A Second Log Home for True Enthusiasts
Interview by Claudia Johnson, Honest Abe Log Homes
Honest Abe homeowners Jerry and LeeAnne Apple are enjoying their new log cabin on their property near Westmorland, Tennessee, the 10.5-room D-log house boasts a spacious 1,176 square feet on the main floor and 725 on the upper level, all covered by a heavy timber roof system. The garage is 725 square feet, and 1,216 square feet of porches extends the living space to the outdoors. The Apples love their log home so much that they are adding a 650-square-foot home called Hunter’s House with a 650-square-foot garage during the summer of 2019.
In a candid interview with Honest Abe Log Homes, Jerry and LeeAnne discussed their experience in designing and building their second Honest Abe Log Home. They also shared their personal family story and explained how it influenced the home’s design.
Honest Abe: How did you come to choose a log home over a conventional home?
LeeAnne: This home is our 2nd Honest Abe home. We originally built a long home in Springfield, Tennessee, in 2003 and then made an addition to that plan in 2009. That home had more than 3,300 square feet. In 2015, upon Jerry’s impending retirement, we sold that home and bought land in Westmoreland, Tennessee, to downsize. We again chose to build an Honest Abe Home. We love the feel of a log home. We like that we have something very few people around us have, so that makes it unique. Everyone who walks in our home says, “I have always wanted a log home. I love it.” That was us prior to our first home, so we just decided if that is what we love, then that is what we should make happen!
Honest Abe: Was it a standard plan or a custom plan? What plan if standard? If custom, tell me about how the plan came to be.
Jerry: This plan is the Westfield plan that we modified for our needs. We chose this plan due to our love of the outside space on the porch. We also learned with our last log home that the covered porches are great protectors of the logs, and the look of the logs is important to us. We also liked the idea of a loft area, and we felt we could modify this plan best to fit our needs as we downsized.
Honest Abe: Is there anything special about the location of the home? If so, explain.
LeeAnne: We have always lived away from the city. We had nine acres at our last home. This time we wanted a smaller lot, but we still wanted privacy and land. Price was a factor too since we didn’t want to be land poor. We also have a child with a disability, so we were trying to stay somewhat close to the interstate (doctor appointments), but the more we looked in that general vicinity we couldn’t find the exact spot. The first time we saw this spot, we both felt an instant connection.
It has turned out to be a great place, even though we do have to travel a few miles to get to things. The neighbors are wonderful, and we love the spot we are located on. Most of the time when we are out in Westmoreland, people ask us where we live. We say we have a log home on Dutch Creek, and everyone knows exactly where we are talking about. “The log home on the hill!” They tell us they are so interested in the house, and they love it. In fact, when we were building this home, we had people coming up all the time to look at it and ask us questions about the log process.
Honest Abe: What is our favorite thing about your new home and why?
Jerry: The porches. I love sitting out there at all the different places. It is awesome and probably one of the most talked about features that people mention. We have about as much porch as we do house.
LeeAnne: The loft area. It is just a very cozy area where you can get away put not in a confine space. It is where the grandbabies stay when they come, and they seem to really like this area. When the weather is nice, I also really enjoy the porches.
Honest Abe:Are there any particularly outstanding features?
LeeAnne: The porch. We also really like the fireplace and how that turned out. Honestly, we think it is all outstanding!
Honest Abe: Why did you choose Honest Abe Log homes?
Jerry: In 2001 we looked all around. We visited different log home companies, went to log home shows, etc. We liked talking and working with Honest Abe. We also liked that they were so close to us, so we could drive to Moss if we needed. They have been outstanding to work with. When we chose to build again, there wasn’t a choice. We went back to what we knew worked. We recommend them to anyone that is looking to build a log home. Our Honest Abe Sales Representative, Inez Price, has been fabulous. She answers all our questions, always quick in answering emails and phone calls. She’s made sure we were completely satisfied and seems as excited as we are about the home.
Honest Abe: How was your construction experience?
Jerry: Wonderful. The first home and addition were constructed by Joe Isenberg. He and his crew were wonderful to work with. He made sure everything was the way we wanted. I can remember one time that we had in our mind how a major window was going to look, and it was something different on the plan. When he discovered the difference, he called Honest Abe home office and they made sure it worked the way we thought it was going to work. Joe also came one weekend on his time off to help understand how to navigate some of the unique angles that were in that home. They were always there when they said they would be, they cleaned up after themselves and always took time to answer our questions and make sure we were pleased with what was occurring.
When we built in 2016, Joe had just retired. Inez knew we think a lot of the builder, so she assigned us James Tucker. James and his crew built our current home and we have requested him back for the addition. They were also great to work with for many of the same reasons. In addition, James added a couple of extra touches that we have really enjoyed. He also made sure we were happy with the outcome and his wife was always in touch organizing and helping us. As another example, there was an issue with the dining room window arriving as the wrong size that was made in the log wall. She worked with the home office and once again, Honest Abe made it right.
Both Builders were always professional, and we were completely satisfied with their work.
Honest Abe: How did you settle upon the final design, your choice of log style and other technical specifics?
Jerry: Honestly, we went back to what we loved in our original log home. The D-log fit us best in the interior because we were able to hang pictures, etc easily. We also wanted to add some color, so that is why we chose to use sheet-rock on some interior walls.
LeaAnne: In all our homes that we have built, we have completed most of the interior/porch work. About the only thing we haven’t done is the electrical, plumbing, sheetrock and kitchen cabinets. Other than that – we did the work. We have taken a lot of pride in what we have been able to accomplish together. Our home tends to be our hobby.
Jerry and LeeAnne provided details about some of the changes they made to achieve their downsizing as well as to take advantage of what they learned from their first log home building experience. Below is their list.
- We made the living and dining area all log – even on interior non-log walls. We also made the bottom portion of the steps’ wall from log, because we felt this was a good look as you first walk into the home. When we did our addition (2009) in our older home, we had made all those walls all logs and enjoyed the difference in the look. We decided to do this again in this room.
- In the upstairs bathroom we decided to use all sheet-rock and moved the logs we would have used in there to the loft area so it all matched the downstairs area it was open too.
- We bought the log railing that Honest Abe has for the loft area because we liked the heavy log look it has and it is great to look at from up and downstairs.
- Stain colors – from previous home we wanted to be lighter on inside and outside. We also learned that stain does darken as the years go on, so we started very light. An interesting thing to note is that the actual log walls next to the log walls we installed were the same stain, but it looked like a different color when we finished. As time has gone on – they almost match. Same outside. The ceilings of the porch were not stained but the other parts were. They all look alike now.
- Floors: We started in the last house with tile, wood and carpet. By the time we left we had only tile and wood. So that choice was easy. We stayed with wood and tile. With the wood we wanted a light floor to hide dirt more because you see everything with dark. The hickory floor had the different shades in our wood stain, so it worked well.
- Kitchen cabinets: In our last log home we went a bit fancier with the cabinets. We really wanted to make this home have more of a cabin feel so we went with less decorative (Shaker style this time). We used a darker stain that seemed to match well with the hickory.
- Two exterior changes we made to plan. Instead of having the laundry walkway to the garage we deleted that and decided to go with the garage under the house due to the slope of the land. It seemed to work well.
- Wrap around porch: We bought a hot tub for the porch. It ended up being so big we couldn’t walk around the tub – which blocked the walk-around porch. Therefore, we added about 8 feet to the side porch, so you could walk around the hot tub. We added this after construction – the next summer.
- We moved the outside stairs to one end of the house (instead of the middle of the front porch) and put two steps of stairs in. We did this because the slope of the land was not as much at the top corner . We planned our sidewalks around this and it has worked well for us.
- Exterior features: In our former home we had actual rock all around the house, on the front porch and in the fireplaces. We liked this feature. Since the home is above the ground we felt that we needed rock around this home too but to cut down on the expense we added the engineered rock to a large portion of the outside (that you see) and added this rock to the fireplace wall too.
Honest Abe: Were there any design choices you made to accommodate specific pieces of furniture, collectibles or personal hobbies, etc?
Jerry: The biggest thing we planned around was a baby grand piano. LeeAnne’s mother was an exceptional musician and this was her piano. When she passed away in 2013, this was her gift to LeeAnne. Since that was such a big piece of her childhood/life, we decided to keep the piano which meant that it would have to fit in the living room area. Due to that we made the choice to have the fireplace on the wall of the steps. We also decided to use the fireplace as a “statement” with the rock going up all the way to the ceiling. This also closed the stairwell up a bit which we liked.
LeeAnne: Our last home was completely open with the kitchen, original dining area and the living room. I liked it a lot but found that I didn’t like that anyone entering my home had total view of my (not always clean) kitchen. Therefore, we decided to build the partial wall that the TV is on as you enter the home, so the kitchen is open to the dining area but not as much to the living area.
Jerry: Our home is a bit unusual with Chinese furniture and pictures. LeeAnne’s grandparents were missionaries to China and her mother was born there. Therefore, we have a lot of family heirlooms in the home. Even though you don’t typically see Chinese items in log homes – we think it works well in our home. Another piece of family history is the sign one the side porch – “Whippoorwill Lodge.” We are the 3rd generation to have this sign on our home and it has been on both of our log homes.
LeeAnne: When we do the addition, one thing we will add is another garage for Hunter’s car and then on the other side of the garage we are making a “shop” area for Jerry to work in. He and Hunter like to restore items (such as the fireplace mantel in her bedroom). This will be their work area.
Jerry: We decided to make the main master bedroom upstairs due to additional privacy/size it would give. This meant that we could use the loft area as a “sitting” area. We also decided to use the “closet” on the second level as an office area which all seemed to work best with the main master on the 2nd floor.
Honest Abe: Would you do this again?
LeeAnne: We have done it again. In fact, we are going to make an addition on this home this year. This will be our 4th time working with Honest Abe. We have a child with a disability that is 21. We have decided to build a garage apartment for her so that she can live near us but be somewhat independent. This way we also have the main home to ourselves which is what we planned for. We are in the process of getting variance approval from the county government. We have already worked with Inez to start our plans for the addition. We hope to start in the spring or summer 2019.
Meet the Homeowners
Jerry Apple was born and raised in Lebanon, Tennessee. He graduated from MTSU with a History Teaching degree and then received his master’s degree from MTSU in Administration. He taught at Gallatin Middle School from Jan. 1976-July 1992. He became assistant principal at GMS in August 1992. He remained AP until he became principal in 1997. He opened the new Gallatin Middle (now named Shafer Middle) in Gallatin and then was asked to go to White House Middle School as principal where he remained until his retirement in 2016. Over 40 years in education!
LeeAnne was born and raised in Columbia, S.C. She graduated from Furman University with a Teaching Degree in Special Education and received her master’s degree in Education from Cumberland University. She taught in SC and then moved to Washington state where she remained until coming to Tennessee in 1991. She taught SPED until 2000. In 2000 she became a Behavior Consultant for Sumner County Schools. She remained in that position until she became a Special Education Coordinator in October 2009. She remains in that position currently. Her plan is to retire in the year 2021.
Jerry: When we married, LeeAnne had a child from a previous marriage, Hannah, who is now 28 years old. Hannah is a graduate of White House High School and Western Kentucky University. Hannah lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and is a SPED teacher in Oldham County Schools. She is currently working on her master’s degree to become certified as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst. (BCBA). Hannah has two children – Lucas (8) and Gabby (6). When Hannah got married, she and LeeAnne searched for a venue. In the end, they decided that our home was the best place for the wedding. Hanna was married on the front steps to the home and the house accommodated more 150 guests perfectly.
LeeAnne: Jerry and I adopted Hunter from birth in 1997. She is now 21. She graduated from White House High School. She still lives at home and is attending Volunteer State Community College. She lives with Autism, anxiety and Bi-Polar disorder, so we are working at a slow and steady pace for her success. She is very excited about what we lovingly refer to as Hunter’s House, the new addition. She has definite ideas about how it should look! She really doesn’t remember living in anything other than a log home since she was 6 when we moved into our first one. Her favorite look is the log with chinking and will probably have a log or two inside that have this look in Hunter’s house.
Jerry and LeeAnne are celebrating 25 years of marriage this year.
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