By Katherine Joyce, Honest Abe log home owner

Keith and Katherine Joyce of Apex, N. C., began their journey to build their dream log home more than 25 years ago when they first met at UNC-Chapel Hill and then married in 1986. Keith already had a strong love for bass fishing, and therefore a strong desire to live near the water, and he already had a log home in mind.  Katherine had developed a love for log homes while growing up in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains. She was now just a stone’s throw away from the Blue Ridge Parkway, where beautiful log homes dot the landscape and appealed to her as a child.

Finishing their education, working on their careers and then having their son, Kyle, all kept the log home in the dream phase for the Joyces until they found and purchased an ideal lakefront lot on Lake Gaston in Bracey, Va., in June 2005. The lot already had an aging modular home in place, but the Joyces looked past that structure to envision the perfect spot for their dream log home with a wall of glass for looking out at the beautiful lake nearby. They soon turned their original Lake Gaston house into their weekend get-away and central location for log home planning. The Joyces began going to log home shows, digging through log home magazines, surfing the Internet and doing everything possible to learn all about log homes and making them a reality. They visited many different log home dealerships, talked to several builders, and toured log homes that were both in progress and completed.

In the summer of 2009, the Joyces connected with local builder Keith Carter, who lived just a couple of miles away in a neighboring subdivision. They had viewed some of his projects, and were especially impressed with his previous work with log home building through an Honest Abe dealership near Lake Gaston.  Carter helped the Joyces begin refining the plans for the layout of their log home.  They started with a stock plan in the Honest Abe catalog and began tweaking it to meet their specific needs.  They ultimately decided to purchase their log home kit through Honest Abe after going with Carter to visit the log home of Jay Gittman and Carol Murley, who operate Log Homes of Southern Virginia, an Independent Dealership of Honest Abe Log Homes.

The look and feel of Gittman and Murley’s home was a good fit for the concepts the Joyces had in mind for their own log structure, and the décor helped them see what they could do with the finished product. Soon thereafter, the Joyces donated the original home from their Lake Gaston lot to a nearby Habitat for Humanity, and had it removed from the property in September. Then on October 10th, a large crane drove onto the property for the first phase of building, setting the Superior Walls for the log home’s basement.

The Joyces live an hour and a half away from their Lake Gaston property, but visited once or twice weekly throughout the construction and talked to their builder numerous times each week. They watched and photographed every phase of the construction, and were astounded to witness their dream home really coming to life.  Since the Joyces plan to retire in this home, they made sure that their main floor would have everything they will need in later years when they may not be able to climb up and down the beautiful half-log open stair treads that help give the home its open feel from top to bottom. They adjusted the kitchen design to incorporate an island and a larger pantry and then added a jut-out laundry room off the kitchen that will serve as a future connector to a garage they hope to add in a few years.  Their master suite is on the main floor and was altered to accommodate a walk-in “power shower” in the bathroom as well as an enlarged walk-in closet that was accomplished by eliminating the access door from the bedroom and having the closet accessible only through the master bath. That simple change added more wall space in the master bedroom as well as storage space in the closet.

Other unique features are scattered throughout the home to reveal the Joyces’ personalities, style and love for the outdoors.  They found a local artist who specializes in chain saw carvings and took a chance on having him come into the home and work his magic on the stair banisters and support posts. His carvings feature squirrels, bears and a bass, but Katherine’s favorite is a raccoon that appears to be climbing through a tree, with its face visible on one side of the log post and its tail visible on the other.

Keith brainstormed and helped design a wrought iron insert that adorns the loft banisters overlooking the great room. The scene features some fishermen landing a bass in the lake, while a deer watches from the nearby shore.  He also helped a graphic artist create a similar scene for clear decals that cover the glass in the home’s front door and sidelights, thereby giving the impression that the design is etched into the glass.

The Joyces were heavily involved in every step of the process, from the design to the finishing touches that included selecting paint colors, flooring, granite for counter tops and even wooden outlet covers. They enjoyed shopping for their décor and found many special touches on the Web, including the antler chandelier that is a centerpiece in their great room.  They filled their Apex garage with their “log home treasures” during the building phase and spent several hours working to enhance some of those, such as the log bedroom furnishings they found through Craigslist.com that they refinished themselves.

Keith and his brother-in-law Phillip Bowen used some of the left-over log pieces to build a bar that is the centerpiece of the game room in the basement. Katherine shopped for the home’s final touches that give it a warm, inviting feeling and include several great bargains she found at a second-hand furniture store and others that are family treasures.

The Joyces moved into their dream log home in June 2010 and spent a couple of back-breaking weeks doing their own landscaping and sod installation in the hot summer heat. Their talented friend, Doug Washburn, completed the landscaping by installing a much-needed irrigation system and laying hand-cut flagstone walkways that match the rocks covering the log home’s foundation.

This summer, the Joyces are happy they can sit back, relax and really enjoy the beauty of Lake Gaston in their own Honest Abe log home, where their dream has become a reality.

For a look at the custom plan click here.

Editor’s Note: Jay Gittman & Carol Murley of Log Homes of Southern Virginia contributed to the content of this story.