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.
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
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
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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