Photgraphy by Joseph Hilliard
Long before the popular reality show “Timber Kings” was conceived, co-host André Chevigny was hooked on wood. In fact, the Canadian television star/master craftsman began peeling logs for his brother’s company when he was just a teen. A few years later, he built his first log home, and the rest is history.
“I love wood and the creativity of it,” shares André, who is also the general manager of Pioneer Log Homes of B.C. in Williams Lake, British Columbia. “It’s what makes me tick. I like to say that wood is Mother Nature’s fingerprint, and you just have to be able to interpret it the right way. There’s truly nothing like a wood home.”
Tour André Chevigny's Waterfront Log Home
Nearly 1,800 log homes later, André has learned a thing or two about designing and building custom wood homes, and all of his projects reveal his passion for fine craftsmanship, originality and sustainability. Perhaps no home showcases his talents better than his own in Williams Lake, a log masterpiece that appears on the opening segment of every episode.
“The house is a true innovation of design,” says André. “When guests come in, they’re speechless, and there’s an overall sense of excitement about what can be done with wood. The logs are massive, and yet there is a coziness throughout the house.”
André’s dream home didn’t take shape overnight. He worked on peeling and carving the logs for his house on weekends and evenings, after his day shift at Pioneer was over. His son Mathew also helped out. “It was a true labor of love,” he recalls.
As with every Pioneer home, the house was carefully assembled on the company’s log yard by a crew of master craftsmen (including Peter Arnold, Joel Roorda, Beat Schwaller, Sam Peterson, Shawn Oviatt, Danielle Haynes and Martin Kalin) and then disassembled and shipped to the Chevignys’ property, where the talented team put it back together like an oversized puzzle. Great precision goes into the construction process. Every log is hand peeled and hand carved.
Reflecting back on the project, André says that he wanted to create a one-of-a-kind home for his wife, Wendy, and their four kids, and he also wanted to capture the surrounding 270- degree water views.
“It’s easy to build walls. The challenge is to make the most of what Mother Nature gives you,” says André. “Our site has spectacular water views, so we wanted to capture those views out of every window, to create the feeling of being on a ship.”
The 3.75-acre waterfront lot boasts a peninsula that juts out into beautiful Williams Lake, giving new meaning to the notion of bringing the outdoors in. André wanted the home to blend with its surroundings; take advantage of southeastern exposures for passive solar gain; and maximize views and natural light.
“Whenever I walk onto a site, I get a feeling for how the home should be situated,” explains André. “Here, I wanted to take advantage of the long hours of sunlight and have water views from every window on the main level while showcasing the beauty of wood.”
André’s vision for his home resulted in a 5,200-square-foot structure that is at once show-stopping and inviting. Massive western red cedar logs make a dramatic statement. The lateral logs have an average diameter of 22 to 24 inches, but some butt ends are as large as 48 inches. The roof system features massive log beams topped by 7-by-10-inch Douglas fir rafters. Two larger-than-life purlins that span the great room stop visitors in their tracks — one is 9,700 pounds, the other is 10,400. Both have 54-inch butt ends.
“I like to try new things, so the house has some really innovative design ideas,” shares André.
One of the more distinctive log details is the incorporation of inverted posts on the main floor. “By flipping some of the larger logs upside down so that the flared ends are at the top rather than the bottom, we were able to create a one-of-a-kind look,” explains André. “My philosophy behind this was that when people walk in, they always look up, so they wouldn’t notice the flare as much if it was down on the ground — plus they might stub their toes on it, since it’s so big.”
Another distinctive feature of the home is its incorporation of recycled products. The wide-plank flooring (1-by-12-inch Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir) was sourced from an 1870s grain barn in Chase, British Columbia. In addition, all of the doors in the Chevigny home were created with recycled wood from a 1940s cedar log cabin that originally graced the property. The home also boasts geothermal heating and R-50 insulation.
“At Pioneer, we are firm believers in green building, sustainability, reforestation and using recycled materials,” André says with pride.
The home’s rotunda is another standout. The two-story structure houses a breakfast nook on the main floor and the master suite on the second. Colossal cedar posts and log roof system add drama, while the natural sunlight streaming through beautiful stained-glass windows imparts a sense of warmth and timeless charm.
“The master suite is probably my favorite place in the house,” says André. “There’s just so much beauty to take in.”
Indeed, beauty abounds throughout the home, from the copper-clad windows and trim, to the breathtaking views, to the impressive handcrafted logs that truly define the space. For André, the most beautiful thing of all is the strong bond of love that shaped the home. One favorite memory took place during the final stages of construction.
“We were pouring the last concrete slab, and we were there with all four kids at once, not an easy feat with everyone’s crazy schedules,” he says. “We all put our hands together to make an impression into the concrete that would forever remind us of the love that went into this home.”
No matter where life takes them, the imprint that the family forged together will always stay with them, reminding them of a very special connection that even the best reality show could never truly convey.