Winter Wonderland: A Holiday Log Home in Wisconsin

One couple finds holiday cheer in the form of a lakefront log home.

Some people keep it simple over the holiday with traditional wreathes and trees; others go all out and deck the halls with sleigh bells on each doorknob, Santa hand-towels in the bathrooms and enough wattage to cheer even the surliest Scrooge. The latter applies to John and Lynn Schreiber, who spend days, even weeks, decorating their home. They even have a Christmas tree in their bathroom. "My wife is the decorator, but I'm the Christmas freak," John says.

The fanciful staircase trimmed in garland connects the main level to the lower level.

John and Lynn had been planning to build a log home for years. They had their eyes on nearby Lake Wisconsin, which was close to their daughters and four grandchildren in Madison. When they found a 10-acre lot, "it was like a dream come true," John remembers. "We had been researching rustic houses for three or four years; we always wanted a log home."

The Schreibers snapped up the lakefront site in Poynette and set out to find a log package and builder, leading them to Reedsburg, Wisconsin-based builder Northern Exports. With 20 years in the business, the company has its own contractors, carpenters, painters and stainers. It was one-stop shopping for John and Lynn, and their 18-month construction project was a breeze. Part of that serenity could be attributed to the group of Amish carpenters who built the couple's home and crafted unexpected, intricate focal points, such as a mantel comprising an entire tree, including the stump; the dining room's cedar-tree posts, complete with roots; and an intricate staircase made from apple-tree branches. The team built all the cabinets in a wood shop with no electricity, just a diesel-powered machine.

General contractor Cory Ruefer, a 22-year industry veteran, says the project was a challenge because of the site and unique touches John and Lynn had envisioned. The house was built on a steep incline, and the project called for tricky construction maneuvering. Structurally, it took some creativity—such as incorporating cedar-tree posts—to maintain the open floor plan. "There are hardly any interior walls," Cory says. "The scale of everything is big."

Even the home theater (with a Disney theme naturally) has a little Christmas tree.

Like the great room above it, the lower level is equally open and inviting, with an exact replica of a speakeasy called The Asylum Restaurant, a favorite spot from the Schreiber's visits to Arizona. "We took a picture of it and handed it to Northern Exports, and they built it," John says. "I just love this bar."

The weather outside may be frightful, but the fireplace of the Schreiber home is always delightful. John and Lynn chose multicolored stone, which contrasts with the color of the logs, from Arizona.

  One of the home's other notable features is the great-room fireplace made of colorful stone also from Arizona. "We picked it for its purples, blues and greens," John says. Every Christmas, no less than 14 stockings dangle from that fireplace. John and Lynn entertain at least 30 family members and friends at their custom-made glass dining-room table with wood-stump legs that the Amish carpenters designed and literally built into the house. "That table is not going anywhere," John says. And neither will he and Lynn.  

Home Plan Details:

Square Footage: 5,60

Builder: Northern Exports

Log Company: Wilderness Log and Timber Home Company