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Fresh + Frugal Ideas for Little Log Homes

Whether you’re creating cabin memories or keeping within the confines of a budget, we offer 10 excellent small log home solutions.

Photo: Hochstetler Log Homes


Cozy and inviting; economical and low maintenance — there’s undeniable appeal to owning a log home on the smaller side. But scaled-down houses can pose challenges of their own. For example, how to you keep that cabin charm without feeling cramped, or how do you create an open floor plan that also provides enough space to store your stuff?
The answer? Start with smart planning, especially when it comes to design and space allocation. Enlarge areas where you’ll spend the bulk of your time (think: kitchens) and downsize spaces where you won’t (foyers). From there, use these savvy tips to maximize a mini log home.

1. Start with a stock plan.

And it can be any stock plan — your starting point doesn’t have to be exactly the same square footage as the home you intend to build. So as you peruse plans, don’t overlook the bigger ones, because log home producers are willing and able to customize their catalog of designs, and that includes downsizing. The most important thing is that the shape and amenities get you close to your target, so look for features that speak to you; then ask your designer for ways to scale them to the size you want.

Photo: Coventry Log Homes


2. Make it flexible.

Rooms that serve more than one purpose are a surefire way to get the most from your square footage. Though this isn’t exactly a ground-breaking concept, the ways in which homeowners are putting it into practice are getting very creative.  Take the quintessential home office/guest room — a pretty traditional idea, right?  But what if you don’t need a home office? What rooms can pull double duty then? Dining rooms are prime real estate for multitasking. How about a dining/guest room with a space-saving drop-leaf table and a Murphy bed that disappears into the wall? Or, merge dinner and drinks by incorporating a wet bar into the space. In fact, convertible furniture, like a dining table that hides a billiards table underneath, ensures the space is fun and functional — even when the time for holiday dinners has passed.

3. Reduce hallways.

Seeking a simple way to downsize without sacrifice? Look no further than the nearest hallway. Like receiving rooms and parlors, halls are going the way of the dodo. By drastically reducing or eliminating them from your floor plan, you can pack a lot more function into a smaller footprint. Just don’t go overboard. Sometimes the separation and privacy a hallway can provide is necessary for a happy home.

4. Be honest about your focal point.

Let’s face it: For most families, the living area revolves around the television — especially in smaller homes where you don’t have the luxury of a separate great room (in which a grand fireplace can take center stage) and a family room or home theater. So, design your home with the TV’s placement in mind. In fact, since open-concept houses have little superfluous wall space, it’s vital to take your furniture size and placement into account as you craft your floor plan.

Photo: Coventry Log Homes

5. Forgo excessive cabinetry.

Want to boost the perception of space and save money in the process? Nix pricey cabinetry uppers in favor of installing more  windows. The lack of bulky cabinetry can make a petite kitchen feel open and airy, and the long-distance views and extra natural light will belie your home’s actual interior square footage. Another idea: open shelving. Integrating some open storage will keep the kitchen from looking boxed in and let you display prized hero appliances or decorative dishware.

6. Add specialty storage.

If you’re downsizing the amount of cabinetry your kitchen has (a la tip #5), then you’ll need to supersize the storage you do have. Rollout trays, door-mounted racks and pullout baskets can triple the amount of space an ordinary cupboard has and keep items from getting lost in the back. 

7. Put your appliances on a diet.

Grand, chef-grade appliances and other high-end kitchen toys may look spectacular, but few people can actually justify the expense. In a small log home, you also can’t spare the space. Look to skinny appliances. Bosch, Smeg, Liebherr, LG and GE are a few manufacturers who make slender models. With your stove, fridge, dishwater, etc., selected, design your kitchen around them. It may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but knowing how much space your appliances will consume will help you maximize every inch you’ve got.

Photo: Lincoln Barbour / Jessica Helgerson Interior Design


8. Stop looking around and start looking up.

To amplify your log home’s living area, raise the ceilings to 10 feet high or more. Higher ceilings open a room visually, and enable you to use taller windows, including transoms and clerestories, not to mention substantial log trusses and decorative ceiling treatments. However, don’t take it to extremes. The height of your ceiling should be in proportion to a room’s area, otherwise you’ll feel like you’re standing in a silo.

9. Watch your step.

Rather than enclose a staircase, which can cause a room to feel confined, keep it open, eliminate risers and use spindles that aren’t bulky and will all but disappear into the woodwork. Add visual interest with decorative newel posts or carvings on the stringers, then use the area beneath the stairs to its fullest. It’s the perfect spot for shelving, a place to stash guests’ coats or even add a reading nook.

10. Add some spice.

An open floor plan in a small log home makes sense, but if you’re not careful, it can border on bland. Use detail, texture, color and contrast to keep your home visually stimulating yet cozy. Mix wood species and shades of stain. Add a little punch of vibrant color in your cabinetry or a standout tile backsplash. Use creative flooring and, if you have a little drywall in your log home, consider bold, patterned wallpaper as an accent.
The bottom line is that when it comes to making a log cabin truly yours, size knows no bounds. Take these 10 tips into account, listen to your designer’s advice and then do what feels right. The result may be short on square footage, but your enjoyment will be endless.

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