Patience Makes Perfect

Years in the making, a Kansas couple’s lakefront log home proves worth the wait.

by Suzanna Logan, Country’s Best Log Homes, September 2009 

When most folks build a log home, they begin with the house, then add finishing touches like furnishings and landscape. Not Robert and Diana Carlisle.

The couple’s dream of log-home living began in 1976 when the newlywed pair inherited an 80-acre parcel of land from Robert’s parents. They knew they wanted to share a home on the site someday, but family and work pushed their hope to the back burner for years. Little did they know what a little hard work and some patience would bring them.

In 1990, the Carlisles took their first step toward building a three-acre lake that would serve as the backdrop for their cabin. Two years later, they planted an orchard and flanked the future driveway with sugar maple trees. Although these projects didn’t produce their sit-back-and-relax log home, the landscaping was enough for Robert and Diana to feel like they had finally dipped their toes in the water.

During the next few years, Diana collected and stored pieces of furniture, appliances, fixtures and decorations that would eventually grace the three-story interior of their anticipated home.

Carlisle_firstThe couple laughs when they admit to owning pictures to adorn the walls before there were any walls, but they’re quick to say that the long-term planning paid off. They broke ground on the 2,900-square-foot home in the spring of 2007 and moved into the finished abode in the fall. But nobody said it was easy.

Helping with the quick completion was a crew from Hartland Construction and log producer Robert Sims, an independent dealer with Honest Abe Log Homes.

The couple was drawn to Honest Abe for the value and the interlocking corner system that offers an airtight seal that drastically reduces heating and cooling costs. Sims says smart planning like the Carlisles’ can make the difference between a so-so project and a successful one.

“I’ve worked with people who will say ‘I wish I’d done things differently,’ ” says Sims. “But the Carlisles didn’t have that problem because they had it all figured out upfront.”

Because the couple had done so much advance planning, they were able to place windows and even electrical outlets to their liking.

“The home was definitely built around what we had rather than the other way around,” confirms Robert Carlisle.

Most of what the couple had collected was a mix of wood and wrought-iron cowboy and horse-themed pieces, which infuse the home with a casually elegant Western feel.

The pair customized the layout of the home as well, adding an office, finished basement, and an attached garage with an open-truss system that provides ample storage space and easy access from the loft. To maximize views of the lake and cattle grazing in the neighboring pastures, the couple addeCarlisle_secondd front and back porches and an additional gable dormer.

Another major change to the original plan came in the form of 17 14-foot-wide cedar trees, used as support beams, stair railings and the master bath shower walls. Robert personally cut the trees from the property and hand-hewed them at the job site. He also borated and stained each of the round, 8-by-8-inch eastern white pine logs used to construct the home, at times working upward of 12 hours a day. Together, the couple sanded and stained the tongue-and-groove white spruce floors in the loft that also serve as the main floor’s ceiling.

In all, the couple estimates having spent more than 2,000 hours working on the home—not to mention the 30 years dreaming of it. But to Diana and Robert, there’s no question it was worth the wait and the preparation.

Carlisle_recources“It came together just like we planned,” says Robert. “Building a log home is a fun project, and it shouldn’t be rushed.”

And, after taking their own advice, Robert and Diana Carlisle have enjoyed every minute of their log-home living experience.

photos by James Ray Spahn; styling by Colleen Macomber

In order to maximize water views, log producer Robert Sims angled the home toward the lake rather than squaring it off to the road. He also encouraged the couple to position the house toward the southwest to cut down on UV exposure—something he says is “critical to minimize maintenance.”

The stone fireplace borders an interior garage wall rather than the outdoors to boost energy efficiency. Robert Carlisle estimates the fireplace provides about 95 percent of the home’s heat.

Black painted birch cabinets add contrast to their warm surroundings, while granite countertops are at once practical and beautiful. An unusual gyro fan adds an element of fun and also serves as the kitchen’s exhaust system.

The chalkboard on the wall serves as a menu board and drawing board when the grandkids come to visit. When large crowds gather, the dining room table can host 10 to 12 people with bench seating and add-in extensions. The patio doors can be opened in either direction for additional space.

The cedar logs lining the master bathroom shower are covered with a marine varnish to protect them from water damage. White porcelain fixtures and iron accents alongside the wood walls create a look that’s both rustic and modern.

Knowing that log cabins have a tendency to appear more cozy than airy, the Carlisles chose 9-foot ceilings for the bedrooms. With the exception of the master bathroom, they also left the windows bare to encourage a bright, open feel.

The back porch overlooking the lake where family and friends often gather to swim, boat and fi sh is one of the couple’s favorite spots. Thanks to a 100-year-old stand of oak trees and overhead fans that stir a cool breeze, rocking on the porch is an enjoyable activity even on warm summer days.

Unable to find an appropriate light fixture, Diana made her own by attaching antlers collected from friends to an existing fixture with rawhide. The piece draws the eyes upward toward the expansive 23-foot ceiling and complements the bobcat, pheasant and deer mounts throughout the living room.

To keep the floors of the basement care-free, the couple kept the concrete foundation as the flooring material. After it was scored into 3-foot sections, they applied an acid stain and wax so that, according to Diana, the concrete “looked just like marble.” Like marble, visiting grandkids and water leak alike are no match for the hardy floor.

A 4-post bed, along with white bedding and drywall, give the master bedroom an airy, luxurious feel.

A piece of wood cut from a honey locust tree serves as a sink basin in the guest bathroom. Robert and a friend cut the 36-inch slab of wood, but passed it on to a team of local woodworkers to mill and smooth it. Diana then topped the eye-catching piece with a standing bowl sink from Pottery Barn.

The Carlisles’ two sons got in on the do-it-yourself fun by making two beds for the grandkids’ bunkroom. With a double mattress on the bottom, the room can sleep six.