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Lady of the Lake: Log Home on the Maryland Shore

An adventurous woman builds her dream log home along her own slice of Maryland shoreline.

Debbie Ornstein's appetite for adventure is insatiable. She's mastered skiing, snowshoeing, sailing and kayaking, just to name a few favorite pursuits. So it was no surprise when, six years ago, the western-Maryland resident embraced one of her biggest and most notable challenges to date — building a log home that would meet her needs and serve as a welcoming retreat for friends and family.

Lush ferns thrive in the wet soil that surrounds the home, carpeting the ground from the back steps to the sandy shore just 100 yards away.

After vacationing for years in her tiny 1960s-cottage on the shores of Deep Creek Lake, Debbie longed to put down roots in the area. As the owner of a fleet of water vehicles ranging from a powerboat to a canoe, she loved the idea of living just yards from Maryland's largest body of fresh water. But realizing the outdated cottage wouldn't do as a primary residence, she sold it and purchased a piece of land across the lake for her new home. Debbie visited several log home manufacturers before choosing Katahdin Cedar Log Homes, based in Oakfield, Maine. "I wanted cedar because of its wonderful scent and ease of maintenance, plus they were willing to work with my revisions," she says.

The double-sided wood-burning fireplace chases away the chill and casts a warm glow in the cozy sitting room. A sailboat perched on the mantle hints at one of Debbie’s many hobbies.

  Her changes to Katahdin's stock plan were significant, including swapping the basement for a loft and adding French doors in almost every room to maximize water views. Besides splurging on a master bath with vaulted ceilings, walk-in steam shower and Jacuzzi tub, Debbie also wove a second master suite into the design to accommodate her frequent visitors. Finally, she chose a dual-sided, wood-burning fireplace to act as the structural and visual centerpiece of her home. To make her customized 2,800-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath abode a reality, Debbie worked with Bryan Shreve, owner of Cabin Run Contracting.

"Bryan and his team were fabulous. They worked through a lot," she says. The "a lot" Debbie is referring to is the 30 inches of snow — the heaviest in 50 years — the area received just after they broke ground in October 2002. Determined to keep the project moving forward, Bryan made a few last-minute changes. He redesigned the pitch of the roof to accommodate the weight of the snow and had his men carry the 6-by-6-inch northern white cedar logs with butt-and-pass corners to the site when the driveway became too slick for the trucks to navigate. "It's always easier to build when the weather is getting better rather than worse, but we weren't going to let the snow hold us off," he recalls. Despite the setback that could have sent the schedule into a tailspin, Debbie moved in the following September.  

Now, five years later, the home, dubbed "Sailor's Rest," rocks with activity nearly every weekend. Everything from wine tasting to water skiing is on the agenda when friends and family arrive. Guests often spend their time on the water or private dock, but at the end of the day, everyone is eager to return home. The open floor plan, connecting the great room with the kitchen and dining room, is ideal for large gatherings, as is the game-stocked loft. When rest and relaxation are in order, Debbie and her visitors head to the gazebo with built-in hot tub and the wrap-around deck, complete with patio heaters and Adirondack chairs.

To keep the focus on the natural wood walls and stunning outdoor views, Debbie decided to forego window treatments and wall art in the home, opting instead for simple, neutral-toned blinds.

Debbie loves having a full house, but she also treasures those rare evenings when peace and quiet pervade the home. "On a warm night, you can open all of the French doors and watch the moon shine on the lake, feel the breezes, and hear the water flowing in the nearby brook," Debbie says. "It's truly wonderful."

Home Plan Details:

Log Company: Katahdin Cedar Log Homes

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