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Story by Jessica Klarp
Photos by Steven McBride, Courtesy of Hearthstone, Inc.
Garage Photo by Ben York
Mark Kirkpatrick by Carey Cloninger
Reprinted from Pinnacle Living Mountain Homes Southern Style magazine, Summer 2006
High on a hill in sleepy Mountain City, Tenn. sits a magnificent log home and its contented owners. With deer munching serenely on fallen apples and layers of purple mountain in the distance, it would be easy to miss the custom details that make this grand home a haven to visiting friends and family, but owners Cheri Nelson and Charles Wendland know every nook and cranny of their home. In fact, they helped to create it.
It's a crisp autumn morning.
Charles Wendland sits in a rocking chair on the back patio, steaming hot coffee in hand. Nearby, a fireplace crackles in the exterior fireplace while wild turkey and deer graze in the field and mist rises over the distant mountains.
For Wendland, this is a reason for living and the best part of his Mountain City, Tenn. home.
A semi-retired defense contractor, Wendland shares his elegant 4,300-square-foot log home with his companion of many years, Cheri Nelson. And while the rocking and deer-watching sound idyllic, the pair have put in the sweat equity necessary to earn the peace and quiet they so adore.
What makes the home exceptional and what Nelson likes best is the feeling of intimacy amidst the soaring ceilings and huge timbers.
A People Place
"I like that there's plenty of room to house and entertain family when they come to visit," she says. "Our first Christmas in the house we had 14 people; the first Easter we had 17. And they all felt very, very comfortable. Most people say it's like spending a weekend in a lodge."
But she and Wendland can sit alone in the den comfortably reading and not feel overwhelmed by the space.
Perched atop a hill on 157 acres at an elevation of 2,600 feet, the home is testament to the attention to detail necessary to build a retreat perfectly suited to the individuals' needs. From the terraced back yard to the polished white oak trunk that dominates the entry to the custom doors and railings throughout the interior and exterior of this beautiful home, the owners and builder, Mountain Construction Enterprises of Boone, N.C. sought perfection in every detail.
After many years in Florida and Mississippi, the couple wanted to escape the humidity and move closer to Nelson's four children in the Carolinas. It took two years of hunting to narrow their choices and find the ideal property.
"Our needs were rather unique," she says. None of the places they found could accommodate Wendland's collection of 25 vehicles, including 13 Corvettes. Gravel roads were out of the question and the double hauler that tows the sporty entourage couldn't handle hair-pin turns.
Frustrated with their lack of options, they decided to build. This was no new experience; between them, they had built four or five houses. But first came the location. They found just what they wanted in Mountain City, a rural town near Johnson City, Tenn., Abingdon, VA and Boone, with Tri-City Regional Airport less than an hour away. The acreage looks out over the Doe and Iron Mountain ranges.
The Building Begins
Soon Wendland was trading in his sports cars for heavy equipment to clear the land. Over the next six months, he cleared about 15 acres, determined the best site for the home and storage shed, and started looking for a builder.
In their years of searching, the couple had always admired log homes. Now the land cried out for a structure that would suit the landscape. Wendland and Nelson met with an architect for a general layout of the house, then found the ideal builder in Mark Kirkpatrick of Mountain Construction Enterprises.
Working closely with Kirkpatrick and adapting plans as the structure went up, it took about 16 months to complete the house, built of hemlock and white pine logs eight inches thick and 14 inches high supplied by Hearthstone Homes.
"We liked the hand-hewn texture and look of the chinking around the square logs," Wendland says. Kirkpatrick points out that the timbers in the roof system are upsized for a sense of proportion compatible with the larger logs.
Now the rustic estate houses four bedrooms and a bonus suite over the garage designed specifically for the grandkids; four bathrooms, an attached extra-wide two-car garage; a detached two-story three-car garage, and an 8,000-square-foot heated/air conditioned shed with office and bathroom.
True Mountain Style
The home's exterior incorporates a mixture of cultured river rock, massive logs and cedar shake and trim. A custom copper-colored, commercial-grade metal roof with copper gutters lead to Jack Daniels barrels and underground drainage.
"I think the 'hipped'--or 'clipped'--roof makes the house," Nelson says, "but I know it was a challenge for the roofing contractor." Dormer windows enhance the roof lines and give the home additional visual interest. A lengthy stamped-concrete driveway features two contrasting colors that tie in with the cedar garage doors, fascia and trim. And here's the bonus: The view from the top of the driveway--miles and miles of layered Iron Mountain range--is breathtaking
Of the many custom details, one of the most striking is the use of hand-carved doors throughout the home, such as the front door's full-length depiction of grazing deer.
"Initially the artist, (Colorado-based Richard Cornelius) carved Colorado deer, which are three times the size of our white-tailed deer," notes Wendland, "so we had him redo it."
Nelson explains that they worked together with Cornelius by faxing sketches back and forth until all parties were satisfied. In addition to the deer, there are wild turkey, beaver and bear doors that set the tone for the decor of each bedroom. A cast-metal panel featuring wolves was sculpted by an Oregon artist as the focal point for the stone fireplace.
More Personal Touches
Nelson was instrumental in creating an unforgettable entryway, but it took a Herculean effort to make it a reality.
"I had my heart set on a staircase winding around the trunk of a large tree with multiple branches to serve as perches," she says. "It took six men, a track hoe and all of the rollers Charles used to move cars to get it in the house, but it was well worth the trouble." Reaching to the second floor, this massive white oak features a black panther crouching at the top of the 16-foot trunk.
Another interesting detail is the lack of hardwood floors. A pathway of patterned metal-flecked ceramic tile leads between wall-to-wall Berber-style carpet throughout the house, and the decor is rustic and earth-toned with lots of visible wood, lush fabric and soft leathers. Bedrooms are Spartan, but overstuffed and cozy. In the open kitchen, pierced tin inserts adorn the hickory cabinet doors while under-mounted sinks are tricked out with complementary tile backsplash; custom stools created by the team at Mountain Construction give the granite-topped bar its own flavor.
Nelson points to white oak side tables made from the same tree harvested for the entryway as a favorite element in the decor. She favors lighting fixtures that follow the themes of the carved bedroom doors.
"I'm not a shopper," she says of her buying technique, "so I became the Catalogue Queen of Tennessee."
On the back patio, near the fireplace, are artistically conceived custom railings that echo the foliage of the mountains and enhance the landscaping, while separating the couple from the grazing wild animals that populate the cleared field now covered in wild flowers and native grasses.
After years of city living and a rich social life, the couple is content to focus on their property, catch up on their reading and entertain family.
"We weren't looking for a social life when we came here," she says. "We have really let go of that, but we like to travel a lot. We go to Arizona, Mississippi and out West for up to three weeks four or five times a year. We love riding in cars and we have no qualms about driving anywhere. We don't adhere to any schedule and if we have a hobby, it's driving around the country."
But home comes first.
"We still have an awful lot to do here," she says. "For me, there's landscaping and for Charles, there's quite a bit of clearing."
"When I first bought this place I wanted the grounds to look like a golf course," he says, "but in five years, I've only gotten 30 acres done and I've got 100 more to go. There are a lot of really pretty areas on the land, including a 30-acre orchard of apple trees, and spaces with blackberries, but it's a lot of work."
With the calm and quiet only rural living provides, it appears the pair have found their Shangri-La in a log home in Mountain City.
Name: Mark Kirkpatrick
Company: Mountain Construction Enterprises, Inc
Contact Information: 1345 Poplar Grove Rd. S. Boone, NC 28607; 828-963-8090, www.mountainconstruction.com
Mountain Construction Enterprises has been creating quality custom construction for more than 20 years with the motto "Building Art You Can Live In." Additionally since 1985, the company has been a distributor for Hearthstone Homes, offering residential and commercial timber frame and log services.
Q: Did this project start with a standard plan?
Mark Kirkpatrick: Charles and Cheri brought me a rough preliminary drawing they'd had done by an architect. Our design and drafting department worked the magic on the overall plan design. We did a mock-up with them and then produced the final draft. The plan they approved fit the site and had an angle between the main home and garage to provide contrast and to better fit in with the mountains and the view. The changes were many but Charles and Cheri were there almost every day for input as the home unfolded.
Q: How can clients facilitate changes at the lowest possible cost?
MK: We work with consideration and concern, of course, for cost versus value. The lowest possible cost is often not a consideration. The best product at the most reasonable cost is more the consideration.
Q: Was it a challenge or an advantage to have the owners on site?
MK: Having them there was great because every time there was an option on a detail or we needed input, we got it right away. It helps to expedite the job.
Q: How does the humidity affect the logs and the process of curing over time?
MK: The humidity does not significantly impact drying. You'll note that the roof overhangs on this home are 24 inches and this large roof overhang protects the logs and aids in the drying process because when it rains, the roof keeps the log walls dry. Also incorporated into the home was a well-planned shrinkage and settling program that is easy to follow after the home is built.
Hearthstone is the premier manufacturer of log homes and timber frame homes. Located in East Tennessee, our designers can provide breathtaking home plans from our collection, or from your designer's or architect's plan.