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"Having It All"

March 2005, Log Home Living


Milled Log HomeAfter years of remodeling existing houses, they finally built their own home - a log masterpiece with more than 6,000 square feet. "We decided to build a home large enough to encompass everything we wanted," says Michael.

The Tiltons got just that - a really big, three-level home that opens to 28-foot-high ceilings in the entry and comprises two levels of living space with enough room for all of the amenities on their wish list. Even more important than the space is the location, which turned out to be an irresistible 216-acre lot on a bluff overlooking the horseshoe bend of the Payette River in Idaho. "The property is so fantastic that we didn't want to under-build," says Michael.

Michael and Laurie began drawing up plans for their home, but because their construction business was booming in Florida, they didn't actually move on it for several years. "By the time we were ready to build, we'd decided that we wanted to spend our retirement in this house," says Michael. "The delay gave us time to tweak the plans."

Armed with a stack of magazine photos with inspiring designs, they pored over the details together. "A lot of fighting went on over the floorplan," says Laurie with a laugh. Their wish list wasn't long, but it was specific. The kitchen was a hot spot: Michael wanted a giant gourmet space with a gas range, while Laurie was set on an electric model. An exercise room also was essential, as was a billiard room complete with slot machines and a bar. For working hours, they needed a home office, and for nesting and relaxing, a fabulous master suite with a whirlpool bath (and, of course, a multi-head marble steam shower). Michael also wanted a turret to house the dining room, and Laurie hoped for a laundry chute. "I lost the laundry chute," Laurie says, "but I fought back and got my pantry." It was a stunning triumph: The wine-cellar-style arched door that serves as the entry to the pantry is set into a wall of river rock that coordinates with the kitchen island.

When it came time to select a log producer, the couple went into full research mode. With plans in hand, they toured the factories of five national companies in their area and chose PrecisionCraft Log & Timber Homes. "I was impressed with Precision Craft's fastening system," says Michael. As explained by Todd Gailey, the company's Idaho Client Representative, Precision Craft uses a through-bolt system with rods every 4 to 6 feet that are connected to the foundation. Logs are pre-drilled to fit over the rods as they're stacked. "At the top of the stack, a tension spring puts 1,000 pounds of compression on the logs to hold them in place," explains Todd. "The spring makes the logs self-cinching, so any settling is minimized because the logs are kept tight."

In addition, Precision Craft also offered Michael and Laurie their log of choice - full-round, 10-inch ponderosa pine logs. "This species has tons of character, with lots of knots and streaks of color," says Michael. The logs are milled with a 4-inch flat side on top and bottom and precise tongue-and-groove cuts for stacking. "It's a well-engineered system," says Todd. "There's no opportunity for the log to roll or twist, but you still get the rounded look."

For the Tiltons, choosing a builder was a little less involved than selecting a log producer. Why? Because Michael, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, decided to do it himself. "I've been building structures in Florida for 25 years," he says. "I didn't want to hire it out; I wanted to make sure our dream home was done right."

But building a log home was a first for Michael. The learning curve began with the construction of a guest cottage; then it took 18 months to build the main house. "We did a great job on the little house, and we did an even better job on the big one once we'd learned the tricks," says Michael. "But this is my last hoorah. It really took it out of me."

While Michael was the master of all things construction, Laurie was in charge of the decor, and she began collecting pieces for the house two years before they moved in. "I had a huge storage unit filled to the brim," she confesses. "I found one-of-a-kind pieces, including the wood table in the living room that has a center of pressed metal from the ceiling of a bordello."

The color palette relies on warm neutrals, browns and blues, with sharper accents here and there. "It's warm, not formal," explains Laurie. "I wanted a lot of rock and tile to provide alternative textures to the logs." Large-scale ceramic-tile flooring echoes the subtle colors of the river rock used for the fireplace, kitchen and exterior. Even the staircase got some tile style - the treads are half-logs inlaid with slate mosaic. For a slight variation in wood tone, the couple chose cabinets made from knotty alder in the kitchen and bathrooms.

For all the home's beauty, Michael's real pride and joy is the hydronic heating system, which passes propane-heated hot water through pipes under the tile floors. "It's radiant heat so it's never cold," he explains. "You get the look of tile without the cold floor. This house is so tight and the hydronics are so efficient that in the coldest month we ever had, when the temperature went down to about 15 degrees, I only used 350 gallons of propane. I'm thrilled with it."

In summer, Michael and Laurie rely on four central air-conditioning systems to keep the home cool. Each has a humidifier and electronic air cleaner. "In the winter, that means we can recycle the air while we're using the hydronic system for our heat," says Michael.

Their house is about as personal as a home can be, and the couple loves it. "We took so long to get things right, so there's nothing we'd want to be different," says Michael. Except, perhaps, the laundry chute.