Cloud 9 Log Cabin was recreated after the Gatlinburg fires to continue a decades-long tradition of hosting guests in this mountain retreat

It’s been almost a century since the tiny Appalachian community of White Oak Flats evolved into Gatlinburg, one of the most popular vacation destinations in the United States. First settled in the 1830s, early residents were attracted to the area for many of the same reasons that tourists are today – lush summers, brilliant autumns, snow- blanketed winters, colorful springs and, of course, the majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

That’s why Danny and Tia Suiter wanted a mountain home of their own.

“My husband and I played together as children deep in the woods enjoying nature,” Tia said. “We became the proud parents of four children along with our beautiful grandchildren. We still act like children at times and still love the great outdoors.”

So, in 2015 the couple purchased a splendid long-leaf pine cabin built 34 years before on one of Gatlinburg’s highest peaks.

“When the original owner built the cabin, the Southern Norfolk Railroad Terminal in Atlanta, Georgia, was disassembled and hauled to Tennessee up the mountain to use for flooring and ceilings along with more than 150 beautiful beams used inside,” Tia said, recalling the cabin known locally as Cloud 9 that had sat abandoned for three years before she and Danny rescued and restored it. “It was a long and very hard year of remodeling, but we reopened it for vacationers to rent and for our own family’s use. ”

Ten months after completion, Cloud 9 was one of the 2,460 structures engulfed by the November 2016 wildfires that also took 14 lives and caused $500 million in damage.

Stunned, the Suiters were not quite sure what they wanted to do with the bare concrete slab on their scorched lot. New cabins, homes and chalets were emerging from the ashes all around them, but it was not until city officials and rental companies began getting questions from past visitors about whether Cloud 9 would be rebuilt that the Suiters wholeheartedly committed to the project.

“Lots of people had gotten married at Cloud 9, shared gatherings there, made memories there,” Tia said. “It was devastating to so many visitors to lose the warm colors and the rich presence of beautiful wood that was felt by all. It seemed this cabin was irreplaceable. Or was it?”

The endeavor seemed overwhelming, but Danny and Tia decided that even though they could not bring back the home that held so many memories for those who had rented it for vacations, reunions, honeymoons or retreats over the years, they would recreate Cloud 9 as best they could.

“This is where our search began for the perfect rebuild of the home,” Tia said, noting that they were wary of the influx of contractors who swarmed the mountainside after the fires. “In choosing a log home company, for us quality was a must, longevity was a must and honesty was a must, especially when something has personal value like this property did. Our search ended when we found Honest Abe Log Homes. Their reputation separated them from all others.”

The Suiters were determined that the new cabin remain true to the original plan, but there were challenges.

“We were unable to find blueprints of the original house, but Honest Abe remained faithful and worked diligently with us in achieving our goal,” said Tia, who was guided by sales representative Wayne Brady throughout the process..

Honest Abe’s designers used old tourism photos and measurements from the remaining slab to recreate the plan for the 5,000-square-foot, three-story 12” D-Log cabin.

“As soon as construction started, it was the talk of the mountain,” Tia said.

The ground floor was designed for entertainment with its movie theater, den, pool room, a pub with a wet bar and three private bedroom suites

In addition to two master suites with private decks, the second level has two living rooms with natural stone fireplaces, an indoor dining area that seats 14, a gourmet kitchen complete with a wine refrigerator and an outdoor dining space for six alongside a gas grill. Floor-to-ceiling windows and vaulted ceilings fill the home with natural light and showcase the sweeping mountain views.

The third floor loft, called The Bear’s Den, has a grand cathedral ceiling, and double glass sliding doors lead to a private deck.

The house comfortably accommodates 18 visitors with six bedrooms on three levels, each room having a patio or deck with views of Mount LeConte, Anakeesta, Ober Gatlinburg, Ski Mountain, Clingman’s Dome or the lights of the city.

“I wanted each of the bedrooms to pay tribute to the history and beauty of the cabin’s surroundings,” said Tia, who designed all the interiors herself, choosing vintage, antique or handmade furnishings and appointments to enhance each room’s theme. “We named the bedrooms and suites Cade’s Cove, Elkmont, the Great Smoky, The Greenbrier, The Bear’s Den and Mount LeConte to capture the spirit of the mountains.”

To complement the interior amenities, there are several outdoor living spaces, including a luxurious eight-person outdoor jacuzzi and a furnished covered patio with a television mounted over a wood-burning fireplace of real mountain river stone under a cathedral ceiling.

“There were many things lost in the fire, including family heirlooms of parents and grandparents – things that cannot be replaced,” said Tia. “But one thing we did manage to hold on to against all odds was the special feeling one has upon entering the cabin. Many people who had the privilege of visiting Cloud 9 before the fire expressed how shocking it was that we had managed the impossible. The new cabin feels warm. The wood throughout is beautiful, and it brings a great sense of peace. Overall it is just stunning.”

The Suiter family congregates at Cloud 9 for family retreats, but the cabin is so popular that Tia says it’s hard to schedule around visitors. She understands, however.

“Can we get something back that we long for?” Tia asked, observing, “There are things in life we treasure and hold close to our hearts. Family memories during childhood years are definitely among them. We are so happy to have that place for family and the many who visit Cloud 9 each year.”

This story by Claudia Johnson appeared in Log Cabin Homes in 2021

Photos by Brandon Malone


Photo Notes

Cloud 9 is the home away from home for Danny and Tia Suiter, who built it to replace a beloved earlier mountain chalet that was destroyed in the Gatlinburg wildfires of 2016.

Tia Suiter acted as interior designer for the cabin, which was drafted, manufactured and erected by 42-year-old Honest Abe Log Homes headquartered in Tennessee.

At nearly 5,000 square feet on three floors, the six-bedroom D-log cabin sleeps 18. The Suiters have designated the three levels as Mountain Base, Mountain Middle and Mountain Top.

When the Suiters are not vacationing at Cloud 9 with friends or family, the home is available for rental.

Because it is positioned on one of the highest peaks in Gatlinburg, the 360-degree view encompasses landmarks like Mt. LeConte, Ober Gatlinburg and Clingman’s Dome.

The cabin’s exterior features are as welcoming as those inside and include multiple patios, covered porches, dining areas and an eight-person hot tub. The site is designed so that seven cars can be parked logically surrounding the house.

The exterior of the 12” D-logs are stained with Perma-Chink’s Ultra 7 Bronze. The walkout basement, which the Suiters call Mountain Base, is covered in natural stone that matches the interior fireplaces.

The grounds are landscaped with plants and rocks native to the area, while metal silhouettes and carved wood statues of the indigenous black bear welcome visitors.

All around the home are signs of recovery from the scorching fires that left nothing of Cloud 9’s original vintage structure.

Each room in Cloud 9 has a private patio or balcony accessed through sliding glass doors with comfortable chairs and tables for watching the sunrise over the mountains with a steaming cup of coffee or see the lights of Gatlinburg come to life at sunset with a glass of spirits from one of the dozens of regional distilleries and wineries.

Majestic Smokey Mountains vistas, the great room’s whitetail antler chandelier and an elaborate heavy timber vaulted ceiling serve as art for the cabin’s Mountain Top third level.

The Elkmont En-suite is an example of how Tia created a distinctive character for each room by combining vintage and handmade pieces with interesting wall treatments. In this suite named for a nearby Appalachian ghost town, Tia stained the log walls in a weathered gray. Above the paneled king-sized bed hangs a pair of ski poles and a bear’s head lamp. Snow art and antique ski pieces are a subtle commemoration of the region’s winter sports possibilities.

The Mountain Top floor has two bedrooms. One, the Bear’s Den Loft, has Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear beds and a private bath along with chase lounges overlooking Ski Mountain and the slopes of Ober Gatlinburg. An additional bedroom, The Mount Le Conte Master, has a king-size bed, 48” TV, sitting area and a personal deck. Double glass sliding doors lead to private deck views of Mount Le Conte.

The Mountain Base level’s amenities makes it feel like going out even while staying in – just what’s needed after a long day of shopping, mountain hiking or enjoying the many theme parks and other attractions. The theater has tiered plush seating, while the game room also features a custom-built paneled wooden bar with a full size side-by side-refrigerator. In the den there’s a pub table and chairs, soft leather seating and a natural stone gas fireplace.

Cloud 9’s middle dining room table seats 10 with space for four at the kitchen’s bar. Tia selected captain’s chairs of bark-on branches and leather upholstered dining chairs to surround the wooden tabletop supported by metal legs.

Lighting the room is an antler chandelier with small cloth shades and double glass doors that open onto a deck outfitted with an outdoor grill and serving area with dining space for six.

Floors throughout the house are waterproof and scratch-proof vinyl in rich wood tones that simulate wide, hand sawn wooden planks.

The centerpiece of the kitchen is a roller-mounted island, fashioned of wooden planks from native trees. Tia installed a small marble drink serving surface over the wine refrigerator, which is encased in a custom wooden cabinet where wine glasses are suspended from an old wooden rake in a recessed side.

Modern appliances including a double-door refrigerator, both a gas and an electric stove and deep, double sinks provide contrast with the rustic wooden handcrafted cabinetry and exposed beams.

The Mountain Top and Mountain Base levels are accessed via a simple but sturdy staircase with a wood and wrought iron balustrade.

Cloud 9’s Middle Mountain great room showcases the richness of the wood with its floor-to-ceiling windows and vaulted ceilings. The Suiters used Perma-Chink Moonlit Mahogany on the Douglas Fir ceiling beams, Sunlight Walnut on the Eastern white pine walls and tongue-and groove ceiling and Early American on the doors and baseboards.

Using decorative rugs, Tia created two distinctive sitting areas. One is focused around a natural stone, gas fireplace with a mantle made from an antique beam from the Southern Norfolk Railroad Terminal in Atlanta – a gift from the family of the original cabin’s architect.

Tia placed a tapestry upholstered sofa and ottoman before a picture window that frames one of the oldest settled areas of the Smoky Mountains.

Custom twig lighting hangs over the king-sized bed in the Great Smoky Master, an extra-large, handicap accessible suite with its own sitting area. Behind the bed, an accent wall is covered with gold and chocolate cork. The bathroom has a custom natural stone walk-in shower with seating and a make-up vanity with a chandelier.

Cades Cove, a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains, contains the widest variety of historic buildings in the Great Smokies. Tia’s decor for the Cades Cove suite includes wood stain and fabrics in shades of browns and tans, with antique pieces repurposed for bedroom furnishings or bathroom fixtures. Located on the walkout basement level of Cloud 9 cabin, the room has a private patio overlooking Gatlinburg.

The Suiters used no drywall in the house, leaving the flat side of the D-log walls as canvases for her creativity. In the Greenbriar En-Suite Tia had natural tree bark affixed to the logs, a nod to Greenbrier, an off-the-beaten-path of Smoky Mountain National Park where hikers and campers can peacefully enjoy spring wildflowers and colorful fall foliage. Visitors are treated like royalty with the custom built king bed, a cozy sitting area with a 42” television and a private bath with a custom walk-in shower. 

The cathedral-ceilinged patio’s wood-burning fireplace was laid by a masonry team who painstakingly hand placed each of the ancient Smoky Mountain river stones made round by time and nature into the final eye-catching design.



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