W.G. Tait, Inc. Bear Lake Trading Company Home Page

When a couple came to Bill Tait with a request that he construct a vacation home for them that would resemble the Adirondack camps of days gone by, he knew exactly what they were talking about. As a home builder and land developer in Indianapolis and northern Michigan, Tait was about to build himself a similar summer home on the other side of Walloon Lake. The popular lake is known for a multitude of log structures, many of them constructed back in the 1920s and 1930s and used as summer cottages.

"My clients had the same vision I had," he says. "We both wanted a home that would look like it had always been there, a home that looks old. That's the reason for the dark color, and it's also one of the reasons we chose Maple Island Log Homes as the producer. Their logs are hand-peeled and they have variations, so they are more in keeping with the old homes. Back in the old days, the builders cut the trees down where their house was going to go and then used those logs for the walls. They filled the gaps with mud or concrete, and that was your old log home. We wanted that same look."

But Tait was new to log construction and he had to take note that logs are not particularly forgiving. "Once you have the logs set, you're kinda stuck compared with most of the homes I've built," he says. "It's easy to move 2-by-6s, but it's not so easy to move those logs."

A semicircular bar faced with the same Michigan fieldstone as the fireplace, separates the great room from the kitchen. Inside the archway is a masonry grille

Because Tait had never built a log home, he started with his own to become familiar with the labor pool in the Walloon Lake area where he had only been selling property for a little while. "It's always a challenge when you're in a new area," he says. He praises his superintendent Shane Baxter and his crew, who have plenty of log experience, and he relied on Maple Island's staff for assistance and advice. "For Tait Company, the hardest part was learning to be a log home builder," he says. "You're working with chain saws rather than regular saws; you're lifting a thousand-pound log instead of a 2-by-4. You're dealing with shrinkage of a house and having to put slip joints in the window and door openings. Maple Island was wonderful in helping us figure out how to do all that."

The 6,000-square-foot home of 12-to-14-inch red pine logs harvested nearby in northern Michigan was pre-built and handcrafted at the Maple Island log yard near Muskegon. Then it was disassembled and loaded onto trailers for delivery to the site. The package took eight truckloads, and the tight turns on the private road, as well as the knoll just north of the house, presented the hauler with some challenges in gaining access, according to Maple Island owner, Richard Tuxbury. But the result has been a wonderful marriage of structure and location: "The home nestles nicely into the site," says Tuxbury. If you didn't see the modern windows and the attached garage, you could mistake it for one of those 70-year-old classics."

The natural look of the logs definitely contributes to the beauty of this home, and one of its highlights is Maple Island's log roof framing system. "It's unique in that it uses log purlins that run from gable to gable and actually support the gable walls," says Tuxbury. "The gables are full logs rather than framed construction." Tuxbury notes several cabin-type design features in the house, such as true divided light-windows and a cozy, not-too-showy entrance. "The dormer on the drive-up side of the house is a traditional shed style," he says, but it also has two peaked accents giving it some added zest. The many gables that highlight the house have all been outfitted with Maple Island's signature treatment, outboard logs in a truss styling. That eliminates the need for a lot of gable-end glass and makes the home look much more traditional."

Tuxbury and Tait agree that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and all activity centers around this room. The builders used the same native Michigan field stone around the bar and the kitchen island as they used on the apron surrounding the home's exterior, the hearth, and the chimney. "That was new to us," admits Tait. It's not easy to do because you have to build a substantial fireplace foundation to handle the weight." Tuxbury says the massive fireplace in the great room is unmatched in size even in homes twice the size.

Much of the rustic furniture that blends so well with the architectural style of the home comes from Old Hickory, a manufacturer of rustic furnishings in Shelbyville, Indiana. Wrought-iron light fixtures are by Hammerton from Willow Glen in San Jose, California. The hardwood flooring is cypress imported from Australia, and it was chosen because it looks like pine but is harder and more durable. All ceilings in the lower level are open beam with 3-inch pine tongue-and-groove decking.

The children's bunkroom leads to a secret playroom accessed through a bookcase.
Another fieldstone fireplace warms the master bedroom on cold winter days, and patio doors open out to the lakeside.

One of the most important features for the homeowners was a secret room. "Their children saw a secret room I had built in Indianapolis," says Tait, "and they had to have one." So we found a place in their bunkroom where you literally have to open the door by pulling out a book in the bookcase. Inside is a playroom for the kids."

One of the primary goals of the owners was to accent the lake, and Tait achieved that goal by greeting guests with a lake view as soon as they walk through the front door. Nevertheless, Tuxbury believes the house also has an inward focus. "True, the lake is right out the grand windows and across the gently sloping lawn," he says, "but when you are in the house, you're drawn to the warm ambience of the materials, the richly stained logs, the massive stone fireplace, and the rustic furnishings." The dark color for the logs was chosen intentionally to duplicate the appearance of traditional old log cabins on the lake.

Despite the log color, the interior is light, warm and welcoming. "There's no question that dark wood has the reputation of darkening a house," says Tait. "The key is a lot of natural light. Then, rather than getting a dark house, you have a very comfortable one."

Bill Tait is pleased with the way the home nestles into its hilly site shaded by tall trees. "When you go by on the water, it looks like it's always been there," he says. "The tricky part of trying to make something look old is having to use today's efficiencies and room stylings, yet match the older architecture. They don't always go together because in the older homes the rooms were small and there were lots of hallways. Here we're building wide-open rooms and using stainless-steel appliances. Still, I believe we accomplished what we set out to achieve. This house looks like it's been here a hundred years."

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