Kitchens, great rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms — every home needs some variation of these basic spaces. You’ll probably also have some outdoor living areas as well, such as a wraparound porch, a garden patio or a wide deck with a big grill and a great view.
But during the colder months, it’s probably too blustery to take full advantage of your outdoor spaces, even though you’ll probably feel some cabin fever and could use a place to get away. The solution? All-season living spaces, which offer customized opportunities for recreation and relaxation all year long.
If you can make room in your budget, extra areas built for personal expression or family fun can greatly increase your enjoyment of your home (as well as your property value should you ever decide to sell). As you consider your options, think about what pastimes you enjoy most and how you hope to spend your time in your log cabin. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Serious movie buffs will revel in the big screens, soul-shaking surround sound and rows of plush seating available in home theaters today. Gamers will enjoy the immersive experience such amenities allow, getting them as close to actually being in the game as possible. If this sounds like your family, or if you plan to entertain guests who will truly appreciate this kind of luxury, a home theater could be the perfect finishing touch to your masterpiece.
When designing one, the two main factors you need to keep in mind are build quality and noise isolation. Build quality refers to the stability of the materials constructing your home theater room. In structures with imperfectly joined elements, the vibrations natural to a home theater will rattle the structure and negatively affect sound quality. You want a perfectly tight room that won’t structurally deteriorate over time, so check with your log provider to learn how much settling to expect and how this might affect the overall stability of your home theater. Be sure to factor in your theater equipment with your determinations, as projectors, sound systems and other components can weigh heavily into the durability of a structure.
Noise isolation refers to the amount of sound that is able to escape from the outside world into your home theater or from inside it to the rest of your home. Fortunately, the density of logs helps reduce sound transmission, so you’re off to a good start, but consider adding acoustical ceiling panels for additional noise isolation. Have an acoustical consultant test your ambient noise level and determine your noise criteria (NC) rating. The lower the NC rating, the better the sound quality for the things you want to hear. For a home theater, an NC rating of 20 is excellent.
Not just for good ol’ boys anymore, game rooms have become favorite family spaces where each member can relax and enjoy a little friendly competition in a casual home atmosphere. Billiards and card tables are obvious staples, but you can amplify the space with a full kitchenette and a wet bar.
If you plan to include a billiards table in your game room, factor this into your floor plans early so you won’t have to try and sink your shots around imposing support posts or while squeezed against a wall. Experts recommend having at least an 18’4″ x 14’6″ room for a standard 4’6″ x 9’ pool table using standard 52″ cues.
To complete the room, add a kitchenette with a dishwasher, sink, mini fridge and microwave. This will allow greater entertainment possibilities than a simple wet bar, and will come in quite handy if you also have guest rooms on this level.
Sunrooms and log homes may initially seem like an odd match, but adding a solarium to your rustic retreat might actually connect you with your natural surroundings better than anything else. With warmth and light coming in and filling the space, even during the cold of winter, a sunroom can be the perfect solution for bridging the gap between indoors and out.
An obvious consideration when planning a sunroom is the amount of light and heat you hope to draw into your home, which your sunroom’s design will regulate depending on your local weather and climate patterns. In areas with intense sun, such as the Southwest, a sunroom might be best designed with skylights covering only half of the ceiling, or even with a solid roof overhead and windows just on the walls. Direct sunlight can quickly overheat the home and cause furnishings to fade, though windows designed with UV protection will help avoid these problems. In colder areas, a similar design is also best, but for different reasons — solid, well-constructed roofs and walls both insulate and handle heavy snow loads better than glass ever can. However, a sunroom in a thickly wooded forest in a more moderate climate, such as the Carolinas, would benefit from as much glass as possible to gather the most warm sunlight it can get.
If you haven’t incorporated energy-efficient windows into other parts of your home, a sunroom is a great way to learn firsthand how practical they really can be. With the right product installed correctly, a glass room in the dead of winter can become the coziest spot in the house. Windows that can open or be replaced with screens in the summertime can make this space truly an all-season sanctuary. Consult with a professional to find the right products and design for your home’s placement and climate.
Another way to enjoy the benefits of both indoor and outdoor comforts is with a sleeping porch — a protected, enclosed space outside of the main house for reading, snoozing or visiting with friends. Whether screened in, glassed in or walled in with ample windows, a sleeping porch provides a comfortable setting for relaxation without the hassles of a full outdoor excursion.
As you plan, consider the effects your enclosing materials will have on your porch’s ambience. Screened windows will allow a breeze during the warm summer months, but they may render your space unusable in the winter, and you’ll also have more noise from your surroundings, which may or may not be an asset. Spring peepers and chirping crickets can create a soothing lullaby for some, but others may find the constant noise unsettling. Glass may retain too much heat on warmer days, but insulated windows will help keep your space accessible during the colder months.
Keep the atmosphere informal with simple furniture in muted earth tones and pastels — the goal is to create a calming effect where you really could read yourself to sleep. Oversized cushioned chairs will help, but don’t forget to include an actual bed for maximum comfort. Daybeds and swinging varieties both have their benefits, but if you choose to hang your resting space, make sure your ceiling is reinforced properly to support both the weight of the furniture as well as the people who will be on it.
This is your custom home, and as such, it should have room for all of your passions. Create a hobby room dedicated to your favorite pastime and outfit it with everything you need to work your magic.
Artists will love having a custom-made art studio where they can explore their favorite medium with lots of elbow room. Choose a well-lit room with a north-facing window — soft, even light works best for true color expression, while direct sunlight can wash out colors and produce dark shadows, giving the artist an incorrect impression of how their work will be seen. Multiple cubbies, drawers and pencil cups will help keep brushes, charcoals, pastels and other materials organized.
If scrapbooking is your true calling, give yourself plenty of room to spread out your photos, glue sticks, pens and other supplies. A large table outfitted with plenty of small drawers will keep it all easily accessible and tidy. You may also want a small bookshelf where you can store resource guides and larger materials as well as display your finished products.
Musicians are always looking for a place to practice, and a specially constructed music studio can benefit the whole family. Stock the space with a stand for your performer’s music books and papers, sheet music in their favorite genre and whatever specialty equipment your musician needs for his or her particular instrument (reeds, rosin, tuners, etc). Soundproofing material built into the walls will allow novice players the opportunity to practice in isolation without feeling self-conscious about bad notes. Once they’re ready to share their gifts, an open door will quickly fill the rest of the home with song.
If customized to the people within, an all-season space can quickly become the most popular spot in your home. After all, your cabin is a celebration of you, so make it a place you can enjoy to the fullest any time of year.