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The Many Lives of a Historic Log Home

A simple, 18th-century cabin is transformed into a sophisticated, luxury retreat.

Written by Suzanna Logan

Photography by Andrew Sample


If walls could talk, this cabin, tucked onto 20 acres of the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, would have an encyclopedia of tales to tell. You see, the cabin’s history goes back — way back. 

Before Virginia gained its statehood, before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, before Jefferson constructed Monticello, there was this house, built around 1760 by a farmer in the hills of southern Virginia. In this humble one-room cabin with a loft, the farmer and his wife raised nine children. 

In its next iteration, the cabin was converted to a barn, and for more than 100 years, it sheltered cattle. Then, it was left derelict for decades, before it was rediscovered in the 1990s by a couple who saw possibilities where most saw nothing but dilapidation. They moved the house to its current location in Mount Jackson, Virginia, and undertook a painstaking restoration, tasking a log home preservation expert to restore the white oak logs and chinking, as well as add on a kitchen and dining area, bathrooms and a basement.

Fast-forward 30 years. The cabin was prime for yet another metamorphosis. This time, it wasn’t in need of rescue but refinement. The new owners — Washington, D.C., residents and long-time business partners and friends Josh Shultz and Nathan Imperiale — were up to the task. 

The two had been actively searching for a property for years, hoping for a log home where their families could escape the frenetic pace of life in the city and “take it down a few notches,” says Nathan. But not just any cabin would do. Character was a must; historical significance, even better. 

Then, in 2020, a Zillow alert rang out on Josh’s computer while the two were at lunch. “I flipped my computer around, and Nathan was instantly enamored,” he says. They snapped the cabin up at a price they thought was too good to be true and began making plans to bring out the best of the structure. 

“It was the perfect canvas,” says Nathan. “There was really nothing that we subtracted; instead, it was all about adding luxurious amenities and features to elevate the property.” 

In other words, the cabin was about to get a serious glow-up. While only the main living room and loft are part of the original cabin, Nathan and Josh were committed to preserving historical integrity through all three floors. The project included opening the kitchen and dining area, adding a second owner’s suite and, perhaps most impressively, converting the basement, which previously housed a swimming pool and a workshop, into a functional space with a casual living area, bunk room and additional bathroom. 

“We wanted to honor the heritage of the property, and we worked hard to identify materials that could have been found when the cabin was first built,” explains Nathan, who spearheaded the project’s design. Throughout the home, you’ll find nods to the original time period and a strong sense of place: elegant slate floors and stone countertops from a Virginia quarry; brass fixtures and period-appropriate windows; and ironwork, from railings to bookshelves, that was hand-forged by a blacksmith who was once tasked with creating pieces for George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

While allegiance to authenticity was their North Star through the design and decorating process, it wasn’t the only criteria. “There was a careful balance in selecting materials that were authentic but also functional for a modern family,” shares Nathan. Thankfully, he says the two goals paralleled perfectly: “By keeping things highly authentic, these materials had already lasted hundreds of years.” 

Between Josh and his wife, Robin, and Nathan and his husband, Eddie, there are five kids, ages 6 to 11, regularly putting the spaces to the test, but even chocolate milk is no match for the interiors. “We used fabrics and textures that were highly durable — lots of linens and slipcovers,” Nathan says, with a laugh.  

To infuse the interiors with a sense of sophistication, they chose only the best of the best. Viking appliances and Carrara marble countertops in the kitchen, a spa-like shower in one bathroom and a clawfoot tub in the other, as well as custom closets and handmade Aireloom-brand mattresses topped with luxury linens in the bedrooms. Mixed in alongside the new, are vintage and antique finds (the reward of weeks of scavenging local shops) that reinforce the home’s rustic, refined vibe. 

The fact that everything in the house is of remarkable quality, yet not too precious, gives the time-honored cabin a feel befitting its name. “We call it ‘The Retreat,’” says Josh. And, it is just that for the two families, who escape there for long weekends to reconnect with one another and nature. For the younger set, the grounds include plenty of family-friendly activities, from a croquet lawn and soon-coming treehouse, to hiking and ATV trails, a ninja course and a zip line. “It’s paradise for the kids,” gushes Nathan. 

For the adults, it’s the indoors — and the luxury of stillness — that mesmerize. “The minute you pull into the driveway, your blood pressure immediately drops,” shares Josh. “You can just sit and relax on the porch and let go of the stress of everyday life.” 

While Nathan echoes Josh’s sentiments, he prefers the snug surroundings of the living room. “As soon as you step through the front door, you are enveloped in this warmth and coziness. I could sit there for hours and forget about the time of day,” he says. “It’s something you can’t replicate with any other type of property. There’s something absolutely magical about a log home.” 


Home Details

Square Footage: 3,500

Bedrooms: 3

Baths: 3


See Also: This Tennessee Log Home Seamlessly Mixes Old + New

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