Skip to content

Tried and True Design Solutions

I spent eight years writing the design column for Log Home Living, and during that time there were few design topics upon which I didn’t touch–and some I expounded upon more than once. It’s interesting but not surprising that the same themes recurred. When people go through the act of conceiving and building a log […]
by Jean Steinbrecher
Share


I spent eight years writing the design column for Log Home Living, and during that time there were few design topics upon which I didn’t touch–and some I expounded upon more than once.

It’s interesting but not surprising that the same themes recurred. When people go through the act of conceiving and building a log home, they often run into similar challenges. To give you a head start in thinking about the issues you’ll likely face, I’ve prepared this checklist of things to consider at each phase of the log home process.

Planning and Budgeting


  • Start by writing a “program” of the rooms you require. This will give you accurate sense of your home. Include their approximate sizes and allow for hallways and wall thicknesses when determining square footage.
  • Create a realistic building construction budget (including taxes), then add a significant contingency fund.
  • Include a separate line item for site clearing, grading, roadways and utilities installation.
  • When cost is an issue, build a smaller, finer home.
  • Make areas do double duty to reduce size and cost.
  • Get your banker’s blessing before proceeding.

Site and Climate 



  • Check local zoning, codes, covenants and restrictions before purchasing property.
  • Make sure power, water and cable are available to the property–and research the cost.
  • Ascertain that water is available, as well as waste disposal (septic or sewer).
  • Purchase property before starting the formal design process. The site has as much to say about the project as any of the owners.
  • Build in context with the surroundings, the neighbors, local styles and forms. Traditional building forms and responses to the local climate are the appropriate ones.
  • Plan landscaping to protect and enhance your building.

Design



  • Collect a scrapbook of design ideas.
  • Keep your design simple.
  • A bad (design) idea isn’t worth building. 
  • Select a designer or architect who has log home experience.
  • The logs have as much to say about the project as any of the owners.
  • Design is a process. Don’t hurry it!
  • Create a plan that makes sense.
  • Keep hallways to a minimum.
  • Create a plan that allows for re-sale of the home.
  • With your plan in mind, visit the site. Follow the sun throughout the day and plan how to use its light to best advantage.
  • Protect the sides of the house from which storms are most likely to blow.
  • Build your home with wide eaves, overhangs and porches to protect the logs.
  • Use broader overhangs on the sunny sides to shield your home from the hot summer sun.
  • Plan a home that can be used by people of all sizes and ages.
  • Think in three dimensions and keep in mind how your home’s façade will look.
  • Listen to your log builder!
  • Design a home you’ll be proud to drive up to each evening.
  • Keep door and window openings proportional to each other and to the building.
  • Plan outdoor spaces thoughtfully; they create outdoor rooms.
  • Every home needs a sense of entry–both from the exterior and the interior.
  • Protect entry doors from the elements.
  • Plan a back door, mudroom or secondary entrance.
  • Group “wet” areas (bathrooms and sinks) on each floor; stack them above and below each other to make plumbing runs easier.
  • Place stud-framed walls between wet areas to accommodate plumbing.
  • Compartmentalize the sections of each bathroom so more than one person can use the bathroom at a time.
  • In a small home, provide a second entry from the hall into the master bath.
  • In the master area, plan a cozy sleeping space with a ceiling that’s not too high.
  • Make other bedrooms, offices, dens and hobby rooms generic and interchangeable; define their uses with furniture.
  • Pay attention to acoustical privacy. You don’t want the Sounds of a TV or conversation in one area to intrude on another.
  • Provide a second-floor joist system to accommodate heating, plumbing and lighting runs to your upper rooms.
  • Install a good-quality heating system, as well as backup heating for emergencies.
  • Design in flexibility so you can easily install future generations of technologies and systems. You don’t want to struggle when the next generation of something like fiber-optic lighting or high-speed computer cable comes along.
  • Provide adequate and proper ventilation.
  • Plan and provide plenty of storage, both indoors and out.
  • Build in a garage and park in it.
  • Work with building codes, not against them.

Finishes, Fixtures, Furnishings 



  • Choose natural finishes to complement the logs. 
  • Use materials that are nontoxic and have low-VOCs (volatile organic compounds) wherever possible–especially indoors.
  • Choose bold, textured finishes.
  • Not every wall should be log.
  • Not every finish needs to be wood.
  • Define the planes of each room (floors, walls, ceilings) through varied colors, textures and materials.
  • Select fewer, larger furniture pieces in scale with the logs.
  • Choose furnishings with bold patterns, colors and textures.
  • Purchase good-quality plumbing fixtures in classic or neutral colors and styles that will not become dated.
  • For countertops and cabinets, choose classic colors or easy-care natural materials that are durable and will not go out of style.
  • Select multipurpose furniture with built-in storage.
  • Introduce color through furnishings.
  • Choose larger light fixtures in styles that complement a log home.
  • Use task and accent lighting in conjunction with general lighting.
  • As much as possible, keep light fixtures, switches and outlets out of the logs.

Business Matters



  • Do business with the real decision-makers in a company, not their employees.
  • Get all agreements in writing.
  • Provide adequate construction drawings and written specifications to both the log builder and the general contractor.
  • Visit each producer’s log operation.
  • See occupied examples of a builders’ work before deciding who will bid on your project.
  • Call builders’ references; have a list of prepared questions to ask; keep notes of the answers.
  • Find a fair way to compare cost proposals for log home packages. The lowest price isn’t always the best price.
  • Hire a general contractor who understands and respects logs.
  • Be certain the log producer and general contractor are working together.
  • Work with people you feel good about.
  • Be an available, attentive, responsive and decisive client.
  • Ask questions and seek clarifications.
  • Communicate clearly–and in writing whenever possible.
  • Treat people fairly and honorably.

Maintenance



  • Plan an easy-to-clean, easy-to-maintain log home.
  • Select log finishes specifically formulated for logs.
  • Use vinyl- or metal-clad wood windows if you wish to avoid additional repainting and maintenance.
  • Plan and install native, drought-resistant plantings.
  • Create and follow a maintenance schedule for your new home, record your work annually.
  • Attach the maintenance schedule and annual record to your deed.
  • Love and enjoy your log home.

Jean A. Steinbrecher A.I.A. is a licensed architect in Langley, Washington. She specializes in log homes and is a former executive board member of the International Log Builders’ Association.






Published in Jean Steinbrecher
Comment Feed

No Responses (yet)



Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.


Get your FREE Trial Issue of Log Home Living and 2 FREE gifts.
Yes! Please send me a FREE trial issue of Log Home Living and 2 FREE gifts.
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll get 8 more issues (9 in all) for just $15.95, a savings of 65%! If for any reason
I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing. The FREE trial issue and 2 FREE gifts are mine to keep, no matter what.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email (req):
Offer valid in US only.
Click here for Canada or here for international subscriptions