A Tennessee couple truly enjoys a log home living

Story by  Linda Vaccariello
Photography by Roger Wade

Jim and Faye Barna each got the house they wanted when they built their new home in 1999. Hers is in the front, his, in the back. From the outside, the front of the house has a long, airy, inviting Tennessee-style porch, while the rear is heavy with stone accents and baronial details. “I wanted a Southern, country feeling,” Faye says.

The back is all mine,” Jim says of the rear’s design and style. “It’s very Bavarian.”

Jim can be excused for taking liberties with his home’s architectural style. He’s the owner of Jim Barna Log Systems, one of the country’s largest log home manufacturers, and he’s always eager to show that drama and style can go hand-in-hand with log construction. And what better place to demonstrate that than in your own home?

Jim was born in Hungary and came to the United States as a child. He first built a log home for himself in 1976. Eventually that structure—expanded and remodeled—became the headquarters for his growing business in Oneida, Tennessee. He and Faye married 10 years ago. (She owned a Jim Barna log house before they even met!) When their blended family was younger, they had a place in the country. But by the late 1990s, they were a household with teenagers, and it was time to build again. “The kids wanted to be closer to town,” Jim says.

“And everyone needed their own bedroom,” Faye adds.

“The site they found was a gem—40 wooded acres accessed by an old logging road, with a rock ledge overlooking a Tennessee “holler.” The biggest challenge, Faye recalls, was deciding where on the land to put the house. Every day they’d visit the property and come away with a new idea of the perfect angle, the ideal view and the optimal location to catch all the sunlight from dawn to dusk. The Barnas mulled over plenty of good options before eventually reaching their decision.

Don’t assume that the construction gods always smile down on a home builder when he’s putting up his own place. Although the Barna house was completed relatively quickly, there were roadblocks early on. “We dug the foundation in December, and then it rained for three months,” Faye says. “When we started the foundation, I threw a penny in the hole for good luck.”

The excavation quickly became a hole filled with muddy water, and Jim teased Faye that it was her fault. “He said I turned it into a wishing well!” she says. Work resumed in the spring, and by October 1999, the dramatic new home was ready.

The design was developed in collaboration with Alliance Designers of Knoxville, Tennessee, and plans for the 6,000-square-foot home are now included in Barna’s Moss Creek series. While meeting his family’s needs for space and privacy, Jim also used the house to express a multitude of features, including the striking use of stone and wood accents inside and out.

Everywhere inside the house are natural materials used in sophisticated ways. Case in point: the living room fireplace. Local stone forms the sides of the gas-fueled hearth and extends to a peak. Above and below the mantel, the space is filled with ceramic tile. The same stone is used in the doorway arches that lead from room to room—a reflection of Jim’s love of European castles and manor houses. Overhead is another European influence: diagonal tongue-and-groove ceilings offset by beams with bulls-eye patterned woodwork marking the crossbars.

Faye did the interior decorating herself, including the wall finishes that alternate with log walls inside. The technique involved swirling on moist drywall mud and then glazing it to give it the look of old plaster. It was a two-person job that kept her and an assistant on scaffolding for many days.

With three teens in the house, a no-nonsense, hard-working kitchen was an essential. Even so, they haven’t sacrificed style. The work area features all-black appliances, an island, solid-surfacing for countertops and a checkerboard backsplash.

The first-floor master bedroom includes a mahogany entertainment center flanked by walk-in closets, creating what looks like a large piece of custom furniture.

Upstairs are bedrooms for all of the children, plus a loft. Many log home owners are excited to have a loft, then discover that they don’t quite know what to do with it. The Barna family has put theirs to use: It has become the piano room, allowing music to drift throughout the house.

It is, of course, a house built with a family in mind. What will they do when the family is grown?

“Who knows?” Faye says.

If there’s another log house in her future, she’s certain who will build it. •

For a list of companies who contributed to the home, see the January 2002 issue of Log Home Living. 

Jim Barna Log Systems photos / Styled by Debra Grahl