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The Log Home Built for an Anniversary

After many moves, a Wisconsin couple plants roots at the perfect lakeside location.

Written by Teresa Wolff
Photography by Jeff Lendrum


Silver traditionally symbolizes a couple’s 25th wedding anniversary, but Betsy and Jeff Elgin marked the occasion with logs, specifically their new log home on Wisconsin’s Chain O’ Lakes. “Throughout our married life, we have moved several times because of my job,” Jeff relates. “Although this has created some hardships, Betsy has been very patient. This was my 25th wedding anniversary present to her. I am so happy we were finally able to build a home that she absolutely loves at a place she absolutely loves. It has made it all so worthwhile.”

Betsy fondly recalls spending childhood summers at a log cottage on one of the Chain’s 22 glacial lakes. Logs made her feel warm, safe and cozy. Her husband had a different opinion. “Jeff always thought of them as dark and dingy, that is until we visited the log home of one of our friends,” she says. “It was then that he realized just how beautiful they could be.” When they were able to afford their own vacation home, the Elgins purchased a lot on a peninsula with a hard, sandy-bottomed beach and views of two of the lakes. 

For their logs, Jeff and Betsy selected Strongwood Log & Timber Home Company because its service includes design, materials and turn-key construction, and it’s located just four miles from their property. “The lot was shaped like a triangle with 210 feet of lake-frontage at the tip and a wider base on the road-side of the property,” Strongwood’s president, Thad Marcom, notes. “This proved to be a challenge in the design but in the end allowed us to create an amazing plan that fits the lot perfectly.”


See more Learn About the Log Home Construction Process


To take full advantage of the lot’s triangular shape, the home features an octagon-shaped tower, with an office on the lower level and a same-shaped dining room directly above. Jeff says the view of the two lakes through the windows in these rooms is the best in the house. 

The home features full-log construction, using a combination of milled eastern white pine logs and handcrafted lodgepole pine accent logs in the gable end. In addition to having Strongwood Construction as their builder and general contractor, Betsy and Jeff engaged Fehrman Builders for the finish carpentry. “The exceptional craftsmanship of Glen Fehrman and his carpenters was key in bringing out many of the unique design features of the house,” Jeff says.

Besides showcasing logs and capturing lake views, the Elgins wanted a design that allocated space for two, different uses. “We wanted the first floor to be self-inclusive for when it was just Betsy and me at ‘Shorewood Lodge,’ the name we have given our vacation home,” Jeff says. “We have the living room, kitchen and our master bedroom suite on this level.”


See more How to Buy Country Land for a Log Home


The second use reserves ample square footage for company. “Both of our families have small vacation cabins, and we have encountered living together in very close quarters,” Betsy explains. “This experience taught us that we wanted our guests to have their own private space where they could retreat. All three of the guest bedrooms in the second story have their own bathrooms, and two of the bedrooms have a private balcony with a view of the lake.” Additional sleeping space is available in the walkout lower level, where four sets of bunk beds await youngsters.

Because the Elgins intended this to be a family vacation home, Betsy designed a kitchen to feel roomy without being overly expansive. She included plenty of counter space for preparing meals for large groups and a pantry big enough to prevent frequent trips to the grocery store. A window over the sink allows her to look at one lake while washing dishes, and the raised floor assures her a view of the other lake through the great room windows. 

The large amount of glass in the west-facing great room posed a challenge because during the summer, the room can become uncomfortably warm. “To deal with this, we put in extra vents in the great room and dining room to allow sufficient cool air to keep the space comfortable,” Jeff says. “We also added a supplemental cooling unit in the attic.”

Strict regulations guide the landscaping allowed on the lakes to prevent disturbing the natural vegetation. The Elgins planted wildflowers indigenous to the area and left most of the property in its native state, except for flowerbeds and lawns close to the house.

Since many members of the building crew were at the site only long enough to work on portions of the project, Betsy and Jeff wanted them to have the chance to see the finished product. After the home was completed, they invited everyone who worked on the home in any capacity and their families to a housewarming celebration. “It was evident that they were proud of what they had accomplished and proud to be able to show their families what they do all day,” Jeff notes.

As for their own family, Jeff states, “We designed this home to be a ‘grandkid magnet.’ We want to virtually own our grandchildren for the summers.”

Betsy agrees: “We want them to have the same kinds of wonderful memories I had as a child. This is a place that feels like it is home, a place where you just want to be.”


Home Details

Square footage: 5,030

Log Provider: Strongwood Log & Timber Home Company

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