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A Bigger Wow Factor

A positive first experience living in a log home gives way to building a second log home in Arkansas — twice as big as the first.

There’s a reason Arkansas is called the Natural State. Rocky outcroppings from the Ozark Mountains to the Ouachita foothills give way to rolling old hills and numerous scenic byways. “We think it’s beautiful,” say homeowners Melissa and David Hill, who were born and raised there. When the couple was married and had their first son, they decided they weren’t straying too far.

They found 30 acres in Nashville and built their first log home. “It was a simple home, just shy of 2,000 square feet with no frills,” says Melissa. But after about 10 years, the Hills got the itch to take on the challenge of building another log home. “Once you live in a home, you figure out what you want more of: larger foyer, more closets, spacious bathrooms and, you know … a bigger ‘Wow’ factor,” Melissa says.

David agreed, and found 66 acres of farmland with a two-acre pond. Melissa remembers getting cold feet at that point. “At first I was a bit hesitant, thinking just how much maintenance this whole idea was going to be since David would be busy during the day at the restaurant and convenience store he was buying.” However, they took the plunge and once they sold their home, everything quickly fell into place. David, who has a knack for drafting, mapped out a 4,100-square-foot, two-story home, and Melissa felt better once she saw it on paper. Then they went shopping for a log producer.

“We settled on Gastineau Log Homes for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the beauty of oak,” Melissa says. “That, coupled with their excellent customer service and helpful engineers who finalized our plans, made our decision very easy,” David says.

The couple made a point to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the Gastineau homes, making at least five trips to the company’s Missouri models. David felt confident building his own home and even more prepared after attending Gastineau’s log building seminar. “We spent a good two days learning the ropes,” he says. “I felt even better when my dad and brother-in-law were on board.” Finishing touches were on the drawing board as the family moved into an RV on the new property. The two sons were permitted to be late for school the morning the logs arrived, and the anticipation grew as five semi-trailers loaded with logs rolled down the drive. Melissa adds, “There was definitely excitement brewing.” The concrete slab had been poured a couple of weeks prior when the logs arrived in bundles ready to be cut and assembled on site.

Though the framing took about month, “It went fairly quickly until we got to the interior work. That slowed us down,” says David, overlooking his hand-built staircase. Melissa thinks the 29-foot height from floor to the pitch of the roof that gave David and crew a slight pause. “Not only did we have to use a crane, but there were 75 or so beams in the house and what seemed like a jumble of metal joinery,” she says. “Though everything was precisely cut when we starting laying the logs, we realized there was a considerable amount of work ahead.”

“When you are building a home yourself, you want everything to be exact. It always takes a bit longer because you want it perfect,” David says. The longer construction time (a year and a half) was certainly worth it for the Hills — there were no mistakes or problems during construction, and the interior showcases a thoughtful and tasteful approach — including the use of as many natural materials as possible. “We have real logs, so we had to have granite countertops in the kitchen and baths and a real, not cultured, stone fireplace,” he says. The dining room table is one large piece of Brazilian mottled granite resting on an oak log frame. More about this home, including its kitchen and the tiles in the foyer, ran in the Country's Best Log Homes 2009 Annual Buyer's Guide

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