Smith Mountain Lake Log Home is Perfect for Retired Couple Ready for Fun and Family

Interview by Claudia Johnson, Honest Abe Log Homes’ Director of Marketing

Linda & Chuck Howlett completed their new 10-room Honest Abe log home on Smith Mountain Lake near Union Hall, Virginia, in 2018.

The couple’s careers with the federal government took them all over the world, but Linda retired in 2018 after 36 years of service, and Chuck, who is retired from the Marine Corps and the federal government, finally has time to enjoy one of his hobbies ­– beekeeping. Chuck and Linda have two grown sons, one who is married and expecting the Howletts’ first grandchild.

The Howletts graciously agreed to answer questions about their experience with designing and building their Honest Abe Log Home. They’ve also shared photos taken during construction and over the past few months since they moved into the home, all of which are included in the gallery below.

The Interview

Is there anything special about the location of the home?

When we lived stateside, we enjoyed renting a log cabin near a lake and mountains for family vacations. There was always something for everyone in this type of environment. Both sons enjoy fishing and hunting. Our eldest son would go to Smith Mountain Lake (SML) with his friends for boating and fishing. He would come home and comment how beautiful the area was and how much fun they had during their stay at the lake. When we were seriously looking for a place to retire, we fell in love with the Smith Mountain Lake area. We found a peaceful wooded lot tucked away on the lake and decided what a perfect place to be our log home. The rural area has beautiful mountains and lake views. The sunsets are stunning!

How did you come to choose a log home over a conventional home?

Having moved every 2-4 years with our jobs, we lived in many places and in many homes. We had always envisioned how nice it would be having a log home located either in the mountains or on a lake when we retired. Here at Smith Mountain Lake we are blessed with both!  A log home is always something people dream about. We were able to make our dream come true and build our forever home. We hope our children will keep it after we are long gone as a place to come, relax and recharge. It’s a place where family and friends can gather and enjoy what we call a little bit of heaven!

Tell us about your floor plan.

We looked at several different floor plans and liked the layout of the Madison. We had the opportunity to observe a Madison home being built from the ground up, and we liked the general floor plan. We tweaked the 1,450’ main floor plan changing a bedroom into a dining and kitchen area. We also added a mud room off of the great room. A 1,450’ walkout basement/rec room was added to the floor plan which included two bedrooms, a full bath, and two storage rooms. We added a covered breezeway connecting the 500’ two-car garage to the house. The house has a great room, kitchen, dining room, 2.5 bathrooms, mud room, three bedrooms, full walk-out basement/rec room and two storage rooms.

How did you settle upon the final design, your choice of log style and other technical specifics?

The 8″ D-log style log always appealed to us. The style we chose was the 8×8 milled D with corner notch and milled drip edge. We liked the rounded log look on the outside but flat on the inside for ease of hanging items (and cleaning) on the inside. For our roof system we have heavy timber – exposed beams – roof  in the great room, scissor truss in the bedroom and flat truss in kitchen and dining room.


Are there any outstanding features?

Linda had some doubt when the first kitchen cabinet was being installed, thinking oh, they are really dark and the installer replied, “yep! However, it all came into place. The tobacco-colored kitchen cabinets with the stone wall and granite countertop contrasts nicely with the pine walls to give a warm and inviting kitchen. The stone carries over into the great room with the woodstove wall done in the same stone. Using two different stain colors make the rooms pop!  The large beams are a cocoa color which contrasts nicely with the clear natural knotty pine walls and barrel hickory wooden floors.


Were there any design choices you made to accommodate specific pieces of furniture, collectibles or personal hobbies, etc.

Living overseas over the years, we collected a few pieces of antique furniture amongst other items. Some of the pieces date back to the 1800s from Europe. Other furniture we have throughout the home is made by the Amish in Ohio. Some of our favorite pieces are a barrel table with barrel bar stools, copper barrel sink, a barrel coffee table and end tables. The downstairs bar area is being made by a local woodcraftsman (Diamond Hill Woodworking Studio). Diamond Hill also made the downstairs bathroom vanity. The mantel over the woodstove is a 100-year-old reclaimed barn beam. All this adds to the rustic feel of the home.

What is your favorite thing about your new home and why?

We like the open floor plan with the high ceiling and being able to see nature’s beauty through the great room large windows. We also enjoy the wrap-around deck with the covered 8’-wide porch.

Clearly, your dog is the star of the photos. Does she have a story?

I (Linda) could talk about the dog all day long! Oakley girl, aGerman Shepherd, will be 5 years old in April and weighs 100 pounds. I got her as a pup when I was living in England. I brought her back stateside when my tour ended in 2016. She has adjusted well here in the states and only a slight British bark remains! She dotes on Chuck and tolerates the two cats, Shadow and Lil Joe. She loves going for boat rides and riding in the truck. We retired from Williamsburg and she has adjust well to the move and her new home here on the lake

Why did you choose Honest Abe Log Homes?

Honest Abe lives up to their name. We couldn’t be happier with our choice of log home. Their product is top rate, and their Independent Dealer Jack Hutslar ( has been nothing but a professional and personal Honest Abe rep. We had looked at other log home companies, but when we were able to watch an Honest Abe Log Home being built here on the lake, we were pleased with the quality and craftsmanship of the home. Meeting with Jack sealed the deal for us.

So, you liked working with your Jack?

Jack was informative, helpful and a professional. He was always there if we had questions or concerns. Our primary residence when the house was being built was a few hours away, and we were unable to monitor the daily construction of the home.  During the year our home was being built, the weather was not so forgiving. The builder was in contact with Jack for any issues. Jack went out of his way to ensure we were completely satisfied with the product. We still keep in touch with Jack.

Would you do this again?

We would absolutely do it again. The solid look and warm feeling of the home is unmatched by any home we have lived in. We think our home is a wonderful place for family and friends to visit, relax and enjoy what Mother Nature has given to us.

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