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"Sun Valley Seclusion"

March 2005, Country's Best Log Homes


Milled Log HomeFor 20 years, while their four children were growing up, the Seattle couple owned a small cottage in Sun Valley, Idaho. They have always loved the area, so it was there that they began searching for acreage when they decided to build their dream home. Four years ago they found the perfect spot, a 30-acre parcel surrounded by Federal Bureau of Land Management acreage with northern and western views of the mountains.

For months the Hummons bought bundles of log home magazines and Susan clipped out pictures, making a brochure filled with ideas they liked. David, who confesses he isn't much of a computer person, nevertheless went online and visited log home Web sites. Eventually they settled on Precision Craft Log and Timber Homes of Meridian, Idaho, for their log home package. "The reason we picked Precision Craft," says David, is that they're really a professional company. They have large facilities in Idaho where they cure the logs for their homes." David was also impressed with Precision Craft's through-bolt system that holds the logs together. "Our house is almost two years old, and we really haven't noticed any changes in the dimensions," he says.

Before they chose a builder, Susan and David sat down with PrecisionCraft's design team. Bringing along their brochure of pictures and sketches, they met several times with the designers before they were satisfied with the drawings for their new home. They chose walls of 10-inch milled Ponderosa pine logs, cut in Swedish Cope style and given a hand-hewn finish. The roof members are western white stock, handcrafted and hand-hewn with a natural taper to them. Douglas fir floor joists support the second floor of the structure, and the garage is covered with half-log siding of 5-by-10 inch Ponderosa pine matching the home's wall logs.

Through business contacts in the Boise area, David found their builders-Russell Robins and Dave Bixler. Robins & Robins Custom Homes is a small company, and the two men build no more than five or six custom homes a year. They had never tackled a house with so much log work, but they enjoyed the project immensely. "It's different from everyday construction," says Robins. "You've got to think a little bit more, and you've got to do things a little bit differently than you normally would, but we enjoyed doing the house. We were just as anxious to see it finished as the Hummons were. Being as hands-on as we are, it kind of felt like the house was going to be for us."

Before they could break ground, the Hummons' building permit had to be approved by the Blaine County zoning commission. "It's becoming more difficult to build in these mountain resort areas for obvious reasons," says Susan. "There's not very much land available anymore, and animal habitats are being compromised." Because their home site was on a hillside, zoning restrictions required them to remove approximately 4,500 cubic yards of dirt from the site and restore the hillside to its natural state by hydro-seeding with a specified mixture of wild grass seed.

Because both David and Susan work in Seattle, they weren't able to be on the site every day during the building period. But they kept in touch with their builders regularly by phone and fax, and they visited the project once a month. "Living and working in Seattle while knowing someone was building your house 700 miles away and not being able to be there every day was worrisome," Susan says, "but being able to go there at least once a month to see the progress was exciting."

The heart of the nearly 4,000-square-foot home is a spacious great room with a 28-foot cathedral ceiling and a wall of windows facing the mountains. Robins thinks the visible roof system in that room is the home's most unique feature. "There's the large wall of windows with big logs-flat on two sides-rising between the windows. These support other logs running the other way. So we had logs going north and south and east and west, and they all had to tie together. When you look up to the roofline, it's quite impressive."

Both Susan and David especially wanted a large open space incorporating the kitchen, dining room, and living room that flowed into the upstairs and the deck outside. "That way everybody, regardless of what they're doing, is included," says David. "Then there's the big deck outside that becomes another part of that room when we entertain."

A massive fireplace of cultured stone from Utah reaches from the floor to the ceiling on one wall. "It's unbelievably realistic looking," says David of the cultured stone. "We've never had a person come into the house who doesn't think it's real rock." The synthetic stone is lighter and faster for the masons to install because each rock has one flat side. "It's aesthetically more pleasing because the size, shape and color were designed by an artist," says Susan, "and it is environmentally friendly because the builder doesn't have to take natural rock from a river somewhere."

Because the home is in an area where winters are cold and snowy, the house was specially engineered to handle the harsh conditions. The Hummons chose a metal roof for that reason as well as for fire prevention. Their vinyl windows are low-E and UV glass with double and triple panes. David and Susan installed a state-of-the-art Danish geothermal heating system. The ground temperature warms water in a closed loop of pipe, then the warm water releases its heat through a heat exchanger in the house. "It is one of the most efficient heating systems you can install today," says Robins, "so they heat and cool that house for about $100 a month."

Susan and David did their own decorating, choosing warm yellows and reds to complement the tones of the pine logs. "Someone advised me that when you are picking out furniture, light fixtures, and accessories for your log home to think big," says Susan. "With 28-foot windows and ceilings, anything small can get lost."

Susans favorite feature in the house is the distressed cheery covering the great room floors. "We chose the cherry because it's a contrast to the light logs," she says, "and everybody who comes into the house raves about it."

Huntwood kitchen cabinets are of distressed alder, and the countertops are granite. All appliances are GE Profile series, and the double sink is a heavy-duty stainless steel one their plumber recommended. "I probably spent the most time researching the kitchen," says Susan, "because it is such a hub of activity. I wanted it to be comfortable but functional. I think it's really important to do a reality check of the space in your kitchen, allowing for movement yet efficiency."

Another important feature is an area above the three-stall garage that the Hummons call the "annex." Here they created a private living space for their children and guests. Two large bedrooms, a kitchenette, and a bathroom offer plenty of privacy. "We wanted a whole separate area for all of our children," says Susan. "It gives them a place to be by themselves," adds David.

Now that their log home is completed, the Hummons are content to spend about a quarter of the year in the secluded valley. "I think something that's hard to visualize when you're building a home is how it's actually going to fit into the environment," says Susan. "The house is such a complement to our surroundings. I never knew it was going to be so compatible to its setting."

Both Susan and David are very happy they chose a log home. "It doesn't look like or feel like a regular house," says David. "Our builders did a fabulous job creating what we envisioned. When you sit in the great room, there's just beautiful wood everywhere. You've got all this natural beauty and all these gorgeous logs."

Although their new home is often humming with activity, and Susan and David are active outdoor people, they both appreciate the solitude. "It's such a contrast to come back to the city," Susan says. "One of the reasons we chose this spot, and one of the reasons we love it so, is that it's quiet. You don't hear cars; you don't hear people. We can hike three miles up into the canyon from our house and not see another person. We have the stars right on top of us at night, deer in our front yard in the morning, and it's totally peaceful." She and David just might be content here for the rest of their lives.