A big-city couple finds peace and quiet in a secluded Maine retreat.
While dating her future husband, this homeowner told him how she equated log homes with American history. To her delight, he expressed how much he also wanted a log home. After their marriage, they embarked on making their mutual desire a reality. Living in Washington, D.C., they bought a 42-acre parcel in northern Maine that boasted two lakes and an adjoining stream, and built a vacation home of 8-inch-diameter full-round logs near the stream and one of the lakes. They dubbed this new residence «The Camp.»
Over the next several years, the couple and their families enjoyed fishing, boating and hiking in this secluded Maine retreat. When the husband started his own company and could work from home, they decided to build a permanent residence on their Maine property and leave the big city hustle and bustle behind. «I loved the television show Bonanza and the ranch house at the Ponderosa,» the wife says. «For me, the large square-log structure with wide chinking was the epitome of the ideal of log-home living. We attended a log-home expo, and found that Hearthstone Inc. offered exactly what we wanted.»
They traveled to Hearthstone’s Tennessee office to discuss a floor plan and their must-haves: a sunroom and a large kitchen with a fireplace and a window overlooking the yard and lake. Prior to finalizing a floor plan, Chris Wood, Hearthstone’s vice president of sales, visited the building site to learn what possible constraints they might be encountering in this remote location. «Because this area has shortened winter days and receives many feet of snow, we reinforced the roof to handle the snow load and incorporated a heavy-timber rafter roof with extra insulation for an R-49 factor,» he recalls. «We opted for our Traditional 8-by-12-inch log with 4-inch chinking, and used 40-foot-long logs for a stronger and more energy-efficient shell.»
Because the homeowners intended for this to be their primary residence well into their retirement years, they included all the space on the main floor they would need for daily living, including the open great room with kitchen and dining areas, a laundry, powder room, master bedroom suite and, of course, the sunroom. The fireplace in the kitchen proved to be the most challenging because it would need to share the chimney with the fireplace in the adjoining great room. Hearthstone solved this design dilemma by forming it into a triangle, with two sides facing the great room and the angled side opening into the kitchen.
The second story is designed primarily for the husband. It includes his office, a shower, a guest bedroom and a storage room for office supplies.
Originally, the homeowners were not going to have a basement. After the home site was excavated, however, they learned they could easily include a daylight basement. They decided to finish the space with a Super Bowl media room, a workout room, a half bath and what is affectionately known as «Area 51»: three separate storage rooms for food, out-of-season clothes and miscellaneous items.
The highlight of the daylight basement is the wife’s home office. «I wanted my office to resemble an English pub, with a fireplace and comfortable furnishings,» she notes. «It is a very pleasant place to spend my day working at the computer.»
Construction took an unexpected turn. «Our first contractor had to leave the project in the initial stages after he experienced a personal tragedy: His own home had burned down,» the wife says. «Fortunately, we were able to hire Craig Miller Builders to complete the project after Hearthstone had erected the shell. Craig did an excellent job.»
Miller views the project as one of his finest. «This is a very unique home for this area,» he says. «At 5,740 square feet, it is larger than what is usual for northern Maine. The chinked hewn logs also are not common here, but the home truly is magnificent.»
The wife handled the furnishings. «Our home in the D.C. area was a carpeted, very conservative Colonial townhouse,» she explains. «I wanted our log home to be rustic and natural. We furnished this home using my many houseplants and family heirlooms and antique-looking fixtures. There are water closet-style toilets and elements of traditional Americana.»
After the home was completed, the couple landscaped the property with informal gardens that feature stone walkways with large boulders to augment the natural grasses. Each planting season, the wife adds new plants to enrich the color to this already beautiful wooded environment.
After years of living in a log home, the wife says one lesson she learned is to consider very carefully the materials you select. «Even though the natural slate floors are ideal for a home where there is a great deal of traffic from the outdoors, they are never going to be shiny,» she explains. «Our wide-plank pine floors are beautiful, but they take a beating from our dogs. These finishes suit our rustic tastes very well, but if you want a refined look, you might want to consider different materials.»
Even though they originally planned to live in Maine for the rest of their lives, they considered selling «The Camp» and retaining their permanent residence, but then they decided to sell both homes as a package deal. They intend seeking out new adventures, perhaps somewhere in the West, in a different style of log home. For now, however, they’re making the most of their days in Maine. «Initially, I was skeptical of being so far away from the city,» the wife says. «Now, I relish the quiet. When I return to the big city and hear a siren, I nearly jump out of my skin. My soul is at ease here. We are so blessed with this opportunity to live in our log home in this restful environment.»