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On the Road to Home

A forever log home brings new life to a neglected property and the Tennessee couple who built it.

Written by Suzanna Logan
Photography by Kris Miller


Marcus and Jamie Kelley’s log home sits just a few miles west of Nashville, a city known for its music. Fittingly, the couple’s building journey unfolded a lot like the start of a bittersweet country ballad. 

You see, long before the newly married couple ventured upon their wooded, 10-acre property (after viewing more than 200 others), another couple had made plans to build a home in the same spot. They even poured the driveway. Then came life’s curveballs, and for two decades, the pretty patch of land was marked only by a road leading to nowhere. Once a path to new possibilities, the pavement had become a monument to a dream that wasn’t to be. 

But, like any good story set to song, this heartfelt tale ends on a happy note. After the Kelleys put in a bid on the property the day after viewing it (serendipitously, on Jamie’s birthday), the couple had the opportunity to meet the 88-year-old owner. “She told us, ‘My hopes and dreams are up on that hill,’” shares Jamie. “I was able to tell her that we would take good care of the property, and now we are carrying on the tradition that she wanted for the land.” 

The driveway now leads the Kelleys and their frequent guest list of friends and family to a forever log home. With hopes of their own, the couple wanted a place that would serve them well in retirement, with versatile spaces for enjoying everyday life, as well as for hosting special moments with the family who would one day inherit their dream. Determined to build a place that could sail smoothly into the future, the couple did a “tremendous amount of research on everything from siding to stain,” shares Jamie. 

As part of their homework, they flipped through the pages of Log & Timber Home Living often, eventually coming across a picture that stopped their search for an inspiring design in its tracks. Using the photo as a springboard, the Kelleys drew up a livable, prow-front design that leaned into nature, offering glass at every turn, a cozy, three-season room and a loft with a magical tree-house effect. “When you look outside and then inside, it is like it’s the same place,” says Jamie. 

Of course, it’s the home’s logs, provided by Hochstetler Log Homes, that deserve the bulk of the credit for blurring the lines between inside and out. A medley of species come together to create the structure’s warm, rustic effect. The double-round, eastern white pine stacked logs feature saddle notch corners, while the roof, loft and gable front porch are supported by 8-inch, hand-peeled, red pine timbers. The showstopper is a 24-foot tie beam spanning across the great room. “We use red pine for these types of applications because they grow tall and straight with very little taper,” shares sales manager Joseph Hochstetler. Adding another layer of texture, rustic-peeled northern white cedar railings are used along the loft and staircase, while a rough-cut western red cedar is used on the exterior door and window trim to create extra curb appeal. “All of the log walls, siding and beams are harvested within a 150-mile radius of our headquarters,” shares Joseph. 

It was during a trip to those facilities for the company’s annual Log Cabin Days event that the couple made the choice to work with Hochstetler, rather than another provider they had been vetting. The company’s founder, Levi Hochstetler, personally looked over their plans and immediately pointed out the challenges and, more to the point, solutions. The couple was sold and soon settled on their builders, husband-and-wife team Ammon and Breanna Miller. “It was the first log home Ammon had built by himself, and I’ll tell you, that kid can do anything,” says Marcus of the 27-year-old builder. “He and his crew were unbelievable.” Marcus laughs when he recalls showing up to the site every day to make sure all the progress was square, level and plumb: “I would have my level in hand and tape measure on my hip, and every time, they had it perfect.” 

Talking with the couple, it’s easy to feel the palpable love they had for the building process. In addition to acting as the general contractors, Marcus and Jamie finished out the interior of the house themselves, including the entire lower level. Throughout their journey, their goal was two-fold: to create a timeless look that wouldn’t need renovating down the road and to be as resourceful as possible. 

In the interest of the first goal, they chose what Jamie calls “industrial farmhouse” finishes and furnishings to give the home a classic look. Neutral tones, including creamy white and soft gray, come alongside natural wood and black metal accents to create a space that feels equal parts fresh and familiar. In keeping with their vision, they were careful that the interior stain didn’t veer too warm. “We had Hochstetler create a custom color with a touch of gray, so the house wouldn’t feel too red, yellow or orange,” explains Jamie. 

As for their “waste not, want not” mentality, they preserved all the cuttings left over during construction. “We didn’t want to waste a single piece of wood — not even a two-footer,” shares Jamie. This move came in useful as the couple finished out the lower level with an additional bedroom, a gym and an entertaining space. “We were able to create a lot on a shoestring budget,” she shares. “It took effort, but we knew it would pay off.”

Hard work behind them, the couple now enjoys the fruits of their labor, from the moment they wake up to coffee on the sun-dappled back deck to soaking in the colors of the sunset from their rocking chairs on the front porch. “I pinch myself every day,” says Marcus, with a laugh. “It’s an awe-inspiring place to live,” adds Jamie. “Just being here makes you smile.” The perfect closing lyrics to their ballad, if you ask us.


Home Details


Square Footage: 4,000

Bedrooms: 3

Baths: 3 Full, 1 Half

Log Provider/Designer: Hochstetler Log Homes


See also: Living on a Prayer in New Hampshire

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