A Childhood Memory Becomes Rural Illinois Lodge


By Claudia Johnson, Honest Abe Log Homes

“As a child and teen, each summer I attended church camp at a nearby rustic lodge,” said Heritage Lodge owner Jill Peter. “That experience translated to the desire for the rustic look and feel of a log lodge of my own. And I knew I didn’t want to build just any house on my farm.”

As a longtime subscriber to log home magazines, Jill knew what she wanted her lodge to look like. She even had specific ideas about the floor plan. She just wasn’t sure who was going to help translate her childhood memories into the structure of her dreams until she met Honest Abe Log Home Dealers Mike and Tonia Coulter, owners of T&M Log Homes, at a 2015 log home show in Kansas City, Missouri.
“My son and I talked to several dealers about logs, plans, building systems, etc., but Mike and Tonia seemed to know just what we wanted, and we felt an instant connection to them,” Jill recalled. “Then we discovered that Tonia’s family and our family are in the same business, and my husband, Mark, knows her family well.”

Jill said the Coulters were “great to work with,” and it wasn’t long until they helped Jill customize Honest Abe’s Bellewood plan into a 3,750 two-story house with a full finished basement.

“Some modifications to the Bellewood included shed dormers, a wrap around porch and the angled 1,000-square-foot garage attached to the house by a laundry room,” Jill said, adding that because the lodge would be available to rent for overnight lodging, a bathroom was added to each of the five bedrooms.

To make the lodge even more inviting to guests, the main floor has an open floor plan, three of the bathrooms have walk-in showers, and the 1,016-square-foot upstairs loft features a roomy reading and conversation area with virtually unobstructed views of the Illinois countryside.

“The basement is 1,489 square feet and could function as a stand alone apartment with two bedrooms and baths, a mini kitchen, living area and access to the walk out,” Jill said. “The two-bedroom, one-bath apartment over the 1000-square-foot garage creates three separate living areas.”

The choice to use full logs was what Jill calls a ‘heart’ decision because she wanted “true log home.” She explained that she chose D logs for simplification of decoration and trim work and made the unconventional decision to use dovetail corners on round logs. Another unusual but stunning choice was the round log beams of the heavy timber roof system.

“I wanted to make the lodge feel very different from our personal home, which is somewhat country and filled with antiques,” she said. “All of the interior is wood, no dry wall, so, to break that up, I have green kitchen cabinets and brightly colored dishes.

She selected Mission-style doors and light fixtures and square black spindles on the stair and deck rails. The sidewalks, deck and walk out are all stamped concrete.

“The lodge is located on my farm, which had previously been my grandfather’s, then my father’s,” Jill said. “It overlooks Bear Creek and is on approximately 300 acres of farm land. Most evenings, deer can be seen feeding in the fields.”
The most striking feature, aside from the wall of windows showcasing the view, are the three trees supporting the loft inside and the 18 trees supporting the porch outside, most with root flares.

“These trees were all planted by my father 60 years ago as future Christmas trees,” Jill said. “I have fond memories of selling those trees out of our garage. Those trees are now 40+ feet tall. A friend with a trackhoe pushed them out of the ground. Several of us used draw knives to peel the bark away.”

The memory that became Heritage Lodge brought friends, family and colleagues together during construction, which was completed last year.

“Many of our son’s business clients and friends are in some branch of the construction trades, so we had several wonderful and skilled people do much of the work,” Jill recalled. “We did much of the finish work ourselves, with the help of friends, from varnishing every interior surface to placing the stone on the fireplace and kitchen island. My 88-year-old mother even got involved with the varnishing.”

When the lodge is not rented out to families, hunting parties and other vacationers, Jill and her family are there entertaining or relaxing. And finally, Jill has satisfied that childhood desire for a lodge of her own.

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