Modern amenities with rustic charm
Home buyers who plan to build a lakeside retreat now have another option in cottage properties. Pre-engineered log homes offer the appeal of traditional log homes, but with all of the conveniences of a year-round residence.
Whisper Creek Log Homes, a Canadian company based in Alberta, builds log homes made of pre-manufactured panels in a factory setting. Each 2×6 exterior wall is custom-built using hand-crafted half logs, which are fastened to the walls at the top and bottom at 16-inch intervals.
Entire walls – complete with windows, sheathing and a house wrap to protect the home against moisture, and exterior half logs that have been stained and chinked – are shipped by truck to a building site.
Oke Woodsmith Building Systems of Hensall recently built a Whisper Creek log home just north of Grand Bend. The company’s clients are a couple from Detroit, Michigan who researched pre-manufactured log homes as an alternative to a cottage.
That desire is common to many of Oke Woodsmith’s clients, says Brad Oke, an architectural technologist and a partner in the family-owned company. Clients choose log homes mainly for a lakefront or a wooded property.
“They’re looking for a retreat, but they want the efficiencies that you would have in a new home,” Oke observes.
The couple’s log home represents the first Oke Woodsmith has built, although the company has constructed four timber-frame homes in conjunction with Pineridge Timber Frame Homes in London.
“We’ve stayed away from log homes, traditional log homes, because of the inherent problems that log homes typically have,” Oke says.
Some of those problems include drafts and heat loss caused by the settling, cracking and shrinkage of logs. Insulating and wiring full-log homes can also be difficult because of their solid log construction.
The Whisper Creek log homes are assembled in a kit that represents 25 per cent of the value of the house. The kit includes the exterior walls, structural beams, rafters, framing material, and a staircase; the interior can be finished in half logs or with drywall.
The homes are available in a variety of designs that range in size from 725 square feet to more than 6,000 square feet. They feature maintenance-free, double-glazed, low-e vinyl windows and 2×6 exterior walls that exceed R-20 insulation values.
Because the homes are assembled in a factory setting, they can be manufactured to exacting specifications. “The advantages are that you have the factory quality-control,” Oke explains.
Once the panels arrived on the building site in Grand Bend, Oke Woodsmith’s role involved pouring the foundation and erecting the outside frame. The company also looked after installing the heating and cooling system, as well as the plumbing, wiring, insulation and drywalling of some interior walls. The last step involved completing the interior finishes and installing the cabinetry.
Because the kit allowed for flexibility in the layout of the interior walls, Oke designed the rooms to take advantage of the beauty of the structural logs. They face all of the exterior perimeter walls and are also used as ceiling beams and massive structural supports. Concrete floors throughout the home are warmed with radiant in-floor heat and finished with engineered maple flooring, which decreases the possibility of shrinkage inherent in natural hardwoods. Radiant in-floor heat also heats the home through a boiler system.
The four-bedroom, four-bathroom home features central air-conditioning, a heat recovery ventilator and a backup natural gas generator. Special exterior elements include wrap-around porches on three sides and two balconies that are accessible from french doors.
The 6,000-square-foot home was completed over a six-month period.
With its dark green steel roof, dormers and chalet-style balcony tucked into a gable, the home’s front elevation has a commanding presence. Wide slabs of Owen Sound ledgerock form steps that lead from deep perennial flowerbeds up to the front porch.
Inside, the scent of pine is evident in the foyer, which features walls of exposed half logs and slate-coloured porcelain tile floors. The front hallway leads, on the left, past a full bathroom, also accessible from the rear of the home, to a home office and a master bedroom.
The owners invited natural elements into the home’s interior through their selection of custom wood furnishings. In the master bedroom, two casement windows flank a bed with a high headboard and footboard made of gnarled, knotted wood in light and dark tones. A blanket box at the foot appears to be wrapped in twisted branches.
In the ensuite bathroom, a whirlpool bathtub is tucked between two vanities with quartz counters and cabinet fronts made of half logs. Stone-look porcelain tile floors and tile walls topped with a mosaic border create a spa ambiance.
The main living area is located on the opposite side of the home and opens on the right from the foyer. Double stone arches separate the great room, with its soaring 20-foot ceiling, from an open-concept kitchen and adjoining dining area. A raised-ledge breakfast bar with a lacquered pine counter further defines the two areas.
On the kitchen’s perimeter, rustic cabinets of cherry and pine create an unusual mix of light and dark wood tones that set off the stainless steel appliances and brushed nickel faucets. A slate backsplash in shades of rust, gold and green is paired with charcoal and tan-coloured quartz counters.
A two-storey wall of casement and trapezoid windows in the great room provides a breathtaking view over Lake Huron. The view is particularly arresting from the vantage point of a second-floor loft, accessed by a solid pine staircase. Slanted pine ceilings and a railing of straight spindles give the room a particular sense of grandeur. The loft overlooks a two-sided, floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace that warms the great room and a screened porch at the side of the home.
A hallway to the left leads to a bathroom and three children’s bedrooms, each decorated with rustic wood furniture. Each bedroom is distinguished by a stained glass transom above the doorway.
The lower level walkout includes a comfortable family room with a gas fireplace and a full kitchen that open on to a covered patio. A well-appointed bathroom completes the living area.
Although the home was a first-time venture for Oke Woodsmith, it was an experiment the company plans to repeat. The homeowners were delighted with the results and Oke has two more log homes in the design stage. “Our clients were very pleased with the outcome,” Oke says.