March 2007 Issue
An Ohio couple found the ideal location for their log home: the edge of an arboretum.
Steve Buchholz grew up in Huber Heights, the city along Interstate 70 near Dayton that boasts of being America's largest community of brick homes. His wife of 28 years, Jill, was raised on a farm in rural Texas. As a couple, they've spent most of their lives together living in neighborhood developments - first in the Southwest and later in central Ohio.
"I had always wanted to get back out on land away from a neighborhood," Jill says. "We just could never do it when our children were growing up because of school and all the activities."
With the kids all grown up, the Buchholzes decided about six years ago that it was the right time to take a serious look at their living situation. After a trip to a bed-and-breakfast log cabin in West Virginia, their vision of home gained new focus.
"That bed and breakfast was our inspiration," Jill recalls. "I never really thought I wanted a log home, but I just fell in love with that place. I really liked the flat logs with the chinking [the material between them]. It looked authentic."
Even though the two had differing thoughts on the scale of their project - Jill envisioned a primary residence, while Steve saw a weekend getaway - they were both sold on building a log cabin.
'We lucked out'
Just a few miles off of I-70 about a half hour east of Columbus, you'll find one of the largest public gardens in North America. Covering more than 1,700 acres, The Dawes Arboretum in Newark is a rolling natural canvas covered by some of the most beautiful specimens of greenery on earth. Just skip across the creek and you've arrived at the Buchholzes' home.
"We really lucked out," says Jill, whose property backs up to The Dawes. "We had looked all around until we found this. One thing we love about this property is that it is literally five minutes from [the city of] Heath, but yet it's off the main path. We feel like we are in the country."
The property had been in the same family since the end of the Civil War, when the seller's great-grandfather received it as compensation for his service with the Union Army.
Steve says the couple originally purchased a 13-acre tract and later added about 50 additional acres of surrounding land. All that space gave them some options in planning the placement of the home.
"What's appealing about this land is that we were able to build [the log cabin] back way off the road," Jill says. "We have five little grandsons right now and we really saw this as a place for family to come and play."
The home's surroundings - a creek that runs along the back of the property, more than 100 trees throughout the land and a crop field in the front - provide a complementary setting for a log home. Furthermore, with the arboretum bordering two sides of the property, the Buchholzes need not worry about encroaching development.
Picking a plan
When they first set out to build a log cabin, the Buchholzes didn't really have a specific direction. They didn't have a plan and weren't familiar with any log-home builders.
Jill says she immediately started reading periodicals that specialize in log homes. In those, she noted the advertisements for various builders and contacted several of them directly. She received many responses, but one stood out because, in part, its designs fit the look she was seeking.
"I wanted something that reminded me of an authentic log cabin," she says. "I really like the wide-plank pine logs that were hand-hewn and I really like the chinking."
In looking over the materials sent by Tennessee-based Hearthstone Log and Timber Frame Homes, the Buchholzes were impressed with the plans and pictures they perused. They also liked the fact that Hearthstone had a representative in Ohio who would work directly with them.
"Also," Jill recalls, "Hearthstone had just come out with a new book - a huge hardback book with snapshots of all kinds of log homes. It had interior and exterior shots and landscaping. It was probably the best tool I had."
In working with the Hearthstone representative, the Buchholzes say they were able to alter plans to develop a design that would fit their needs. For instance, they eliminated a second-story wall and replaced it with a railing to create an office loft for Steve overlooking the living room.
"We also liked the idea of porches," Jill says. "We wanted plenty of places to sit outside. We really love this setting and we wanted to make the most of the outdoors, so we actually have porches on three sides of our house."
After going on a log-home tour, Jill says, she wanted to make sure to avoid dark stains and plan for plenty of windows to allow in an abundance of natural light.
"With log homes, you have to be very careful, because they can be very dark," she says.
Additionally, a sun room was added on the back of the house, Jill says, "so we could be inside and still enjoy the surroundings."
While the Buchholzes had several antique pieces and were fans of the "authentic" cabin look, they weren't about to eschew the modern conveniences they were accustomed to, simply to maintain a theme.
"I wanted to emulate the look of something old, but keep some of the conveniences of the modern day house," Jill explains.
One way they accomplished that was by enlisting the services of Miller's Custom Cabinets from nearby Glenford. The couple worked with the cabinetmaker to help them solve problems such as how to make a big-screen TV appear in sync with the surrounding decor.
The cabinetmaker also built in modern conveniences in the kitchen, with features such as a two-tiered flatware tray and dual hidden garbage cans. Another favorite component is a kitchen island that serves as a multi-purpose space where the couple can work on projects, eat meals or just sit and talk.
A long wooden table, with seating for 10, comfortably fits in the open dining room area. Whether it's a weekend get-together or Thanksgiving dinner, there's plenty of room for the whole family.
The Buchholz home is accented by several heirloom and antique pieces. Just off the dining room is an oak roll-top desk that Jill inherited from her mother, who was a librarian. While that piece satisfies the sentimental, other pieces fall into the category of incredible finds.
"We found out about this guy who had run a bed and breakfast in Newark," Jill recalls. "He was selling some pieces that fit exactly what I was looking for."
So, for half the price she was expecting to spend, Jill found a large mirrored hall tree, which now stands at the front entrance, and an antique mantle, which adorns the fireplace in the first-floor master bedroom. Both pieces are in pristine condition.
While all the furnishings in the Buchholz home appear to be in the perfect place, as if it were planned that way, Jill says it has been, and continues to be, a work in progress.
"Our approach has been to do things a step at a time," she says. "We had different furniture that really didn't match when we first moved here, but we made a long list of things we wanted and prioritized."
Make a list
The Buchholzes say the most difficult part of building their log home was coordinating the responsibilities of the log-home company and the general contractor.
"The one thing I would tell anybody building a log home is to make a list of everything that needs to get done and who is going to do it, before you start," Steve says.
Among other things, the Buchholzes hit a snag in the construction process when both the log-home company and the contractor informed them that they didn't do chinking. Ultimately, the couple had to hire a subcontractor, which added to their cost.
"At first," Steve recalls, "we talked about what we could afford and came up with a ballpark. We exceeded that by about 25 percent."
Jill says providing pictures of exactly what you expect to the craftsmen working on your home is another helpful hint. She didn't do that when working with the flooring specialist and, as a result, the finished product wasn't what she expected. The floors had to be redone.
"I made the decision a little too hastily and what I should have done was look at the pictures and show him exactly what I wanted," says Jill, adding that it also would have been helpful to ask questions of other log-home owners about the building process.
While there may have been a few bumps in the road, the Buchholzes say, any frustrations faded as soon as they moved into their cozy new cabin in March 2004.
For building tips from Debbie Ullman, the project manager for Hearthstone Log and Timber Frame Homes who worked with the Buchholzes, Click Here
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