Bringing Back Christmas
Honest Abe homeowner Michelle Etheridge found healing and joy in her new log home built on Revolutionary War grant land in the Tennessee highlands
By Claudia Johnson, Log Home Living Magazine, December 2018
Photography by Brandon Malone Photography
Some happy endings are bittersweet. That’s certainly so for Michelle Etheridge, an Honest Abe homeowner who planned for decades with her late husband, Randy Hedges, for their forever home only to lose him suddenly in January 2014 just as the home had been ordered.
“The people at Honest Abe Log Homes were patient and supportive until I was ready to build,” Michelle recalls, adding that her two grown sons encouraged her to move forward with the project because their father would have wanted it that way.
“This is the home I had envisioned,” Michelle says of the 2,750-square-foot house located on Tennessee’s northeastern Highland Rim.
Local contractor Joe Isenberg built the dovetailed, square log home on the exact spot where her great-great-grandfather was born on Revolutionary War land grant property that’s been in her family for around 200 years.
“My parents live at the end of this road, and my sons, daughter-in-law and grandchildren visit often,” Michelle says. “I love my log home because it is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. It is roomy, yet cozy. It is without a doubt the sturdiest well-built home in the area. I hope it lasts for many generations.”
From the beginning Michelle was determined the home would be a special retreat for her grandchildren, who were 7, 6 and 2 in July 2015 when she moved in.
“Each December I turned it into a Christmas house for them,” she says, admitting that decorating was accomplished with a heavy heart those first two years.
Then, during the Christmas season of 2017 something magical happened.
“The heart heals, and I had a new man in my life,” Michelle says. “Inspired by nature and a new relationship, I was really ready to decorate.”
Apparently, Rick Etheridge, who became Michelle’s husband in autumn 2019, was the perfect partner for decking the halls.
“He’s quite creative and an artisan, too,” Michelle says admiringly. “Instead of spending a lot of money on decorations, we recreated ideas we’d seen and even came up with a few new ones.”
Ethridge upcycled wooden pallets into Christmas Trees, snowmen and greetings for the front porch and lawn and used vintage tobacco sticks to frame colorful Christmas gift bags as art for the clear finished log walls.
The pair used ribbons and greenery to craft the dining room light fixture into a festive bell. They wove fresh pine and cedar into swags, wreaths and garlands accented with treasured ornaments. They gathered pinecones, branches and dried wild plants from the farm to spray paint.
“Some of them I didn’t even know what they were,” she laughed. “We were bringing back Christmas!”
Trees were decorated, bows were tied and strands of tiny white lights joined flickering pillar candles for soft illumination. Crimson stockings were hung from the mantle and velvety poinsettias accented each room. The house was ready for making new memories while savoring the unforgettable.
“I really wanted to create the kind of Christmas my kids had always enjoyed,” Michelle says. “I think we did that.”
More about the home:
- The 2,750-square-foot Hedges home near Moss, Tennessee, is constructed of 6×12 Eastern White Pine dovetailed square logs.
- Designed and manufactured by Honest Abe Log Homes, it has a full basement, four bedrooms, four bathrooms and a wrap-around porch.
- The open floor plan for the central living space along with Michelle’s choice of natural finish on 6×12 square Eastern white pine interior walls, Douglas fir beams and tongue-and-groove spruce ceilings along with the absence of curtains creates a well-lighted interior in every season.
- The landing serves as an office and sitting room flanked by a full bath, a guest room and the grandchildren’s room.
- The master suite, surrounded by wide, covered porches, features exposed ceiling beams, natural finish square log walls and hardwood floors stained to appear aged. Michelle chose extra-wide doors, a walk-in shower and a bath vanity with seating to make aging in place easier. The bed was crafted by her late husband.
- The Hedges home has four bedrooms, including these two guest rooms that feature beds made by Michelle’s father-in-law. The dormer in the upstairs room creates a small office, while the downstairs guest room overlooks the front porch, Michelle’s parents’ vegetable garden and the path to their home.
- Maple cabinets with granite counters were custom designed and handcrafted by a local cabinet maker. Michelle left the Douglas fir beams exposed to take full advantage of the character of the wood. She’s mixed vintage pieces and accents with family antiques and modern appliances for an eclectic look. There’s an adjacent pantry and utility room, and an additional kitchen is being constructed in the finished basement.
- Spanning a portion of the home’s rear is a screened porch with a cathedral ceiling and wide-plank floors. The comfortable outdoor space connects to covered porches that surround the house on all four sides through ornate screen doors and is cooled by ceiling fans.
- Michelle wanted to evoke the feel of summer camp for her three young grandchildren. The log walls, wood floors and substantial handcrafted furnishings of the grandchildren’s upstairs bedroom (above) provide durability. Safety-locked windows overlook a farm where lifetime memories are made.