I gave away some of our old furniture to our sons,” Karen says. “But for the most part, I was able to incorporate the same pieces here but with different accents for a new twist.”
For lighting, Karen enlists a variety of techniques, including dimmer-switch spotlights that highlight the rock fireplace; a torchier lamp shooting light up the center post of the great room’s windowed wall; pierced copper sconces in the entry; and ample floor and table lamps. “At night, the logs just glow,” she says.
Flooring in the home is a mix of hardwood; Brazilian slate in the entry, bathrooms and whirlpool room; and Berber carpet around the fireplace, in the basement and in all of the bedrooms.
Thorough research has been the key to Mike and Karen’s happiness with their log home. “We thought it all throughevery little detail,” she says.
As proof positive that they love their home, Mike and Karen hardly ever want to be away from it. If they are gone, upon return, they feel their “inner springs” start to unwind.
“It was our lifelong dream to build a comfortable log home,” Karen says, “and I think we did it!”
For a list of companies who contributed to the home, see the 2002 Annual Buyer’s Guide issue of Log Home Living.
Lodge Logs photos/Styled by Debra Grahl