New Life in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Lou and Eileen Pagano have settled nicely into their new Honest Abe log home in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains.

“When we decided to move south to simplify our lives and get out of the hustle and bustle of New Jersey living, we knew we wanted a log cabin with lots of space between neighbors,” Lou said. “We also knew we wanted a home that was truly ours.”

They also knew they wanted a log home.

“Our first home was a log home built in the early 20th century, and we loved it,” Eileen said. “The great room, vaulted ceilings etc. Our second home was a conventional center hall colonial we had built in 2003, but it never had the warmth and feel of ‘home’ like our old log cabin.”

The pair shopped several log cabin manufacturers – even a modular log cabin company – but none of them were as easy to work with, friendly and helpful as Honest Abe Log Homes Independent Dealers Reeves and Deanna Snyder of Woods Hill Log Homes.

“Reeves and Deanna have become friends through this process which says a lot,” Lou said.

When developing a floor plan The Paganos knew they wanted a mid-size home of about 2,000 SF with three bedrooms, a large great room and all the living space on one floor, except for a loft Eileen could use as an office.

“Having everything on one floor is perfect as Lou has a partially paralyzed leg so steps are a problem, and as we get older single floor living is easier, so Honest Abe’s Navajo was perfect for us and is our forever home,” Eileen said.

The standard Navajo plan was customized by increasing the size so the loft could be large enough for Eileen’s office, and a single floor of nearly 2,000 SF made a large basement possible, enabling storage of inventory for their other business.

Expanding the square footage allowed space for a laundry room and a more spacious primary suite.

“We made sure the master bedroom suite was large enough for a large soaker tub and oversized shower that could accommodate a wheelchair in case it is ever needed,” Lou said.

They chose not to have a fireplace but will be adding a wood/coal stove soon.

“We wanted the option to heat with wood or coal, and a stove just functions better than a fireplace,” Lou said.

Like with all Honest Abe standard plans, customizations to the Navajo were simple.

“We changed the entrance of the front guest bedroom from the great room to a hallway connecting both guest bedrooms and guest bath,” explained Lou, who created several different floor plans until they had one that satisfied them both.

Honest Abe’s in-house design team drafted the final blueprints, and Honest Abe began milling the logs.

“The 8” D logs we chose were large enough to provide good insulation, and the overhanging corners reminded us of our old cabin,” Eileen said, observing that the flat interior walls of the D log profile make hanging photos easier.

Finding the ideal location for their new home was imperative. The Paganos spent two weeks in Northwest North Carolina and Northeast Tennessee searching for the perfect spot.

“When we found Chestnut Mountain Farms, we knew we had found home,” Lou recalled. “It is a private, gated community with 225 home sites, 216 of which are undeveloped, for wood homes only. The lots are large and wooded. We have 12.66 acres surrounded by woods. Our nearest neighbor is a quarter mile away, and the building envelopes of the closest lots ensure we will always have the privacy we desire.”

The development is also equestrian-friendly, so the Paganos plan to get a horse. Of course, that will mean adding a barn, which will accommodate the goats and chickens they plan to have.

The Paganos said their decision to act as their own general contractor was the right one.

“The first home we built, we hired a general contractor, and my husband travelled a lot at the time due to his job so we were not hands-on,” Eileen said. “This construction project was a nightmare. The one-year project turned into two and a half years. We decided the only way it would work when building our log home and to stay on budget was if Lou was on site every day and we were our own general contractor. This ended up being very successful.”

The project came in $100 per square foot less than the best quote they received from a general contractor, and the house was completed in only 10 months.

“We did everything from our own site plan to hiring all the workers and doing a lot of the work ourselves,” Eileen said. “Managing it ourselves was the best decision we ever made. We were lucky enough to find two carpenters (brothers-in-law) that helped Lou from start to finish. They have since started their own construction company, Superior Homes and Masonry. They were onsite every week, and we could not have built it on budget without them.”

After the nightmare of building the home they left in New Jersey, they were overjoyed with the construction process of their log home in North Carolina. Their experience led them to become Independent Dealers for Honest Abe in their area of North Carolina.

“It was such a pleasant experience we thought we could help other people with limited resources achieve their dream home by being their own general contractor if possible,” said Lou. “It puts all the control in your hands.”

The key is to be hands-on.

“Being onsite every day and becoming friends with the workers will go a long way,” he advised. “Go with a small work crew where the boss is onsite. I found using small, family-owned and operated businesses for the dry in, excavating, electric and HVAC worked well. Companies like superior Homes & Masonry and Mahala Electric Excavation were instrumental in our success.

I like it when the boss is onsite and not sitting at a desk running crews

Feeding them lunch every day kept workers onsite, happy and productive instead of having them leave for an hour or more a day to get to the nearest fast food.”

The Paganos saved money by purchasing supplies, appliances and other finish materials themselves and only paid workers for labor.

“This allowed us to price shop materials and upgrade things like the water heater and heat pump system, not only saving money on the upfront cost but on future energy bills,” Lou said. “Plus, there are great tax incentives for buying energy-efficient home items.”

Eileen said their only energy bill is electric. So far, the bill is averaging $150 a month, a tenth of what their costs were in New Jersey. But that’s not the only thing the couple loves about their new log cabin.

“We love everything about it. The peacefulness of the location. The hickory hardwood floors throughout. The large soaker tubs in the master and guest baths. Cedar log railings on both the loft stairs and outside decks. The great room with its heavy timber roof,” Lou enumerated, adding, “And the view overlooking the Blue Ridge is to die for.”

Story by Claudia Johnson

Photos by Lou and Eileen Pagano

The Specs:

  • Year Completed: 2024
  • Square footage of each floor or level
    • Basement: 1,983.11
    • First Floor: 1.983.11
    • Second Floor: 233.39
    • Porch and Deck: 440
  • Total square footage
    • 4,639.39 (includes basement, porch and deck)
    • 2,216.5 (first floor and loft)
  • Honest Abe plan: Navajo, modified
  • Log Type: 8”x 8” D Log
  • Roof System Type: Heavy Timber and Truss

The Paganos are Honest Abe Log Home Independent Dealers. Visit their website at





Request Free Info From Honest Abe