The Lap of Luxury

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North Carolina family finds
the log home lifestyle is a custom fit


Story by Candace Allen
Photography by Roger Wade

We looked at plans for conventional homes for about a year, but couldn’t find anything that flipped our switch,” Lynne Lowder says.

That’s when her husband Tim brought home an issue of Log Home Living, tossed it on the counter and said, “That’s what I want.” The Lowders had thought log homes were only for vacations. They hadn’t considered building one for a full-time residence until Tim brought home the magazine.

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That was the first step in a long phase of research and planning that led the Lowders to build their dream home. For five years, they frequented log home shows and seminars. They read books and magazines. “We could have finished off the basement with all the time and money we spent on research,” Lynne says with a laugh. But the couple agrees that the sooner you start planning, the happier you will be with the results.

The Lowders talked seriously with six to eight log home manufacturers and made their decision to go with Jim Barna Log Systems, based in Oneida, Tennessee, after weighing four issues: the look of the home, quality, service and price. “We were after the large-log look,” Lynne says. “Many of the companies in our area don’t offer it, but Jim Barna does.”

The Lowders’ home sits atop a hill on 6 acres of both forest and meadow in North Carolina. From here, Tim can keep an eye on the adjacent 50 acres of his family-owned gardening and landscaping business.

To save money, the Lowders acted as their own general contractor. As the project progressed, they realized they wouldn’t want it any other way. Ground was broken and the foundation was poured in the fall of 1998.

With two young boys and a business to look after, the couple already had a busy schedule. They hoped for flexibility from their lender. “Most banks only give you a year to complete construction,” Lynne says, but the couple needed more time.

“We didn’t want to rush,” Tim says. “This was our dream home, and we wanted to do it right.”

They talked to a local lender they had known for years and arranged a fixed interest rate with an open-ended schedule. Two years later, they moved into their new home.

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The couple drew the floorplan themselves and took their sketches to Jim Barna’s design department for blueprints. Tim incorporated two house plans into one to get the look that he wanted for the exterior. Then Lynne reconfigured the interior to suit her tastes. “The sky is the limit,” she says. “Regular home builders don’t want to deviate from plans, but log home builders are not afraid of customizing. They welcome it.”

Originally, the Lowders planned to build their home with large, round logs. Then they saw a home built in the square-log style. “We loved the dovetail corners,” Lynne says. They combined the two styles, using 8- and 10-inch-diameter round logs for the rafters and upper beams, and square, 6-by-12-inch logs elsewhere. A mixture of eastern white pine and southern yellow pine was used throughout the home.

Scott Stroud of Jim Barna Log Systems explains that square Appalachian logs were historically used in the Southeast and that big round logs were traditionally used in the West. “Now people are getting what they want as opposed to what they grew up with,” Scott says. By blending the two styles, he points out that the Lowders have achieved a more contemporary look.

They also created a handcrafted look for their milled logs by shaving the round beams and window and door trim with an electric hand plane. It was a subtle design touch that Lynne says makes a big difference in appearance.

The home has 2,592 square feet of heated space. It features a wraparound deck, a screened-in porch off the kitchen, a small deck off an upstairs bedroom and an additional 1,200 square feet in the unfinished basement. Stamped to resemble shake, a taupe metal roof tops off the home.

The great room, with its open spaces, cathedral ceiling and expansive views, is Tim’s favorite spot. Lynne’s favorite room is the kitchen. However, they both agree that the focal point of the home is the stone fireplace and its two-way hearth that opens into the great room and dining area. Starting at the main floor, the fireplace rises through the center of the house into the loft area, where another fireplace taps in and continues up until it peaks at a towering 26 feet.

The Lowders hand-selected the Virginia fieldstone for the fireplace. The same type of stonework is used throughout the home: in the kitchen, on the front porch steps and around the foundation. Like the mortar they are set in, the stones bind together the interior and exterior. Colors in the fieldstone complement the natural pine walls, the almond aspen exterior stain and the taupe roof.

As in many homes, activity centers around the kitchen bar, where the boys do their homework and most meals are eaten. “I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I designed it to suit me,” Lynne says.

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She and Tim are both more than 6 feet tall, so she raised the height of the counters several inches above standard size. A center island butcher block offers a convenient chopping area and improves the traffic flow. Lynne flipped the sitting room (now adjacent to the kitchen) with the dining room so she could have company while working in the kitchen. Custom-built cabinets, stained spruce green, have pullout shelves for easy access. Pewter hardware matches stainless steel appliances. More formal meals are eaten in the dining room, where the glow of the fireplace brings out the warmth of the hardwood floors, and where the spruce green interior walls enhance the richness of the red cedar wainscot and hand-peeled cedar railings and posts.

All interior doors are custom-made replicas of a door the Lowders saw while staying in a 100-year-old home in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Made from 2-inch-thick pine planks glued together, the heavy doors are fitted with antique bronze hardware. A large “V” groove runs down the face of each door.

Rounding out the main floor are the master bedroom and bathroom and a guest half-bathroom. Lynne claims the whirlpool tub is all hers, but rumor has it that the boys snorkel in it.

Other times, the boys can be found upstairs. Their bedroom has two sets of bunk beds to accommodate friends during sleepovers. “Logs are pretty much boy-proof,” Lynne says. Plus, carpeting helps dampen the noise that a house full of growing boys can make. Each of the two upstairs bedrooms has a separate bath.

The entire home turned out so well, and Lynne’s enthusiasm and experience were so great, she became a Jim Barna Log Systems representative. Future home plans include finishing the basement to add more living space as the boys get older, enlarging the deck and building a garage, perhaps with an office above. For now, covered parking is available in the waterproofed area beneath the deck.

The Lowders have plenty of time to make changes. Like their property, which has been in the family long enough to be handed from one generation to another, Tim and Lynne agree that they are here to stay. They like their new laid-back, luxurious style of living. They like it so much that Lynne named her business, “Laid-Back Luxury Log Homes.” â€¢