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"River Deep Mountain High"

Log Home Design Ideas, August 2003


This nature-loving Idaho couple created the perfect getaway on their favorite whitewater rapids.


For years, physicians Ike and Kim Tanabe dreamed of getting away. The Boise, Idaho, couple envisioned jumping in their car after a long chaotic day and escaping to a wilderness paradise to unwind and relieve a little pent-up stress in the great outdoors. So when opportunity presented itself for the couple to land 10 1/2 acres along one of the state's more popular rivers, they jumped in head first.


Today, the avid kayakers can literally walk out of their 2,800-plus square foot Swedish cope log home and dive into the South Fork of the Payette River. Its winding waters with advanced Class IV rapids are fed by year-round snowfields, offering the couple a steady stream of outdoor activity. Call it fate or having the right connections, but the Tanabes admit they lucked out landing this pristine parcel of land, which is nestled among the jagged peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains in Garden Valley, just a stone's throw from Boise.


The couple started kayaking in 1994, seeking the heart-pumping adrenaline rush of navigating boulder-choked whitewater rapids. One of their kayaking cohorts, who's a real estate agent, quickly alerted them when 37 acres when up for sale. The property had been in the elderly owner's family for 100 years, but failing health was forcing her to sell. One look hooked the Tanabes.


"We just fell in love with it," recalls Kim. "It was almost a spiritual experience. The ground was snow covered and everything was so peaceful and beautiful, we got down on the ground and made snow angels. We knew right then a log home was the only house that would fit here."


They began scouring magazines and Web sites in search of the perfect floor plan. They eventually chose Precision Craft Log Homes' Ponderosa plan. Designer Tim Brock made a few modifications and created their dream getaway in just three months.


"This is a really good home for us to show off because it has such a great curb appeal," Brock says. "It has an upscale cabin-y feel but with an older look."


Brock added porches, gables and arched windows rather than trapezoid to complement the plan's sloped roof. The Tanabes sought a natural look to blend with the home's surroundings. Precision Craft supplied honey-colored Douglas fir heartwood logs with a simple clear lacquer finish to ensure a warm natural aura.


Construction was a breeze thanks to local builder Ed Cimbalik, who frequently works with Precision Craft and had built six log homes. With his expertise, the Tanabes were able to make important decisions and speed the process along.


"Our original vision was a small log cabin that wasn't too fancy," recalls Kim. "But it's so grand and beautiful here, we realized we couldn't skimp with fake logs. Ed was great about supporting us and offering advice."


After clearing a road to the site, Cimbalik and his team - sons Rob and Tom, and another worker - dug the foundation hole before the ground froze so they could work through the winter. Unlike some log homes, the Tanabes' is built on a large eight-foot foundation and garage to accommodate the 100-year old flood plain. (See sidebar on page 103 for more information.) A huge canvas tent and gas heaters ensured the concrete dried thoroughly despite the 3 to 4 feet of snow outside.


Then the crew stacked the logs, which took about a week and a half, and completed the roof by the end of January. Six weeks of finish work, and the Tanabes were ready to move in by early summer 1999.


The only snafu: staining the logs. A contractor didn't properly remove sawdust and applied the stain at night when lighting was poor. The result was a clumpy, runny mess that horrified both the Tanabes and Cimbalik, who fired the contractor on the spot. Chemicals couldn't remove the muck, so Cimbalik and his sons spent eight days hand-sanding and re-staining all interior log surfaces.


"The homeowners were so disappointed and I felt terrible. I felt is was my responsibility to fix it," Cimbalik says. "I like to stay on the job from start to finish."


The Tanabes appreciated his tenacity and were pleased with the outcome. "It was a great experience. We didn't really have any major problems," Kim says. "He did such a great job and was so proud of this house. He's one amazing guy."


Creating a home that complements their active lifestyle and fits into the beautiful, rustic surroundings was a must for the Tanabes. The majority of their furnishings were custom-made by craftsmen in Boise and nearby areas.


"We didn't want anything fancy. We wanted furniture that looked old and distressed," Kim says.


Low-grade maple from R&R Hardwood Floors creates a lived-in quality, and the wood easily absorbs wear and tear from living near the river and perfectly hides scuffs and scratches created by the Tanabes' golden retrievers, Buffy, Carrera and Zoe. Rustic pine cabinets with knots and other irregularities were custom-made by Jim Conlin. Distressing techniques and a grayish-green stain give the cabinetry an antique flavor. The skilled wordworker, who's been in the business as The Counter Fitter for 22 years, says his motto is "we build what you can't buy."


Conlin incorporated a variety of wood in his creations, especially live edge (the tree's outer edge that's covered by bark). He says it's perfect for moulding and adds visual appeal. He used it on the first floor bath's nooks that serve as open-faced medicine cabinets.


"Working with that Tanabes was so much fun. Kim would say 'I'd really like this but would settle for that. Can you do something better?' Those are the words I love to hear," says Conlin, who also made all of the home's interior and exterior doors. "People come to us all the time and say we want something special that's different. I say why settle for less?"


While some Idahoans crave Sun Valley Resort (three hours from Boise), the Tanabes wanted a quick getaway they could escape to, even on a week night.


"It's so perfect because we can come here any time and no one is around. We're completely secluded but chaos is only 45 minutes away," Kim says.


Ike says it was important that their kids learn to love and appreciate the outdoors. Mission accomplished: daughters Carey, 12, and Alex, 15, are whitewater kayak slalom racers. And both girls have already lined up summer jobs with a river rafter company. "I tell the kids if they ever sell this place, my ghost will haunt them forever," Kim says with a laugh.


But the Tanabes shouldn't fear: Just like their parents, the girls can't wait to escape to their river getaway, which will most certainly be in their family for years.