About seven miles outside of Sarasota, Florida, is the home of Jennifer and Eric Donaldson and their dogs, Cypress and Charlotte. Married for only two years when they got the bug to build a log home, the Donaldsons survived the experience with nothing but compliments for each other and their custom home builders. “The whole construction process was something we’d never been through before,” Eric says. “I have to give credit to my wife. She put this whole thing together.”

A professional chef who works long hours, Eric relied on Jennifer and their subcontractors to create the home. “Every day of this construction process was very exciting,” Jennifer says. She took time off from her work as a landscaper to answer builder questions and do “grunt work.” The builders, a family operation named Charlie’s Construction, consist of Chuck Sr. and his sons Chuck Jr. and Chris.

“They had never built a log home before,” Jennifer says. “Everything is trimmed, notched, rounded; there’s not an unfinished piece of wood in the house.” Chuck Sr. is from the “old school” of construction, where craftsmanship is sacred, and he’s taught this level of quality to his sons.

The Donaldsons moved in August 1999 and have since hired the same builders to construct for them a 30-by-70-foot barn with matching green metal roof and log siding. Their six-acre site, which was cleared prior to construction, now resembles an estate with grand pastures and stately oak trees.

Built from Tidewater red cypress, their place–on the edge of the largest state park in Florida–is naturally resistant to the worst environment nature has to offer a log home in terms of insects, moisture and sun. This particular species of coastal cypress grows wild in the swamps and wetlands of Florida. It only makes sense that it’s perfectly suited to this subtropical environment.

B.K. Cypress Log Homes coordinated with Jennifer and Eric from the pencil sketch phase through complete engineered blueprints and log delivery. “We chose B.K. Cypress because of the cypress logs and their proximity to our site,” Jennifer says. The company is in Bronson, Florida, only three hours from Sarasota, and it was an initial trip to B.K. Cypress that made the Donaldsons feel confident they’d found the right company.

“We went to the B.K. Cypress office and model home and fell in love,” Jennifer says. “It was the first time we’d seen finished cypress.”

But the next time they saw the logs would be an even bigger thrill: delivery day. “You see these logs delivered in the two trucks, and you get excited–it’s not like a load of bricks,” Jennifer says.

Native to the Florida wetlands, gleeming Tidewater red cypress was used throughout the house.  The couple splurged on some amenities, like the copper hood and granite counters in the kitchen and Pella windows in the home’s dining room.

Delivery day was the realization of a dream that the couple had thought was unattainable. “We thought we’d never be able to afford a log home,” she adds. “We scaled down our plans a couple of times but then were still able to add some extras, like Pella windows, granite countertops and a copper hood over the stove.”

Their home is a comfortable 2,186 square feet with several hundred square feet in porches. They originally wanted full wraparound porches, but that was one area where they conserved on costs.

Eric had a lot to do with avoiding conventional construction. “I wanted something special,” he says. “I’ve looked at log homes all my life and liked the rustic look.”

Still, rustic does not equate with shoddy. “My favorite part of the house is the quality,” Eric says. “The guys are true craftsmen. I can put a level anywhere, and everything is plumb and level.”

One special feature in the home is a full cypress tree in the center. “We saw a floor-to-ceiling tree column in the brochure,” Jennifer says. The couple selected their own column, which is both decorative and structural. Additionally, the builders elected to construct a faux beam to accent the ceiling’s design. The beam is hand-scribed and undetectable as being nonload-bearing.

Eric’s professional culinary training demanded some special kitchen amenities. “He wanted the copper hood and the granite countertops,” Jennifer says.

Throughout the house, Jennifer adds, “We put in lots of ceiling lights. In the beginning, I thought we had too many, but the logs need it.” All of these fixtures are on dimmers so the lighting can be adjusted for ambiance and function.

As advice to those planning log homes, she says, “Don’t forget to shine some lights to reflect down. And, plan ahead on everything: I ran the sound system wires during construction even though we had not hooked it up yet.”

Jennifer’s favorite place in the house is the master suite. “There is slate tile on the floors and in the shower,” she says. “We skipped the tub and did a large walk-in shower with double showerheads. We also added granite countertops in the bath.”

On the ground floor, the Donaldsons opted for oak flooring; they used carpet in the upstairs bedrooms. To complete the areas of the house, the couple continues to collect special furnishings and accessories.

The Donaldsons are thrilled with their log home–and the company who built it. “The house is very calming–it feels like a nest,” Eric says. “Wood, in and of itself, has some calming effect on everybody. Plus, it’s a lot prettier than a conventional house.”

Jennifer agrees and is particularly pleased with their log home company. “B.K. Cypress offers a 65-year warranty on the logs,” Jennifer says, adding that she and Eric never plan to move. “There’s nothing worth leaving this house for.”

Log package price: $52,000
Square footage: 2,186
Log producer: B.K. Cypress Log Homes
Antler fireplace tools: Wild West Designs
Bar stools: Home Decorators Collection
Bathroom sink: Kohler Co.
Bathroom tile work and kitchen countertops: European Marble<
Cabinetry: Schrock Cabinet Co.
Front door: Specialty Woodworks
General contractor and masonry: Charlie’s Construction
Kitchen appliances: GE Appliances
Kitchen hat wall hanging: Cattleman Gallery
Roof: Corrugated Buildings & Components Inc.
Windows and French doors: Pella Corp.

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