Nestled within the hardwood forests, craggy cliffs and meandering waters of the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau is a 26-room house of stone and timbers, marble and metal, hard work and happiness.
Not so long ago homeowners Greg and Sandra Teslia could feel the ocean breezes poolside at their sprawling, sunbaked stucco Palm Beach, Florida, home. Moving from Toronto, Canada, in 1991 they spent 27 years on Florida’s Gold Coast, where they developed a successful international business. However, lush terrain coupled with their equine interest enticed them permanently to their 7.5-acre Tennessee escape situated adjacent to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
“We purchased the property many years ago,” Sandra said. “There are horse trails in our community with direct access to the Big South Fork. This area is also great for hiking, biking, ATV riding and hunting. Nearby Dale Hollow Lake is considered one of the top lakes in the nation for boating, house boating, fishing, camping and swimming. Because we love the area and the fact that it is centrally located in the United States, we chose to relocate here to build our retirement home.”
They researched floor plans on the internet, collecting, comparing and consolidating until their ideal plan began to take shape. Initially, the Teslias had only considered a conventionally built home.
“We ultimately decided to change the center of the house to heavy timber frame,” Sandra said of the 7,800-square-foot Honest Abe Log Homes timber frame hybrid completed in 2018.
Award-winning Honest Abe designer Michael Hix drafted plans for the Teslias’ custom design, and the 40-year-old company’s mill began production of the heavy timber system.
“Our standard timbers are 4” x 8”,” said Greg Watson, the Honest Abe sales representative who, along with wife Melissa, worked with the Teslias. “They wanted timbers milled to 8” x 12” to fit the scale of the home, and they were right. When you walk into the central room, it is just spectacular.”
The house is more than just aesthetically awe-inspiring – it’s practical. Equipped with a smart system everything from the security system to the lighting to the thermostat can be controlled remotely through a cell phone. The Teslias installed a generator with sufficient capacity to serve the entire house. With retirement in mind exterior material selections were made ensure ease of ongoing maintenance
“The exterior is mostly stone with Hardie board,” Sandra said. “The roof is metal shingle and metal standing seam. The pre-cast foundation walls and the decks and porches on all levels are concrete. Outside staircases are Timbertech, aluminum and stainless steel.”
Accommodations for their recreational pursuits were incorporated, like the 1,344-square-foot garage designed to house ATVs and outdoor equipment. Greg’s timber frame “man cave” has just been completed in the 937 square feet above the garage. In the 2,730-square-foot basement there’s a movie theater and a fitness room with plans for a wine cellar, game room and safe room. Outside, they are planning a pavilion, a barn with stables and other living spaces to enjoy together and to entertain guests.
For easy airport access, the busy couple continues to maintain a house near Nashville. Although it may be a few years before the Teslias retreat permanently to the woods, they are certain they’re in the right place.
“We have a beautiful home in a great location,” Sandra said. “Plus, the people we’ve met in the area – many of which are transplants like ourselves – are wonderful.”
Browse the gallery below and pay close attention to these features:
- The Greg and Sandra Teslia home located on the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau is a testament to the versatility of timber frame construction.
- Approaching from the front, the three-story, 26-room house appears to be a modest one-story dwelling with a three-bay garage.
- The exterior of the 7,800-square-foot home utilizes Hardie board and stone for low-maintenance.
- Entrance doors into the home’s heavy timber center are of iron and hurricane-rated glass. Interior Shaker-style doors were supplied by Honest Abe Log Homes. Contractor Ellery Lewis hand built space-saving, sliding barn-style doors in selected areas.
- The Douglas fir timbers used throughout the house are 8” x 12” and were specially milled by Honest Abe Log Homes at the homeowners’ request. The aged appearance was achieved using Perma-Chink’s Lifeline transparent Black Walnut stain.
- Homerwood full-plank hickory flooring used throughout the main floor is stamped with the signature of the Amish craftsmen who milled and scraped it by hand.
- Floors in the bedrooms are Shaw floors.
- The kitchen features high-end appliances including a built in refrigerator with a wine column, a conventional wall oven and a second oven with French doors, a built-in appliance station and coffee machine and a six-burner and griddle cooktop. White Zeus Extreme quartz covers the dark-stained island, which has a drawer microwave, dishwasher and prep sink. The white cabinet work surfaces are alpina white quartz.
- The basement-level theater room features a 120” screen, luxury seating and a robust sound system, with projection controlled from a phone or tablet.
- To keep the inside and outside consistent and to achieve an open feel for the staircases the Teslias used stainless steel cable railings.
- The master bathroom has Italian marble floors, aluminum prairie-style windows painted black for contrast with the white cast iron tub and other fixtures.
- Lighting fixtures proved to be a challenge considering the number of rooms, varying heights of the ceilings and available options near the secluded building site. Ultimately, fixtures, all of which use LED bulbs, were shipped from favorite Florida lighting supplier, Capital Lighting, and online sources such as Restoration Hardware.
- The great room has a television mounted over a gas fireplace, and just outside on the stamped upper level concrete porch, a second TV hangs above a wood fireplace positioned for enjoying nature while watching television.
- The exterior rock work, which contributes to the dramatic look of the rear elevation, is natural stone from Centurion Stone in Nashville. On the lower deck outside the basement’s recreational areas, a hot tub is decked with man-made stone.
Log and Timber Home Living Feature by Claudia Johnson
Feature photo (above) by JD Tyre Photography
Styling by Molly Cooper, Cooper & Co.
Gallery photography by Brandon Malone, Tennessee Photo Company