"General Electric"December 2006, Log Home Design
After Gene, an electrical engineer for a local utility company, was transferred from Belen, New Mexico, to Santa Fe, the couple decided that a new job was the perfect reason to build the house that they’d always dreamed of. So, after 11 years of living in their brick ranch, the pair sought out a plot on which to build a customized home.
“We wanted to take on the challenge of building our dream home,” said Gene. “Because we’d both lived in New Mexico all of our lives, we expected we’d build something in the state’s typical pueblo style. But our search for a lot took us up into the Sange de Cristo Mountains, north of Santa Fe. There, in the wilds, we found the perfect setting for a log home—a style we’d never considered before.”
A Dream is Born Gene and Judy continued their log home investigation by subscribing to magazines and attending a show in Phoenix, Arizona. There, they met a representative for PrecisionCraft Log & Timber Homes, a Meridian, Idaho-based designer and builder of custom log houses.
“We met other log home producers at the show, of course,” Judy said. “But, ultimately, we chose PrecisionCraft because they were prompt and responsive. They sent us literature, kept in touch and were friendly and helpful. It was an easy choice.”
Gene and Judy designed a floor plan and sent it to PrecisionCraft so the company could get to work turning the couple’s doodles into reality. They knew they wanted an open, airy home, and it had to have a loft. At 2,000 square feet, the place isn’t imposing, but it’s open floorplan and high ceilings give the illusion of extra space. Included in the neat little package are a living room, kitchen, three bedrooms, an office and 2 ½ baths.
PrecisionCraft helped the couple with everything from the initial design and selecting the logs. But because there are very few log homes in the area surrounding Santa Fe, the company didn’t have a builder to recommend to the couple. Gene and Judy ended up hiring a builder who had little experience with log homes, which led to trying times.
Hurdles and Solutions As novices in log home construction, the Jameson’s felt the builder’s simplistic plans were adequate. Today, they realize that the proposal for a log home should be pages long—a small book. But the biggest issue arose after the couple realized that the builder had multiple commitments in far-flung corners of the state, making him difficult to track down.
Frustrated the couple fired the builder and Gene, an electrical contractor by trade, became his own general contractor.
“Hiring the wrong builder turned out to be a mixed blessing,” Gene explained. “Doing so much of the work ourselves was a bonding experience for Judy and me.”
DIY Dreams Once the Jamesons took over the construction process, the couple’s first step was to re-sand the interior. The builder had let too much time pass and the log walls were left exposed to the ravages of the weather.
Gene used a drawknife on the Douglas fir logs that support the house, giving them a rustic look. In the corners of the rooms, saddle notches display unique corners, especially in spots where the log tails can be seen.
Ten-inch ponderosa-pine logs were used in the interior walls in a basic Swedish cope design. Wanting to vary the surfaces of the walls, the couple broke them up with texture and paint. The floor in the dining room, kitchen, bathrooms and halls is ceramic tile; elsewhere carpet is used for its comfort and cost effectiveness.
One of the focal points is the house is a masonry heater in the dining room with chambers that continue to generate heat long after the fire has died out. Longtime users of wood-burning-stove heating, Gene and Judy found that the masonry heater, assisted by two gas-log stoves, keeps their home toasty, even at its frosty elevation of 7,400 feet.
The carpeting living room with its 24-foot ceiling, two-story windows and overhanging loft is a favorite area for relaxation. The couple spends a portion of most evenings settled into the plush leather couch and chair, unwinding from the day.
Southwest touches such as copper accents and lighting sconces cast a golden glow over the home. Most of the modern glass-and-iron light fixtures were purchased at the local Home Depot. Furnishings throughout the rooms convey a rustic yet contemporary feel. Furniture is made primarily of wood embellished with carved metal, and sofas and chars are constructed of cozy leather.
External Beauty When it came time to finish the exterior, “I didn’t want to hassle with oil-based paint,” explains Gene. “We chose a Sascho exterior water-based stain, an antifungal stain and two coats of clear sealant. After five years or so, we may want to give it another clear coat.
Because they took care in protecting the exterior when constructing their home, Gene and Judy have had to do very little in the way of repairs or maintenance. As a result, they’ve been able to invest in landscaping, building a flagstone patio off the rear deck and installing a soothing boulder foundation.
Covered porches off three of the four sides of the home extend the living space on the 11-acre property and protect the exterior walls from sun damage and weathering. The Jamesons enjoy relaxing on the porches all year round, thanks to the overhead cover.
“We like the natural feel of logs and we love the decks, even in the winter,” Judy said. “The house is very cozy when it snows, and air conditioning isn’t needed during the summer. The cool night air comes in, and we keep it in the house by closing the windows during the day.”
Now settled into their home with their two dogs, a Great Pyranese named Charlie and a Red Healer mix called Polar, Gene and Judy say they wouldn’t change a thing. When asked if building the log home was worth the investment of time, money and effort, Gene answered, “No question. We enjoy living here even more than we imagined we would … and that’s a whole lot.”