November 2006 Issue
You can achieve an appealing rustic look whether or not you live in log home.
Forget the fact that you don't live in a country cabin surrounded by evergreens as far as the eye can see. Never mind that a cool mountain stream doesn't run just steps from your front door. Even if you reside in a split level smack in the center of suburbia, the rooms inside your home don't necessarily have to assume the character of the abode's surroundings. Just remember, it's what's inside that counts.
No matter where you call home, the rustic yet cozy comforts of log-cabin living are appealing, affordable and achievable. Regardless of what your house looks like on the outside, a little imagination can transform its internal appearance from plain and predictable to a place with all the comforts of a mountain hideaway or a cabin in the country.
Bears at the beach
A few years ago, a retired couple approached Lori Fletcher with what seemed like a unique request. "They wanted to decorate the rooms in their Florida beach condo in a log-cabin theme," says Fletcher, manager of Myers Hearth and Casual in Toledo. "I thought the beach would be the last place you'd want that log-cabin look, but they said it was a trend in Florida. Who knew?"
Luckily, Fletcher found just what the couple wanted in Myers' Cabin Fever section, which caters to folks who live - or wish they lived - in a log cabin. That just so happens to include couples from Ohio who retire to Florida beach condos. So, what, exactly, is the look that cabin-crazed beach dwellers and other like-minded individuals seek?
"Most people want anything with a moose on it," says Fletcher, who's worked at the family-owned store for 15 years. "Second is a bear and a wolf is third. As a result, we carry a lot of pictures and prints with moose, bear, wolves and other wildlife."
Myers, a presence in Toledo for the past half century, is perhaps best known for its seasonal specialties - fireplaces in the winter and patio furniture and barbecue grills in the summer months. However, the store has developed quite a following for its year-round offerings in the cabin department.
"We draw a mix of customers from all around the area; some of them live in the suburbs and some of them have cottages up in Michigan," Fletcher says. "They all want that warm and cozy feeling that cabins have."
Fletcher says many people like to start with one room, such as a bedroom, and gradually expand the cabin theme throughout the house. For starters, Myers sells a lot of cedar-log beds with the rustic, unfinished appeal that customers crave. Throw in a couple of matching dressers, a few moose prints and a lamp with a wildlife shade and you're well on your way to achieving the log-cabin look.
"We do a lot of log beds and log dining tables and chairs," Fletcher says. "You want to start with the bigger pieces and work around them."
In Ginny Curry's mind, authenticity is the key to achieving the log-cabin look. Visit her in Lancaster and you'll find several log cabins she's rescued from destruction reconstructed throughout her property. Step foot into Curry's home and you'll be transported to a time and place you only read about in history books. Even though Curry's house was built just nine years ago, its interior decor would suggest a dwelling that dates back two centuries or more.
"When we bought the property, I wanted to move an old house here and my husband wanted to build something new," Curry explains. "Well, he got a new house, but I brought the oldness inside."
Ginny and her husband Bill actually built their new home around a nearly 200-year-old log cabin, complete with its original hand-hewn logs. Now, the 400-square-foot cabin serves as the Currys' kitchen and the perfect showcase for their early American antiques.
"The log cabin is from right here in Fairfield County," says Ginny Curry, an antiques dealer who specializes in items made during the country's formative years. "The pine flooring is from New England."
Most, if not all, of the furnishings inside the kitchen are older than the log cabin itself. A round hutch table from New Hampshire made in 1720 sits in the center of the room. It's topped by a barn lantern from Massachusetts that dates to 1740. A pine settle, featuring a bench and tall back with bear and sheep pelts draped over it, stands against the wall. It, too, is a piece from Massachusetts constructed some time in the 1790s.
The Currys' cozy kitchen also features a walk-in wood-burning fireplace perfect for warming up after shoveling snow all morning.
Curry says she reads a lot of publications to research early American pieces to furnish her home and to sell to her customers. She also has a network of people who scour New England in search of items that suit her taste.
"The look back then was all pine and poplar, no oak or hickory," she says. "The furniture isn't stained; it is scrubbed. It has a feel that is smooth as silk. You just can't reproduce the look and texture that come from a lot of wear."
In keeping with the primitive theme, you won't see any modern appliances in the Curry kitchen. They're there, but the couple keeps them concealed by old boards and cupboards. What you do see are old wooden bowls, pewter pieces and a tiny sawbuck table. There's also a rack suspended from the ceiling that is used to dry fruits and vegetables. Curry says paying attention to detail is critical when attempting to convey that authentic environment.
"One of the things I find very important is the lighting," she says. "Because lighting was such a commodity back then, homes were typically dimly lit with a lot of candles. So, I do the same."
Several years ago, a group of friends returned home to the Dayton area from a ski vacation in Colorado armed with an entrepreneurial idea influenced by their exploits in the Rockies. In November 1998, their idea became reality with the opening of Bugaboo Moosetraks, a store in Miamisburg's downtown historic district that caters to folks interested in bringing all the comforts of a mountain ski lodge into their Midwestern homes.
"There are a lot of people around here who wanted the items we carry, but the only place they could get them was through a catalog," says store manager Tracie Walsh. "We also noticed that a lot of people were going out west and having the stuff shipped here."
Walsh says her boyfriend, Bill Carmoega, and friends Todd and Jodi Lyons opened the store to make shopping for the hard-to-find items more affordable and accessible. Bugaboo Moosetraks works with more than 250 suppliers and even employs designers who make house calls to help customers choose the right colors, textures and pieces for their rooms.
"Typically," Walsh says, "people will start with one room because they want to see what it looks like. Then, they expand it to other areas of the house. The comforting, welcoming feel is really what people are looking for."
Walsh says many people begin their foray into the lodge look by purchasing art depicting a wildlife scene. She says Bugaboo Moosetraks can work with customers to pick pieces that complement their existing furnishings.
For those ready to take the complete plunge, Walsh says, paint color and texture go a long way to helping you pull off the lodge look. These days, she says, warm colors, faux finishes and dark walnut and cherry wood are in.
For the living room, Walsh says, sofas and chairs covered with a combination of leather and fabric materials work best with the lodge motif. Elements such as antlers, twigs and other remnants of nature add to the out-doorsy appeal of the space.
"We also offer wool mats and runners that we get from the Zapotec Indians out of El Paso, Texas," Walsh says. "These items have warm, earth-tone colors that go well with the look."
The store also works with a supplier who uses doors salvaged from old barns to make unusual yet functional tables that fit perfectly with the lodge concept. "There are also log beds, antler chandeliers - just a lot of different items to work with," Walsh says.
Visit Pam and Ken Bellamy's log cabin near Yellow Springs and you'll likely find a freshly baked apple pie cooling on the seed bin counter in their kitchen. And, you might just see the dog and cat curled up and snoozing by the stone fireplace in the living room. At the Bellamy house, the log-cabin look is served up with all the comforts of country living.
"We looked in a lot of catalogs and magazines to get ideas," Pam Bellamy says. "We also went to a lot of log-cabin shows and visited other people's homes."
After they moved into their home near John Bryan State Park in 2002, the Bellamys went with a design theme centering on three elements: moose, bear and evergreen. Those items show up throughout the home, even in some unexpected places. For example, one of Pam Bellamy's favorite features - the fireplace - continues the evergreen theme in the color of its mortar. The green joints blend well with the earth tones of the smooth river rocks.
"The mantle is a really old piece of oak that took four guys to bring in," she says. "Above it is a built-in inset for a painting or a portrait."
The framed print that occupies the space above the fireplace depicts a moose in the midst of thick woods on a snowy day. "It's called "A Walk in the Woods,'" Bellamy says. "I just love that painting."
The couple also picked up several pieces of Amish-made furniture during a trip to Holmes County to add to their country coziness.
Throughout the Bellamy home, you'll see a great deal of detailed ironwork, right down to the thumb latches on all of the doors. That's a perk of being friends with a blacksmith. Bellamy says she calls often on Bob Cruikshank, a former neighbor from Springfield who just happens to be a wizard with iron.
"He made the pot rack that hangs in my kitchen," she says. "I just told him what I wanted, drew a picture and he made it. You can't find anything like this anywhere."
The overall country theme in the kitchen is complemented by the Bellamys' stove, an Elmira Cook's Delight. For the uninformed, this Canadian product is a modern oven designed to look and cook like the ones our great grandmothers might have used.
If you go this route with your design, expect the neighbors to be at your door with forks in hand.