From Retreat to Forever

By Claudia Johnson, Honest Abe Log Homes

A small log cabin built as an escape has been transformed into a Tennessee couple’s forever home.

“One of the first places we remember going when we moved to Murfreesboro in 1988 was the Honest Abe model,” Gary Slayden recalled. “I guess we’ve always had a desire and a dream to have a log home.”

In 2006, Gary and wife Suzan purchased 25 acres of oak-studded land west of Murfreesboro, Tenn. By 2009 they had created a pond and cleared some of the land in anticipation of the 1,000 square foot Honest Abe log cabin designed as a retreat for hunting and enjoying time with family and friends.

The original square log, dovetailed cabin featured an open dining room, kitchen and living room with an adjacent bedroom and bath on the first floor and a guest bedroom on a second floor landing.

“The one thing that was most important was the placement of the cabin on the property,” Gary said, explaining how he and Suzan took into consideration the positioning of a driveway, which trees to keep and even where the sun would rise and set.

Suzan admitted that no one would have believed her to be a “country girl,” but she grew up visiting grandparents’ farms, where she had learned to appreciate the outdoors. She and Gary frequently spent weekends at the cabin, and she found she was comfortable there among the abundant deer and wild turkeys, even growing accustomed to the unsettling howls of coyotes.

“In 2014 we sold our home in town and were actually planning to move to another neighborhood, but we loved staying here so much in the small cabin, we chose to add on and move here,” Gary said, calling the 3,200 square foot addition a “labor of love.”

Gary pointed out that because the cabin was extant, there was no “master plan” in determining where the addition would go but they were fortunate to have the space to add on.

“There was really only one place to add on,” Suzan said. “It looks like it was meant to be.”

The Slaydens had worked with longtime Honest Abe Murfreesboro Sales Representative Dan Smith to create the original cabin, so they called on him again to orchestrate the massive addition that quadrupled the home’s size.

“It is very difficult to tell where the original cabin and the new house are connected, “ Dan observed. “It’s probably the best expansion I’ve ever seen in terms of matching wood, color and style.”

A downstairs master bedroom suite opens onto a sunset-facing covered porch. The great room’s vaulted ceiling features a hand-wrought iron chandelier crafted by a Nashville artisan who created the delicate iron leaves and vines entangling the staircase and balcony balustrade.

Tall windows bathe the room in sunshine. The adjacent kitchen/dining are is barrier-free, perfect for a couple as likely to host gatherings for 60 people as they are intimate family dinners.

“We wanted a lot of natural light,” Gary said. “We wanted to be able to see the outdoors from the inside.”

Upstairs there’s another full bath and bedroom. A combination office and den occupies the wide loft, where an east-facing window frames a pond and forest.

Creating an outdoor living space was as important to the Slaydens as designing the perfect interior. Woven into the landscape are structures and features that accommodate their lives. There’s a detached two-car garage with an open covered bay and an enclosed utility area and potting shed.

A pavilion with lighting and three large fans comfortably seats several dozen. A hammock swings between two ancient oaks on the front lawn. Stones from the property were repurposed into a circular fire pit. A double-seated swing is solidly placed on a small peninsula in the pond with fishing rods holstered an arm’s length away.

“We don’t have a wrap-around porch, but we do have four porches,” Gary said.

The outdoor grilling station with easy access to the kitchen is safely situated on the open end of a spacious outdoor room just off the dining room. Appointed with comfortable furniture and a large-screen TV, the Slaydens are cooled by a 72” fan or warmed by a wood-burning fireplace, depending on the season.

“It’s gorgeous out there – the trees, the sounds of the wildlife – gorgeous and peaceful,” Suzan observed.

The Slaydens said the lessons they learned from having built four custom homes helped them create the home they expect to live in forever.

“We finally learned to pay attention to what’s important,” Gary said. “In the past we didn’t pay enough attention to sunsets.”

Hear Slaydens discuss how they designed their home and outdoor spaces here.

See a gallery of photos by Claudia Johnson for Honest Abe here.

Take a drone tour of the Slayden property here.

Read more and see additional photos in Honest Abe Living here.