Story by Stacy Durr Albert
Photography by Joseph Hilliard
As an internationally acclaimed home designer, Allen Halcomb is certainly no stranger to unusual requests from his clients. But when Allen received a call from North Carolina property developer John Turchin, the directive was one for the record books.
“John asked me to create a style of architecture that didn’t exist yet,” recalls Allen with a laugh.
The design idea that John had in mind for the exclusive “Eagle’s Nest” community he owned in the Blue Ridge Mountains was something he dubbed “Nouveau Adirondack,” a style that combines two traditional building methods in one: log home construction and timber framing.
“It’s a true timber frame structure rather than a hybrid,” explains Allen, owner of MossCreek Designs in Knoxville, Tennessee. “The old English method of half-timbering is used to put up an open-air barn frame, and then log walls are put in between the posts.”
Inspired by several amenity buildings that Allen had previously designed, John forged ahead with his innovative idea, and it quickly took flight. “John’s quite the visionary,” says Allen. “He loved what we had done for a pavilion, entry, barn and library on the property, and he asked us to design a custom home with the same vernacular.”
The unconventional idea didn’t faze Allen and his team in the least—they had plenty of experience with distinctive log, timber and hybrid structures, both in the U.S. and abroad. “We are the authors of some of the most popular styles of log-and-timber architecture,” shares Allen. When Allen met with the future homeowners, they had one priority for their custom home: to capture the setting’s breathtaking panoramic views, which include the Blue Ridge Escarpment to the east, and the majestic Smoky Mountains to the west. Siting the home just right on the lot was key.
“We met on the site and I designed the house while standing there,” recalls Allen. “It was the best way to ensure the house would capture the views and fit the landscape without dominating it or taking away from its beauty.”
After the site visit, Allen and the homeowners finalized the details. The couple had a classic checklist: a master suite on the main level, a spacious master bathroom, an area to entertain, and a square footage requirement of approximately 3,000 square feet. “The size of the home is definitely appropriate for the site,” says Allen. “With such a rare view, you don’t want to conquer the landscape. Instead, you want to get beyond the dimensions of a floor plan and focus on the movement and drama of the home. You need to view it as a piece of art.”
The artistry of the home came to life with the help of Nicola Logworks of British Columbia, Canada. Once Allen finalized the plan, he turned it over to John Boys, owner of Nicola. “He’s incredible—he can build anything you can draw,” shares Allen. “The wood package was designed and cut by computer, and then assembling it was almost like putting Tinker Toys together.”
The home’s distinctive wood package features gorgeous lodgepole pine logs with a 12-inch diameter. Outside, angled logs rest on tapered piers of stacked stone to support a dramatically sloped roof. The exterior showcases a combination of board-and-batten siding, and poplar bark. “This helps dress the architecture down, making it look like the home came out of the earth,” says Allen.
To continue the “one with nature” theme, Allen designed the home to have 8-foot overhangs that do much more than simply manage the heavy snow loads each winter. “The way the home naturally connects to the ground and then comes up and out with its overhangs and angled bracing makes it seem like a bark-clad tree coming out of the ground, spreading its branches,” explains Allen. “The balanced horizontal and vertical elements create a unique architectural vocabulary that really marries into the context of the property.”
The interior of the home is just as striking, thanks to the unique combination of full-log walls housed in a true timber frame, as well as custom accents throughout. For example, hand-carved totem poles interject a Native American theme, while an upside-down canoe serves as a unique vessel for task lighting above the kitchen island.
“Visitors are floored because the home is so jarringly different,” says Allen. It’s easy to see why they are awestruck—the house, the setting and the spectacular view all come together to create a visionary residence that truly is in a class by itself.
3,058Architect: MossCreek Designs