Hidden treasure

A Virginia woman’s eclectic taste transforms a creek-side cabin into an artful dwelling.

Some people avoid the log-home buying-and-building process by buying a log home that’s already been built. Lucy Tkachenko is one of those people. While visiting family in Roanoke, Virginia, she and her sister were driving along a creek-side road in mountains outside of town so her sister could show her a cabin. “I absolutely fell in love with it,” Lucy recalls.

The owners declined to sell, however, even though Lucy persisted in making offers. She went home to Canada, sold her house and returned to Roanoke, where she asked her sister to take her for one more look at the cabin, knowing it wasn’t available. She noticed one nearby that was for sale, however; she bought it that same day. “1 always wanted to live in a log cabin by a creek in the woods in the mountains,” she says, “and I got what I wanted.” Rather than have to build a home, she now faced fixing up the one she bought. “I thought I would just clean it up and move in,” she recalls. “A friend came down from Canada to help me for a week, and she said, ‘You know, you have logs on three sides of your house. Do you want to take off one of the walls to see what it looks like?’ So we did, and 1 just kept going.”

As the work progressed, the cabin’s hidden charm revealed itself. After tearing off the knotty pine wall paneling that amplified the darkness inside the 800-square-foot cabin, Lucy had to chink the space between the wall logs with mortar to seal the home against the weather. She needed 150 bags of concrete, along with chicken-wire backing and a trowel.

Next, she knocked out a wall between the galley kitchen and the living room and replaced it with a counter. She converted one of the two small bedrooms into a bathroom. The original bathroom had a shower stall that she tore out and replaced with a small desk. The low ceiling made the cabin feel confining, so she removed it, exposing the roof rafters and gaining 200 square feet of attic space for a sleeping loft. She added stairs. The rafters, she discovered, were built from timbers salvaged from old railroad boxcars. She added a couple of skylights to let in even more light and then whitewashed the log walls. She bleached the well-worn red pine floors, pickled the boards and then coated them with shellac.

While taking out one of the walls, she noticed a board with an inscription indicating the cabin’s origin: “Built by R.E. Sutherland, September 1939.” When she opened up the attic, she also found an old Confederate Army uniform.

The entire cabin-renovation project took Lucy six months, working seven days a week. “Structurally, it wasn’t in bad shape,” she recalls. “1 just wanted to give it character.”

Having transformed the cabin, Lucy set about furnishing it in what can only be described as Tkachenko Eclectic. That particular style favors items she finds at yard sales, thrift stores, antique shops, salvage yards and along the side of the road. Of note is the facing for the kitchen counter, fashioned from old ceiling tiles she found being thrown into a dumpster downtown. She topped it with a black granite slab that she believes was a gravestone. The item that stands out the most is a frieze on canvas depicting three holy men that she found at a yard sale and uses as a headboard in her bedroom. Her favorite find is a Carol Bolton couch that she bought used for a fraction of its original cost. Numerous collections, including artworks, also fill the cabin. The trick, she says, is to find the right mix for the assorted pieces. “It’s a gift I have that I’m able to visualize things,” she says.

Her decorative touch extends to the outside. Besides the whitewashed logs, the cabin features windows with distinctive red trim and window coverings she made from an iron fence. Assorted ornaments dot the sloping yard.

As fond as she is of the logs, Lucy says her favorite spot in the cabin is the back room, a porch that she painted a vibrant coral. The room is filled with windows that overlook the water, which is named Back Creek but called Crystal Creek. She shares the room with Bella, her chatterbox parrot.

Having spent very little to furnish the cabin, Lucy is delighted with how it has turned out. She fulfilled her cabin dream and has created a home that reflects her personality. “I’ve been here 14 years now,” she points out, “and it’s the best place I’ve ever lived.”

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