Miller Home on Lake Malone
A home for all seasons.
Jim and Kathy Miller moved into their new Honest Abe Log Homes custom designed cabin in midsummer 2020. Covering the 13-room D-log cabin is a heavy timber roofing systems under a metal roof.
On the main floor there’s 1,288 SF that includes a living room, kitchen, sunroom, master bedroom with bathroom and a laundry/bathroom.
The upstairs of 746.4 square feet contains two bedrooms, one bathroom and a loft that’s an office. The walkout basement with a man cave, jacuzzi room and a storage adds another 1,288 SF. With 608 SF of porches they enjoy lakefront retirement on Kentucky’s Lake Malone.
Tell us about yourselves.
We are originally from Ohio and are a family of water babies. Jim was so proficient at waterskiing that Sea World sought him out as a teenager to perform in their shows. Our three kids grew up swimming, fishing, water skiing and tubing during the day and around campfires at night. We love the simple life and just being together. We are a close family, which includes those we’ve adopted into our family through friendship as well as those born to us, so the family is pretty big.
We built this place to share it with those we love. In summer the clan comes to the cabin to celebrate life and being together. Jim and I both had stressful jobs prior to retirement. Jim was a meat cutter, supervisor and union steward, I was a transportation supervisor for a public school system.
Living at the cabin has been the reward at the end of our hard work. We get to live in paradise.
Why did you choose a log home over a conventional home?
Jim’s grandfather built a log home on the Tittabawassi River in Michigan in the 1940s. “The Cabin” has been a part of our lives, full of love and memories. We both always dreamed of owning our own log cabin in which to make new family memories. The old cabin is still now and will always be in the family. Log homes give you a feeling of warmth and love, sending one back to a simpler time when families were part of a community (and they all depended on each other). Happiness came from simple things – campfires, swimming, fishing and boating, just being together.
How did you develop the perfect plan?
We researched hundreds of plans, we wanted an open floor plan, with a simple design and reasonable footprint. We found the basis of our floor plan and customized our final floor plan to meet our needs. We wanted a mudroom near the front door, two bathrooms on the main floor, roof coverage over a portion of the back deck, steps to the walkout that go two ways at the bottom and wider dormers. Because Jim and I were building all the inside walls ourselves, it allowed us the flexibility to move walls in order to meet our needs and build closets that could contain HVAC/plumbing etc.
How did you settle upon the final design and D-log style?
The choice of log style came from living in the family log cabin. It’s pretty hard to hang things on rounded log walls and keeping them dusted is a major project. We opted for changes in the support design in the walkout basement to allow for less vertical supports (more open space) in the home’s lowest level. We decided on wall placement as we were erecting inside walls to meet space requirements for bath tubs, utility lines, cabinetry etc. We wanted the open feeling of our main living area.
Is there anything special about the location of the home?
When our children got older, we knew we needed to start looking for “our” forever” place. It had to be on a lake, somewhere warmer but still with a change of season. I researched cost of living, taxes, utilities etc. We got out a map and began taking long weekends with jet skis in tow going from lake to lake to find it.
We actually came across Lake Malone unplanned. We saw a lake on a map and just went. As soon as we saw it, we both knew it was home. The lake is Kentucky’s best kept secret. People are warm and friendly, and the property is affordable as is the cost of living, Lake Malone is one of very few lakes that aren’t TVA controlled, so our water level remains fairly even all year. (No TVA controlled dam). We bought the lot in 2006, paid it off, then built a carriage house to stay in while we built the log home and paid it off and then started the log home.
Were there any design choices you made to accommodate specific pieces of furniture, collectibles or personal hobbies, etc.
Our kitchen was designed to incorporate Jim’s great grandfather’s butcher block (he comes from a long line of butchers). We split the space in the lower level to allow for Jim’s big-boy play room and also a separate jacuzzi room. We wanted the mud room near the front door, so we had to accommodate for two bathrooms back to back on the main floor.
What is your favorite thing about your new home and why?
We love it all…we can’t help but think about how beautiful our home is each and every day. We see the lake as we wake in the morning, can have coffee in the Eagle’s Nest and look down on the water.
With the open design, I can work in the office and still be with Jim in the living room below. As we get older, the floor plan of our home will allow for us to have one floor living if needed. We have tons of large windows that provide us with an amazing view from each and every window. We all love the rustic feel and look of our log home.
What are the most outstanding features of your home?
I acid stained the concrete floor in the walk out basement, which includes the jacuzzi room and Jim’s man cave. The man cave has a 20-foot wall floor to ceiling of Lionel trains. The jacuzzi room has an antique control panel from a boat on the wall.
We’re installing a brass porthole above the panel and the nose of an old boat as a table to the outside of the house just under the porthole. You’ll look out the porthole and see the nose of the boat. We’ve built barn doors for the closets and incorporated a lot of old, repurposed things in the home.
Jim and I have always been a do it yourself family, we love to find things that are used and reinvent them into something amazing. We’re so lucky. Jim has a great deal of knowledge in construction and plumbing, and I am good at the finer details, like making furniture and design (but I make a really good grunt worker, LOL). We work hard and we work well together and that is a must.
I’ve built log beds, one of which is reflects three generations, including logs from the Grandfather’s cabin, some from our Ohio home and some from trees here. All of our inside railings were made from trees felled on our property. I stripped and shaped them all one by one.
We put up an antique (working) block and tackle to hoist suitcases to the second floor. We used antlers for all our cabinet handles and French doors. The home is filled with art of all types and antiques. We even have a 6-foot cigar store Indian that greets you at the door.
Why did you choose Honest Abe Log Homes?
It’s a great company that backs their quality products and supports customers through the building process. Honest Abe offers dry in construction at a fair price, which is rare in the market.
How did you like working with your Honest Abe Log Homes sales representative? Ethan Birdwell was terrific. He’s an honest and caring young man who met his promises and was quick to respond to any question or concern. The folks working at the Honest Abe headquarters and plant were great as well.
Would you do this again?
We’re living in a dream, so we’d have no need to do it again. BUT if I had to do it over, absolutely. As folks in our mid-60s I wouldn’t wait too long as crawling up three tiers of a scaffold doesn’t get any easier with age. There’s a great sense of accomplishment when you do the work yourself. You make the place literally your own, and it brings you joy when your friends and family want to come and stay here.
I’m a bit of an artist, and so this place is a work of art in progress. It will probably never be totally done, because over time you want to add more.
How was your construction experience?
We were delayed due to weather, and we got a start about eight weeks later than we hoped in fall, so construction took a bit longer. Our crew (James Posey and his gang) did amazing work, took a great deal of care and listened well and answered any questions we had with patience. We now consider them part of our family. I think these crews don’t get enough credit for their hard work and the knowledge they need to do this right.
Any advice for others hoping to build a log home?
If you are planning to finish one of these homes yourself, spend a lot of time with your building crew, ask a lot of questions. Talk to your neighbors, they’re a great resource for subcontractors and understanding the complexities of your physical location (drainage, home placement issues etc.) Talk to folks like us that have actually done it, they’ll have lots of knowledge to share and tips to avoid problems.
Honest Abe is an organization that truly lives up to their name – honest. Our representative, Ethan, answered all questions promptly, provided us with accurate price quotes and truly cares about his customers. We found all those who work for this organization to be courteous, friendly and informative. Our construction crew truly cared about the quality of the home and its construction and were extremely helpful in providing us with information and tips. We found Honest Abe’s pricing to be far better than other companies, and they offer services that other companies do not. We would be happy to recommend this company if anyone is considering a log home.
Interview by Claudia Johnson, Honest Abe Log Home Marketing
Photos by Jim and Kathy Miller