By Josh Beasley, Honest Abe Living
Though newlyweds, Nick and April Patterson’s story began long before they knew one another, in fact, before either were born.
April is the daughter of Janie and late father Doug Smith, who founded Honest Abe Log Homes over 30 years ago. Their family has deep roots in the local community of Moss, Tenn., in which Honest Abe is based. Doug’s father, Lemuel, farmed, ran a small sawmill and was a skilled blacksmith. Doug, who left the community for several years to obtain a degree in engineering and serve in the armed forces, eventually returned to start several successful wood related businesses.
Nick was raised on his family’s farm, now in its fourth generation, and is a graduate of Auburn University.
These days April and Nick are continually involved in the day-to-day operations of those companies, including Honest Abe.
Nick, or should we say Dr. Patterson, is a veterinarian and stays busy in the rural farming community. April manages more than a few of the family’s several business ventures. The couple met through a bit of tragedy as April, who’s a self-professed animal lover, brought her puppy, Roscoe, to the vet clinic he was injured.
April recalls walking into the veterinarian’s clinic for the first time.
“Nick dropped a whole tray of medicine when we came in,” she said. “It was so funny and something I’ll never forget.”
After treating Roscoe, Nick scheduled them for a follow-up just a couple of days later. Soon, Nick had April and Roscoe appearing for check up appointments every few days.
“He even took my phone number off of the chart and started calling me directly to ask how Roscoe was doing,” laughed April.
Of course, Nick now admits that it was all just a ploy to see April again and again.
“One day it just occurred to me that we were spending more time socializing and Nick wasn’t paying much attention to Roscoe at all, plus, I wasn’t getting billed for any of it,” April said with a big smile on her face.
From there, the couple started seeing more of one another, outside of the vet office, of course, and as they say, “The rest is history!”
As already been alluded to, history would, in fact, play a big part in the couple’s plans after their engagement. They needed a home of their own, and there wasn’t a lot of time to plan. Their building site would be the location of her grandfather Lemuel’s old wood-sided farmhouse, where her dad had grown up. The quaint country home had been destroyed in a fire several years before, and the property had seemed barren to the family ever since.
“So many important things happened there,” noted April. “It was there that Dad and my grandfather came up with the idea to build Mom and Dad a log home on adjoining property.”
That home was the first, one that propelled Honest Abe Log Homes into existence, and one in which Janie resided until very recently.
“My grandpa built the home and worked it’s land, my father grew up there, and my brother and his wife lived in the home before building their Honest Abe log home. So, it just seemed like the natural place for Nick and me to start out.”
With their building location decided upon, the couple realized they had many options of what and how to build. April grew up in her parent’s log home, and they passed down their passion to her. Yet, she also wanted what they built to honor that simple country farmhouse that was so iconic to the family.
Nick had similar roots. His family farm was given to his great grandfather after the depression. At that time, he worked the land for no pay, for the promise that he would be rewarded with 80 acres once the depression lifted.
“There was a two-room log cabin on the property that was my great grandfather’s,” Nick said. “I just grew up with an admiration of log cabins. If two rooms was good enough for them, then we can get by without building something extravagant.”
They chose to build a modest home with a very traditional log cabin look on the exterior, while incorporating a mixture of wood and sheetrock on the interior. Their home was to be a bit of a hybrid, a mixture of a log cabin and country farmhouse.
April and Nick decided on an overall size and some of their desired features, then handed the design and layout over to Honest Abe. Once the initial plans were in place, the couple made a few minor adjustments, then set out on building their both a practical and thrifty log home.
“One day, when we are ready, and if we continue to be blessed with the ability to do so, we want to build a larger home that we design specifically around our family,” said April. “It just wasn’t time to do that with our first home. We could have done more, but we needed something simple and practical to start out our lives together with.”
At a modest but roomy 1,440 square feet, the home’s open layout grants the feel of a much larger residence. The décor, done by Nick’s mother, Cindy, April, her mother and Aunt Mary, is welcoming and infuses rural country charm to their interior.
An abundance of antique crates, tins and other items, most of which her father Doug had collected over the years, are arranged throughout the home adding character and color. One of April’s favorite items is a jelly cabinet made out of old barn wood for her by Nick’s mom, Cindy. The importance of the couple’s faith is also evident through the imagery and scripture found throughout the home.
“The kitchen is one of my favorite places,” said April, who spent a great deal of time this past summer canning vegetables from their garden and jellies from her mother’s fruit trees. “We didn’t waste anything. If we didn’t eat it, I found a way to can it. We have three varieties of pickles, okra, tomatoes and other vegetables. I love making jelly, so we have plenty of apple jelly for the coming winter.”
Another area the couple enjoys is the back porch. While the home features a wrap-around porch, the rear porch of the home offers some privacy and also faces an old barn that now serves as a chicken coop.
“Dad helped my grandfather build that barn,” April commented. “Grandpa used it as his blacksmith shop, but we now use a portion of it for our chickens. I love sitting out there in my swing and just watching the chickens pick through the yard. It’s a good time to relax.”
Having more than a few chickens, the couple also produce their own eggs and sell the excess locally for one dollar per dozen. While many might think thriftiness is rare, it’s not completely lost, and the Patterson’s are great examples.
One of the few “must have” items on their list was a sizable walk-in closet that measures 10 ½ by 8 ½ feet. Overall, the home incorporates two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, an open kitchen, dining and living area, office nook and finally their utility room.
“There’s no wasted space in the home,” says Mike Hix, designer for Honest Abe who helped April and Nick with their home. “That’s something more and more clients want today, to make better use of their space and eliminate excess in general. It’s a challenge, but it is also fun and uniquely rewarding.”
The couple had a goal to show others their age (at the time of construction, their mid-20s) wanting a log cabin that it can be done and without incurring incredible debt or living beyond their means.
“By keeping to a traditional shape and design, the home’s corners are held to the minimum of four, which greatly reduces the cost of building over more trendy designs,” Mike further explained.
Overall, Nick and April built what they wanted and needed, encompassed in less than 1,500 square feet of living area. Their project was less about it being an economical building project, and more about establishing a lifestyle together to be practical and thrifty. Their log cabin and country home surely honors their pasts and will be the perfect nesting place as the couple’s love for one another continues to grow.