"Whispering Pines"Summer 2006, Luxury Log Homes & Timber Frame
When their children were young, Jerry and Kathy Petersen loved escaping on family getaways to a log cabin outside Yellowstone National Park, on the banks of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, in the shadow of the Teton Mountains. Jerry would take the kids fly fishing there in the summer and, in the winter, the family could steal away on snowmobiles, enjoying Yellowstone as it lay under a frozen blanket. As the kids got older and the family’s activities changed, though, the Petersens eventually sold that home. But they never forgot the good times they had there. “We just have such fond memories of taking the kids up to the cabin,” Kathy says now. “We wanted to re-create that lifestyle.
With the kids grown, the Petersens have indeed recreated those memories, but on a much grander scale. Their new home of 14-inch, hand-hewn Douglas fir logs with saddlenotched corners measures out at nearly 10,000 square feet. Located on 54 acres of grassy, wooded wilderness, the home now sits near Jackson, Wyoming on the other side of the Tetons. Its 30-foot-high, full-length windows bring in a stunning view of the mountains from the great room. There’s even a trout stream on site, Three Channel Creek, a tributary of the Snake that confluences with the same waters Jerry fished with the kids years ago. “It’s some of the best fly fishing in the Valley, right here on the property,” Jerry beams.
Dubbed “Whispering Pines” for the plentiful trees located around the property, the home is a design and engineering achievement that took more than two years to build. Log, rock, and glass come together under a complex roof system, which is anchored to the foundation through a series of steel supports, invisible to onlookers, that form the home’s unique “anti-settling” system. On the interior, Native American art adorns the large rooms, including a stunning, life-sized carving of two Blackfoot Indians by artist Greg Woodard, nestled together as part of a massive cedar column that supports the main staircase. Giant golden eagles, also carved by Woodard, roost with their wings held high in at the sides of the dining room fireplace, lifting its log mantle.
In the kitchen, custom tea-green alder cabinets that were built onsite during construction by craftsmen from Jackson’s Western Woodworks sport antique copper insets; they hang over black and green Esmeralda granite counters. A multidrawer, under counter refrigerator stows different cuisine at preferred temperatures, while a custom, distressed copper hood built by Jordan Metal Works of Alpine, Wyoming, adds character above the stove.
Throughout the home, reclaimed, broad-plank chestnut floors, hand delivered the home by a pair of Amish craftsmen from Ohio, are laid down under wide-slung, arched passageways that cut into the logs between the rooms. And set within the Montana moss rock chimney of the great room fireplace- one of four in the house- a Native American figure stands sentinel over the home in a stunning, stained-glass window crafted by artist Jennifer Ronayne. It all comes together to form an expansive home reminiscent of nearby Old Faithful Lodge, mixed with turn of the century elegance.
“My generation grew up watching Bonanza on television,” Jerry says. “We wanted something like what the interior of the Ponderosa must have looked like, something that an old cattle baron out West might have built.”
To achieve their eclectic home, Jerry and Kathy poured through magazines for years, noting details that they wanted to include in their own log home. They visited several homes in the Jackson area to get a “feel” for how they wanted their interior to be laid out. Through that research the, couple became clear about two aspects they wanted the home to have. “First, I wanted to be able to step outside from anywhere on the main floor and be on terra firma with nothing between me and the earth,” Jerry says. “And we wanted just a few rooms, so that the rooms we did have would be large.”
For those reasons, no decks stand between visitors and the ground at Whispering Pines, though 6,000 square feet of heated flagstone surround the home, creating a great setting to enjoy the outdoors, even in winter. And while the home itself has nearly 10,000 square feet of living space, it only has four bedrooms, with a grand, open area at its center, encompassing the great room, dining area, kitchen , and study on the main floor.
After investigating a few different log home companies, the Petersens chose PrecisionCraft Log & Timber Homes of Meridian, Idaho, which has completed more than 2,000 milled and handcrafted log and timber frame homes since 1990. One of the deciding factors in that choice was PrecisionCraft’s team on in-house designers, whom the Petersens tapped to work with their own architect, Don C. Frederickson of Design Source in Ogden, Utah. “We’ve known Don for more than 20 years, and we’ve seen several of his houses in Utah,” Jerry says. It was very important to me that Don be central to this process, and we chose PrecisionCraft because Don could work with their architectural division.”
But it was builder John Jennings of Jackson-based Peak Builders, whom the Petersens found on one of their home tours, who brought Don’s visions to life. “Don’s an extremely creative person, and a lot of the details in the home, like all the burled wood accents, came from him,” Jerry says. “He poured his heart and soul into this house, which was his sole project over a two-year period.”
That collaboration paid off as a legacy project for all parties involved. “Jerry and Kathy had a very grand vision for their home. They didn’t want it to look like every other log house in the area,” Don says. “What made it unique were all the people that came in and contributed their talents there.”
One aspect that challenged designers was the home’s complex roof system. With the home’s height and size, and the wide expanse of the great room, roof trusses had to be engineered to include steel inserts so they could hold the load. But at the same time, having steel braces visible from the home’s interior was undesirable. The team solved the problem by inserting braces inside the logs with thin, horizontal “knife cuts,” which were then sealed over. “Now, there’s no hardware visible anywhere,” Don says.
Matt Franklin, manager for M.T.N Design, PrecisionCraft’s design division, attributes the final product to teamwork. “There was a lot of collaboration back and forth there,” says Matt. “We were able to work together on the roof structure to put Don’s designs into log so they worked from a structural and engineering perspective, but satisfied the aesthetic needs as well. It’s a beautiful home.”
Part of what holds the beautiful home up- and makes sure its massive structure isn’t prone to the settling issues inherent in log homes-is the unique anti-settling device built into the walls. Because logs shrink and dry over time, entire walls can move and settle as their logs dry. To alleviate this problem, log designers often employ “slip scribes” in walls, inserting extra space above windows an doors so that he logs won’t bear pressure down on those openings over time. But with the massive proportions at Whispering Pines, paired with a full wall of windows in the great room and a complex roof system above, designers for this home had to make sure that there would be no movement in the underlying structure at all.
To do so, they drilled holes in each of the horizontal logs and inserted vertical steel pins inside them. Those pins were moored to the home’s concrete foundation, and flanges as the logs stacked higher, designers were able to ensure settling wouldn’t be an issue in the home. The spaces in between the rounds were then filled with chinking, hiding the steel components. The system let designers do things with this home they otherwise couldn’t have in such a large, heavy log structure.
“In a traditional log home, you have to figure out how to incorporate nonsettling items, like the vast amounts of glass and vertical log posts that are in the Petersens’ great room, with settling walls,” Matt says. “Because we used the anti-settling device, we were able to do things that just flat out couldn’t be done in an ordinary log home. It really opens up your options, and that’s the beauty of the system.”
For Jerry and Kathy, the beauty rests in the achievement of their one-of-a-kind home, set in the mountains that have been part of their family for years. “We really did get a great , grand home,” Jerry says. “It’s very dear to our hearts.”