A Log Cabin for Favorite Things and People
North Carolina homeowners Watt and Debbie Smith built the lakeside home of their dreams right in the middle of a global pandemic. Honest Abe interviewed the Smiths about their experience, and the Smiths shared photos of their home under construction and how they’ve finished it out with their favorite things for their favorite people to enjoy.
HA: Tell us about yourselves.
Debbie & Watt: Both of us are nearing retirement age. We have two adult children and three grandchildren. We wanted to retire in a slower paced environment and have a place that the kids and grandkids would enjoy coming to and be able to spend some quality time here. And we have discovered that both of us enjoy kayaking.
HA: Why did you choose a log home over a conventional home?
Debbie & Watt: Looks – Watt really liked seeing all the wood – walls, ceilings, floors, etc.
HA: What dealer did you work with and how did you find them?
Debbie & Watt: Darlene and Rodger Dawson of Bear’s Den Log Homes – found through an internet search on log home builders. Over the course of about a year, we researched and looked at and visited four home builders. We eliminated two builders quickly because we didn’t like their log components or they didn’t specialize in log homes. We chose Bear’s Den/Honest Abe over the other log home builder because of their personal touch. Also, with Bear’s Den, we didn’t have to search for a contractor. They already had a trusted contractor, and after our first meeting, we felt like part of their family and they understood us and our desires in a home. We visited Honest Abe in Tennessee and toured the plant. We came away SO IMPRESSED with the company.
HA: How did you develop the perfect plan?
Debbie & Watt: We actually started with a plan from another builder, we tweaked it several times to get the rooms we wanted. We were surprised that during the design phase, some details were very important to Watt (& not for Debbie) and some were very important to Debbie (and not for Watt). We don’t remember any disagreements on these details.
Is there anything special about the location of the home? If so, share what it is and why you decided to create your home there.
HA: Discuss any design choices you made to accommodate specific pieces of furniture, collectibles or personal hobbies, etc.
Debbie & Watt: We wanted to build on a lake, but not the very busy lakes around Charlotte. Lake Rhodhiss is a very quiet and peaceful lake – perfect for an afternoon of kayaking. Also, wanted to be close to parents & children. We are only 1 to 1.5 hours from all of our family.
We extended the back of the house about two feet to accommodate my parent’s dining room set. When we moved, we traded dining room sets with my parents. It was very important to us that we be able to have family dinners with everyone sitting comfortably at the same table. We can now seat 14 at our table. We love entertaining, especially with all of our family. Debbie also wanted to be able to display most of her grandmother’s handmade quilts, one of which Debbie’s father helped her make when he was young.
Watt wanted a large workshop which he did not have in our old house.
We also wanted a lot of storage space.
HA: What is your own and/or your family’s favorite thing about your new home and why?
Debbie & Watt:
Debbie’ mother – the back deck
Debbie – Dining room with the large table & Maintenance room (so I never have to climb in the
Watt – Huge workshop
Grandkids – the Bat Cave & bunk beds
Most visitors to our home say they LOVE the floors. We found the hardwood floors at a home
show about two years before we needed them.
I would not build again, but if I did, I would definitely choose Bear’s Den/Honest Abe. They were all great to work with.
HA: Do you have any advice for others wishing to build a log or timber home?
Debbie & Watt:
- Go see some log homes in various stages of completion, this really helped us.
- Take pictures all throughout the process, I made a photo book of the building process, which we treasure.
- Check on the progress often & ask questions.
- Get to know your construction crew, they are building your forever home. We brought breakfast to them and a hot lunch another time.
- Watch the logs being placed, that was so fun & interesting.
- Expect delays
Note to self – don’t build during a pandemic 😊 or an extremely rainy year. Our experience with construction contractor and dealer was great. I sent them so many emails with questions after our weekly visits and these were all answered and explained. The weather was horrible during our construction, probably the rainiest season ever. This caused soo many problems – a truck & a tow truck even got stuck in the mud in our driveway.
It was suggested to design the house with few hallways, since that’s really wasted space. To get the rooms we wanted & the placement of those rooms, we ended up with a lot of hallways, but have decided that’s a good thing – we’ve had plenty of space to hang family photos, mementos and quilts. The first time our grandchildren came to visit, our granddaughter was roaming around downstairs and I heard “Grammy, help! How do I get out of here???” She couldn’t remember where the hallway went to get back upstairs. 😊
Watt & Debbie Smith, Granite Falls, NC
Total Square footage: 3,368
- Main Level: 1,699
- Basement Level: 1,669
- Garage: 576
- Deck/Porch: 404
Year Completed: 2020
Log Profile Type: 8×12 D-Log
Roof System Type: Conventional
HA: What are the most outstanding features of your home?
Debbie & Watt:
➢ Large kitchen with a fan in it – to cool it off when I’m making jellies, etc. Many people have
thought that small fan was odd – in a kitchen, but it is great when the kitchen gets so hot from baking and cooking.
➢ Dining room – large enough for the entire family.
➢ Mahogany railings – Watt had been given about 100 mahogany posts many, many years ago from a relative in the lumber business who was retiring. They sat in the rafters of the shed at our old home a LONG time. We really wanted to be able to use them in this new home. The first time we saw them as the railings in our living room above the stairs, we were amazed at how awesome they looked. Watt has also made many shelves with this mahogany, which complement the railings.
➢ The mantel – Watt & Debbie’s father made it from leftover logs from building the cabin.
➢ Wall of windows and 16’ ceiling in the living room. So much natural light comes in, and you see so much of the trees in the back yard.
➢ Firewood box – Watt wanted a way to keep more firewood in the house, since we have a wood burning fireplace that heats much of the house so well & we enjoy having a fire often.
➢ Deck overlooking the lake (Debbie’s mother says this is her favorite “room”). It is so peaceful out there. This was extended about 2’ during the design phase.
➢ The “Bat Cave” – this was an “after thought” – added after we saw other homes built by our dealer and contractor. The space under the stairs was a perfect place for the grandkid’s toys and books. The first time our son saw it during construction, he told our middle grandson (who LOVES Batman & is “Baby Batman”), it was the Bat Cave – the name has stuck.
➢ A window in the shower – Watt is tall and wanted to be able to see outside while in the shower. And we have no immediate neighbors (and may never 😊 ), so he sees a forest outside.
➢ Large downstairs patio – to accommodate a very large picnic table from an old family home.
➢ “Dead space shelves” – the shelves for photo albums & family photos above the intake event, which would have been dead (unused) space
Many of the Smith’s favorite things and special home features are shown in the photos below. Click any photo to launch the slideshow.
HA: Final thoughts?
Debbie & Watt: During the construction, about a year before we actually finished and were able to move in (the roof was on, all the studs were in, the subfloor was in), we blessed the home. We invited 6 family & friends to join us in this. One of our pastors wrote a special blessing for the home and we invited everyone to write special messages and Bible verses on the studs. I have pictures of all of these. They are very special. In the maintenance room, I can still see one of the messages on an unfinished wall.
So much of this home tells a story of our family.
- A wall of old family cameras with old family pictures, all sitting on mahogany shelves made by Watt. And above an antique roll top desk used by Watt’s grandfather.
- Rowing photos of Watt and our son & a Clemson rowing oar supported on the wall with shelves made by Watt
- four generation photos of Watt’s family – one taken when he was about 7, one when he was 60
- Quilts made by my grandmother, along with her ironing board & iron
- A wall of Baby Bibs & cross-stitch birth announcements of our children
- A wall of Chronological Pictures of our children – birth to adulthood
- A spoon rack with spoons of many of our travels
- A chair for “Mrs. Debbie” given by a former student
- Marathon & race medals proudly displayed in Watt’s office
- A hat tree made by Watt’s father & used for a bathroom towel hanger
- Watt’s grandmother’s copper teapot displayed in the kitchen