Though many people wait to build their dream cabin until they reach retirement, in 2012, Texans Jim Theodoras and Clara Baroncelli opted to erect their 2,500-square-foot handcrafted log home in Cameron, Montana, while their daughters were small — and while they, themselves, were still young enough to enjoy all that mountain living had to offer.
Located in Madison River Ranches, a subdivision with a 55-acre common area, their 20-acre parcel of land sits high in the valley with a dynamite view of the Madison Range.
“You can’t see the mountain if you’re in the mountain,” explains Jim. “We thought it better to be on a hill enjoying the view.”
Brad Neu, owner of Montana Log Homes, is no stranger to crafting houses that harmonize perfectly with the rugged terrain. He notes that everything they do is hand-peeled with a drawknife, and the scribe work and chiseling is traditional hand-tooled construction — both of which give their log homes texture and that “perfectly imperfect” look.
“We also provide in-house design work and take the log package through onsite reassembly,” says Brad. “The end result is a very true log home.”
Working with Eric Bachofner of Bigfish Drafting, the couple modified the floor plans. “We took out 3 feet on each end of the cabin, making the space feel cozier,” says Jim. They also nixed the rear entryway, mudroom and laundry (moving the washer and dryer to the basement). Plus, they elected not to install an island in the kitchen or a tub in the bathroom to make the cabin more spacious. They converted the upstairs bedroom into an open loft for an unobstructed view of the mountains.
Utilizing 3-D design software, Eric could share his computer screen with his clients, allowing them to make the changes to the floor plan in real-time over the phone.
“When Clara suggested making the front door 42 inches wide instead of 36, I was able to hit a couple buttons and the change popped up on their computer screen,” explains Eric.
Since Jim and Clara loved the look of raw wood, they chose not to seal the interior logs. They applied one layer of stain — just enough to give contrast to the grain. The logs were hand-fitted and Swedish coped, so no chinking was required.
The couple has been thrilled with their choice to build, calling mountain living “the ultimate digital detox.” They especially enjoy going in early June when no insects have hatched and baby animals are scurrying around. They also traditionally spend Thanksgiving at their retreat, enjoying fly fishing, horseback riding and exploring remote hiking trails off the beaten path where they encounter elk, mule deer, coyote and rabbits the size of small dogs.
“Once we came across baby big-horned sheep, and they were super puffy like balls of cotton walking around with little legs sticking out of them,” laughs Jim. “Another time we spotted a beautiful white fox that looked like it had just come from the grooming salon!”
Back in 2012, their daughters — Sophia (16), Maria (14), and Nicole (12) — named the cabin “The Fun Ranch.” And it always has been—even when they got iced in for three solid days and nearly ran out of firewood. “I was prepared to burn the staircase railings, but I was very relieved it didn’t come to that,” laughs Jim.
Square Footage: 2,500
Bathrooms: 1 Full, 1 Half
Log Provider: Montana Log Homes