Story by Claudia Johnson • Photography by Brandon Malone • Interior Design by Molly Cooper
This story appeared in the 2020 Buyer’s Guide for Log Home Living magazine.
Living the Log Home Legacy
Southern Grace, the new log home of an entrepreneurial young couple in rural Tennessee, is both Southern and gracious yet definitely not a typical farm house.
“Our farm is unconventional and so is our home – a very fitting pairing,” observed April Smith Patterson, who along with husband Nick are the owners of Southern Grace.
Log construction was the couple’s obvious choice since April’s parents, Doug and Janie Smith, were the founders of Honest Abe Log Homes, and she’d grown up in the very first log house the 40-year-old, family-owned company produced. Completed in 2018, the Pattersons’ own house is a first for the company, too, as it is the first to be built from a new 10” round log introduced by Honest Abe in 2017.
“From the beginning Nick and I wanted something different,” April said. “When most people hear ‘log home,’ they immediately think of a cabin in the woods. That’s one of our favorite styles, but we wanted to inspire another way of thinking about log homes. We hope our guests will say, ‘I didn’t know you could do this with a log home.’”
The Pattersons challenged Honest Abe’s multi-award-winning designer Michael Hix to design the floor plan using rough sketches by Nick and April. Hix designed a 4,924-square-foot house with 21 rooms on three floors, which April characterizes as “Southern plantation meets industrial elegance.”
The Patterson said that the final plan, which garnered the 2019 first place award for design excellence in the NAHB’s log and timber competition, serves a variety of personal and professional needs.
“I needed an area to clean up after a long day without making a mess of the house,” said Nick. “The problem was solved by putting a full bath and laundry room in the enclosed breezeway that connects the main floor to the garage.”
Nick is a licensed veterinarian but now serves as president of another family company, Barky Beaver Mulch and Soil Mix, as well as farming land in three states while developing an Akasai beef business.
“We both wanted offices to be able to work from home along with a back porch with a fireplace to enjoy the view of the pasture, ponds and woods that perfectly tie our home to nature,” Nick said. “We love timber frame and wanted to implement it into our bedroom to have an even different look and feel from the main part of the home. April enjoys crafting, so the top floor loft area overlooking our bedroom is a hobby room.”
Also on the top floor are two guest bedrooms served by a full bath. In the finished, walkout basement there’s a workshop, a pet grooming area, a workout room, a den, a kitchen/dining area and one of two half-baths.
The next challenge was bringing the vision for the home’s interior to fruition.
“All of our thoughts and desires were really just that until we began working with Honest Abe’s interior designer, Molly Cooper of Cooper & Co., who helped us take the next steps into making it all a reality,” April said. “She quickly understood what we wanted and helped us incorporate even more design ideas and a variety of materials that gives our house the added ‘wow’ factor we needed.”
Molly was tasked with making efficient use of space while showcasing the logs and at the same time, capturing the essence of the Patterson’s style.
“The homeowners are a young couple in their mid 30s, and they wanted a style all their own,” Molly said. “One goal as we worked through the project was to be able to show different techniques in their home. Once you walk inside, you will see a new generation of log home style shine.”
Molly provided guidance in selecting stains and finishes, choosing furniture, accessories, appliances and art and introducing non-traditional building materials to the interior. For example, instead of a typical wood balustrade on the half-log staircase and catwalk, cable and metal square stock was used.
“The catwalk brings back memories of walking with Dad through the mill,” said April, who lost her father to cancer in 2011, just a year before her marriage to Nick. “Each element we chose has its own story, some – like the catwalk – deeply personal.”
The decor reflects the Pattersons’ passion for farming and country living.
“The home is filled with touches of all things Southern – chickens, cows, farm décor – and reflects our farming over 1,000 acres of row crop, cattle and home grown garden vegetables we sell to the public, along with our Southern Marketplace Barn Sale event held in our vintage barns twice a year,” April said.
After consideration of other names for the home, Southern Grace emerged as the clear choice.
“It’s on our farm, Acres of Grace Farms, which was passed down to us through my parents,” April said. “It is the farm my dad grew up on and where he and his family of 10 farmed to survive. This land holds our family’s heritage. Nick and I have created a home that honors this legacy.”
Molly Cooper’s design notes…
Southern Grace, a 4,924-square-foot, 10” round log house with 21 rooms on three floors, is the centerpiece of Acres of Grace Farm located on the Highland Rim of Middle Tennessee. Owners April and Nick Patterson wanted the house to be “something different,” with the original concept being a “storybook” feel. Material and design choices along with angling the attached garage slightly toward the facade for a three-dimensional effect achieved the look they’d imagined.
The exterior incorporates a variety of complementary yet contrasting materials. Stacked manufactured stone surrounds the foundation, while large river stones form porch pylons. Natural stained wood shakes cover the kitchen and dressing room windows and the garage gable and dormers. The massive logs are stained in Smoke by Perma-Chink, with the logs of the heavy timber entrance stained Black Walnut. Timber frame construction was used for the master bedroom wing to the right of the entrance, with the wing’s exterior covered in board and batten. Dark gray/black dimensional shingles top the main roof, with Galvalume standing seam metal protecting the dormers and front porch.
From the rear the three stories of the Southern Grace overlook the owners’ farm and forest. On the ground level outside the stucco-covered, walk-out basement is a covered patio surrounded by an open, pressed concrete entertainment area. The 10” round logs that form the gable are supported on manufactured stone pylons. Instead of a typical wooden balustrade, metal stock and conduit railing was installed around the main level porch and down the exterior staircases.
The Pattersons say that the wood is the star of their home, and Southern Grace’s entrance hall proves that. The front wall of the exposed, Swedish coped 10” logs and wooden ceiling planks are finished with Perma-Chink Pickled White stain. High contrast was achieved by staining the ceiling support beams, double 6-pane wood doors and wood moldings in Black Walnut. The wide plant flooring was manufactured from locally harvested hickory stained in Winter Wheat.
Designer Molly Cooper of Cooper & Co. created a modern farmhouse kitchen for Southern Grace with a dramatic pressed tin barrel ceiling in chrome finish. She stained the 10” round logs with Gentry Gray and created more drama with Black Walnut stained trim. Cabinets were custom crafted with local wood and distressed using a teak glaze over Sherwin Williams Jasper Stone on the island and Antique White on the main cabinetry, some of which has chicken wire instead of glass in the doors. The wooden hood and breakfast nook table top are stained teak. Countertops are a leathered granite in Fancy Brown. Recessed lighting in the ceiling provides ample illumination, and two metal chandeliers are suspended above the island, which features a pop-up USB charging station and bar sink. Just off the kitchen is an octagonal dining room with ceiling beams extending into each corner from a wooden medallion hand-carved by craftsman Jackie Cherry, who is also Honest Abe’s VP of Operations.
The timber frame master bathroom suite’s layout is part of a room configuration that includes a shower, separate toilet, walk-in closet and dressing room with granite topped storage cabinets and a built-in makeup desk. Dual porcelain sinks with reproduction faucets on a leathered granite counter sit atop locally made cabinetry crafted of wood harvested in the area and distressed with a teak glaze on antique white paint. The master bedroom suite occupies an entire wing and includes a bathroom, dressing room and walk-in closet. The bedroom tongue ceiling stained in Perma-Chink Natural soars two stories under a heavy timber roof and is cooled by a belt and pulley-driven fan between the Douglas fir beams, which are – like all the rooms’ timbers – stained in Sand. An exterior covered catwalk connects the bedroom to the outdoor living room.
Two guest bedrooms on the second floor take advantage of the natural light from both the recessed side windows and the slim diagonal windows that form a chevron over the exterior gabled porch. Tongue-and-groove pine planks and 10“ round pine beams form the heavy timber roof system in both rooms.
Guests to Southern Grace use a spacious second-floor bathroom. The sliding barn doors in the bathroom and elsewhere in the house were made by Jackie Cherry from old fences April’s father and grandfather erected on the property decades ago.
The laundry room, encompassing one of the home’s four full baths, is situated in an enclosed breezeway that connects the 3,300-square-foot main floor to the 784-square-foot, two-car garage. Wire baskets were converted to light fixtures, and cabinetry, which includes a wall of built-in storage in addition to the sink area, mirrors the distressed white cabinetry in the kitchen and baths.
The Hobby Room
A hobby room was built in the loft above the master suite. Cabinetry was designed to accommodate fabric, supplies and equipment for April’s sewing and crafts. Open space, well-lit by a wide dormer window, in the room’s center offers space for larger projects or crafting parties.
Nick, who along with wife April were named Tennessee’s 2019 Young Farmers of the Year, operates Acres of Grace Farms from his home office that is decorated with a collection of vintage farm pieces like cans, calendars, scales and bags. Designer Molly Cooper chose the reproduction general’s campaign trunk as Nick’s desk. A light fixture was crafted from a piece of the tractor Nick drove as a boy on his family’s Alabama farmland.
The serving kitchen and dining room in the finished walk-out basement opens onto a covered concrete patio, making the area – paneled with recycled barn roofing, wood shakes and recovered wood fence planks – convenient for entertaining. Suspended by an old pulley, a vintage metal basket was repurposed for a light fixture.
To create contrast in Pattersons’ living room, Honest Abe’s 10” round Eastern white pine logs are finished with Perma-Chink Pickled White stain, while trims and the web truss system are stained in Black Walnut. Flooring engineered from locally harvested hickory is stained Winter Wheat throughout the house. The 35′ floor-to-ceiling stacked rock fireplace is crafted from stones manufactured by Mountain Stone. A vintage log from the now extinct American Chestnut tree was preserved to become the mantle in the living room and for the fireplace on the adjacent covered porch. Stair treads are half-round white pine logs stained Black Walnut, and railings are cable and metal square stock. The catwalk’s floor is new eight quarter, rough poplar cut by the sawmill founded by April’s father 50 years ago. A 72″ windmill fan circulates air through the central portion of the energy-efficient log structure.
Just off the indoor living room is a covered porch that shares a 35′ floor-to-ceiling stacked rock fireplace, which also has an American chestnut mantle. A swing table is suspended from the porch’s heavy timber roof. The 10” round logs that form the gable are supported on manufactured stone pylons. Instead of a typical wooden balustrade, metal stock and conduit railing was installed around the deck and down the exterior staircases.