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One Couple's Indoor/Outdoor Dream Retreat

Inside and out, this bright, cheery cabin is designed
for hosting friends and family
By Christy Heitger-Ewing
Published: January 20, 2012
GRACIE LAKE – Tom and Terese Houles’ 20-acre property is home to deer, coyotes, raccoons, and hawks, as well as a 1-acre, spring-fed lake, which they named “Gracie Lake” after their late chocolate Lab, who loved the water.
Photo by Joseph Hilliard
It’s a common malady for cabin enthusiasts. Sometimes, you just can’t get enough paradise.
    In 2006, Tom and Terese Houle built a small log cabin in the Hocking Hills area of Logan, Ohio. With five state parks within a 15-mile radius, it was a prime spot for a weekend retreat.
    And retreat they did. With their permanent residence just 60 miles away in Columbus, Tom and Terese spent nearly every weekend and holiday at their beloved sanctuary. Still, it wasn’t enough.
    “It got to the point where the moment we returned to Columbus, we felt homesick for the cabin,” says Terese. So last year, the couple decided to sell both their vacation home and primary home and build a year-round 2,600-square-foot log cabin in Rockbridge (also in Hocking Hills County).
    They hired the same builder who built their small log cabin, Sarah Jubach of Jubach Log Homes. Only this time, they made sure their floor plan included an expansive outdoor living area.
    “We like being outside as much as possible,” explains Terese. “So when designing our new cabin, we wanted to build a larger deck that included a fireplace.”
OUTDOOR LIVING – The Houles are devotees of outdoor living, as evidenced by their 1,090 square feet of deck space. This is the main deck off of the great room and is about 15 feet above the ground.
Photo by Joseph Hilliard
FIRE PIT – The fire pit sitting area has an amphitheater feel.
Photo by Joseph Hilliard
Decked out & fired up
With total deck space equaling 1,090 square feet, the Houles’ design suits every mood and weather condition. The covered portion of the deck provides shade on sticky, sweltering days and shelter when it’s drizzly and dreary.
    The sun deck is ideal for reading and catnapping on chaise lounges.
    And the cozy sheltered sitting area by the outdoor fireplace offers the perfect spot to curl up with a steaming hot cup of cocoa. “The fireplace enables us to comfortably sit outside throughout the seasons,” says Tom.
    In addition to the fireplace, Tom and Terese wanted a fire pit down by the lake. So John Lindinger from Jubach’s crew designed a large fire pit area that’s fancy, functional, and flat-out gorgeous. Lindinger incorporated local sandstone and river rock around the pit and other parts of the property to ensure low-maintenance landscaping.
    “The last thing you want when you’re sitting fireside at the cabin is to be thinking, ‘Man, I really need to weed!’ ” says Jubach. “Therefore, we do a lot of ‘rockscaping.’ ”
BATHING BEAUTY – Ledgestone surrounds the Jacuzzi tub in the master bath.
Photo by Joseph Hilliard
TREE-FORT OFFICE – Tom Houle says this about his office in the loft: “I’ve got woods behind me and the lake in front of me. It’s like working in a tree fort.”
Photo by Joseph Hilliard
Light & bright
In drafting a floor plan for their three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath retreat, the Houles wanted to be sure that every room had a stellar view. So the couple installed 6-foot windows throughout the home. Even the master bathroom enjoys natural light from one 6-foot and two 3-foot windows. However, the loft, where Tom’s office is located, takes the cake.
    “I’ve got woods behind me and the lake in front of me,” says Tom. “It’s like working in a tree fort!”
    Tom and Terese had fun picking out cabinets, countertops, tiles, and stone for their cabin. They even took a special road trip to their builder’s farm to look through tons of huge logs to select the perfect ones to be fashioned into their fireplace mantels.
    With not a speck of drywall in the cabin, interior walls are a variety of hardwoods, including hickory, ash, walnut, and maple.
    “Everyone says how great the place smells because of all the wood,” says Terese. “And bonus: We’ll never have to paint another room in our lives!”
ROCK ON – River rock adorns the breakfast bar, entertainment bar, and fireplace.
Photo by Joseph Hilliard
Be our guest
The Houles entertain nearly every weekend, so they designed their new place to include lots of space for guests to relax and unwind – all while experiencing that “woodsy, log-cabin feel.”
    “Visitors sit by the fire and chat, roast marshmallows, and eat s’mores,” says Tom. Unless it’s football season, that is. Being big Ohio State Buckeye fans, Tom and Terese often host football parties, complete with drinks, dip, and a dynamite view of the lake.
    “We hang out in the bar area during game time,” says Terese. “But we always migrate down to the fire pit eventually.”
MULTIPURPOSE DECK – The dining area and sundeck are on one side of the outdoor fireplace (not shown); the seating area (shown above) is on the opposite side.
Photo by Joseph Hilliard
SAD DOG – Water-loving Maggie is banned from fishing.
Photo by Joseph Hilliard
An outdoor haven
When they’re not entertaining, the Houles are out biking, running, hiking, and gardening.
    “This was my first year growing a garden, and I planted everything!” says Terese. “Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, corn, banana peppers, watermelon – you name it, I planted it. Next year, I might even try growing a giant pumpkin!”
    The couple also loves to fish for bass, perch, and catfish on their 1-acre, spring-fed lake, which they named “Gracie Lake” after their late chocolate Lab. And though they don’t own boats or water toys, they count their two current chocolate Labs, Maggie and Stella, as fuzzy, friendly, fun-loving water toys.
    “Maggie likes to run and dive off the dock,” says Tom. “She can jump 15 feet!” Maggie’s (and Stella’s) zeal for water, however, makes for poor fishing conditions, so the Houles have to stick both dogs in the garage before grabbing their poles.
    Beyond fishing, the Houles include the dogs in every other cabin activity. “Maggie and Stella adore the cabin,” says Tom. “In fact, sometimes we feel like we built this place for them!”
LOVE THOSE LOGS – Hand-peeled logs define the home, but this fireplace mantel is black walnut with the bark on.
Photo by Joseph Hilliard
Space for 100
Since 2006, the Houles have hosted an annual family reunion. In the old cabin, it was tight quarters. Last summer, however, they hosted 98 people (and countless canines!).
    “We had 20-something campers and tents pitched all around the lake,” says Terese. “So it never felt like we had 100 people crammed into one place.”
    Reunion festivities offered something for everyone. The Houles hired a bluegrass band, hosted an all-day fishing derby (the 13-year-old winner netted an impressive total of 45 fish!), and invited the bunch to eat, swim, and be merry. Everyone had a blast, especially Tom and Terese, who never tire of extending invitations.
    “I get immense pleasure from seeing the tension and stress melt off of people when they’re here,” says Terese.
    The couple also likes to “cabin-ify” city dwellers, who aren’t used to experiencing nature 24/7. Tom recalls a time when a friend was visiting from the city. Over breakfast, the friend shared how he’d had the strangest dream about a turkey crowing. Tom smiled. “That was no dream,” Tom told his buddy. “And if you heard coyotes howling – also not a dream.”
    For the most part, however, the cabin air is silent. “Nothing,” says Terese, “beats sitting outside listening to the peace and quiet.”

Having been “cabinified” 30 years ago, frequent contributor Christy Heitger-Ewing totally understands feeling homesick for the cabin.

The Houles’ builder, Sarah Jubach of Jubach Log Homes, understands Tom and Terese’s desire to build an outdoor sanctuary. Many of her clients feel the same way.
    “Log home lovers tend to be outdoor folks by nature,” says Jubach. She suggests homeowners include amenities that help extend their outdoor season. For example:

1. Outdoor fireplaces are great, especially if they are adjacent to a sheltered area where folks can get out of the elements but still “experience” nature. Wood-burning fireplaces with a gas starter are a popular choice.

2. Consider blending fire and water. “Often people build a deck with a hot tub next to the fireplace,” says Jubach. “This way, they can chill out, warm up, and enjoy the outdoors despite inclement conditions.”

3. Home décor can play a big part in making the indoors feel “outdoorsy.” Decorate with natural materials like stones, wood, tree trunks, and moss to add outdoor ambiance to a space.

4. Take a walk on the rustic side when selecting furniture, light fixtures, mirrors, wall hangings, and built-in shelving.

5. Finally, install large windows and skylights so natural light pours in, making a space feel warm and inviting. “Not every log home layout lends itself to good window placement, so skylights are essential in those cabins,” says Jubach, who notes that skylights are the easiest, cheapest way to bring natural light inside.
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