Log houses are some of the most versatile homes. They were overlooked for many years, until near the end of the 20th century, when stressful lifestyles caused people to look to more rustic, connected-with-nature architectural styles. Their growing popularity in both rural and urban areas offers an alternative to the norm. Log houses can range from forest cozy to fishing/hunting cabin to lodge-like grandeur, with massive stone hearths and elegant decor.
Like many of the architectural styles in the Western Hemisphere, log houses had their early origins in Scandinavia, Russia and Eastern Europe. The style was brought over in the 17th century, and homes were typically built with simple tools like bow saws, axes and knives. Adopted by immigrants and native settlers, log houses first started as cabins to provide temporary shelter from wild animals and the weather. These temporary structures evolved into more permanent dwellings, as building technologies advanced and areas became settled.
DEFINING THE LOG HOUSE
Log houses, as the name suggests, are built primarily with logs that may be round, squared or hewn to other shapes, and either handcrafted or milled. Today, many log houses utilize the milled variation because it requires less manual labour than would a handcrafted house. Milled logs, that have no tapers, are also more stable under the natural expansion and contraction that occurs.
However, purists maintain that true log houses are constructed from logs that have not been milled by machine. These houses typically include select logs that have been carefully fitted and interlocked to provide stability and sealing from the elements. Early log homes had wood plank or locally sourced stone floors, field or river stone fireplaces and chimneys, and many included stone foundations or accents. They were generally built from materials found right on the property.
Today, materials will usually be shipped in from somewhere else. The logs have often been pre-fitted, and disassembled before shipping, but stone and wood are still at the heart of the log house style.
The natural beauty of the wood is the most recognizable feature of a log house. There are several ways to arrange or stack the logs based on the location. In Britain, the horizontal stacking of logs is preferred irrespective of the kind of log wood being used. If you see peeled and squared logs fitted by mortising, those styles have German origins. The technique is known as log framing where the interstices are filled with a plaster. The French favour the vertical arrangement of logs that are usually peeled and rough hewn. This style is still popular in Eastern Canada, particularly Quebec and Nova Scotia.
LOG HOUSE DESIGN & DECOR
When it comes to acquiring the right Log House look, balance is key. It may be tempting to give your home a cabin feel, but try to incorporate modern elements, but with a light hand. For the sake of practicality, your cutting edge surround sound entertainment system and deer antler chandelier can share the same living space. Warm muted colours, organic fabrics and comfortable furniture pay homage to the authentic Log House style. Early homesteaders often traded locally, so First Nations carvings and art pieces lend a very authentic touch to a log home.
The wood structure is at the heart of a log home. The walls are usually made by stacking the logs on top of each other. The same log becomes part of the inside and outside wall. The log walls define rustic simplicity, with the walls joining in very distinct corners, based on how the logs are stacked. This is because traditional log homes were only supported at the corners; interlocking logs allows some give as the logs expand and contract due to weather and temperature changes. The rectangular shape of the homes is the basic structural floor design, accompanied by gabled rooflines, and frequently house-long porches. Traditionally built on spacious tracts of land, the rectangular shape of early log homes allowed for expansion, and the addition of more rooms as needed. Heat distribution was also a consideration in the design of early log homes, with one fireplace or stove typically heating the entire building. Modern heating systems allow for more creative floor plans.
Inside you will find wood floors and unpretentious furnishings, like unfussy painted chairs around a hardwood table. Early homesteaders would use materials they had on hand, so log bed frames and natural leather sofas and chairs are a good fit. Vintage fixtures and throw cushions maintain the nostalgia of the style. Most log houses have an abundance of windows to capture natural light and to view the landscape from anywhere in the house. Double hung sash windows about an inch thick are the go to since they are considered more weatherproof.
Classic log houses have stone fireplaces and outdoor living spaces as essential features, with added elements like timber trusses, stone hearths and sleeping lofts. Stone fireplaces with wooden mantels make a log home cozy during the winter months. Outdoor living spaces offer additional usable exterior square footage, and can help protect the home from the elements. These spaces are perfect for these rustic homes because they blend the architectural design with the natural elements of the landscape. Two distinct outdoor living spaces in a log home are the kitchen/barbecue area and the deck or porch. The outdoor kitchen adds value and versatility to the home while providing a separate area for entertaining and general foot traffic. Here you’ll find painted cabinets and open shelves stacked with day to day utensils. If your location has magnificent scenery, an outdoor deck is the best and least expensive way to take full advantage of a beautiful view.
LOG HOMES IN CANADA
Ontario was the first place in Canada to adopt the log home in a neighbourhood setting. A few of the heritage homes remain and are thankfully generally well preserved. Thousands of homes across Canada still maintain the same basic shape and proportions of the log house. The simplicity and homely feel of these designs blend well with Canadians’ love for nature. As they become more popular in the 21st century, contemporary considerations that includes being carbon neutral and airtight makes the design style attractive all over again. Currently, prefabricated materials are trending with people wanting a rustic design style typical of log buildings. The log structure can be built at the log home builder’s yard, then disassembled, with pieces numbered, for reassembly on your property.
THE LOG HOUSE OF YOUR DREAMS
Although wood will always be the star attraction in a log home, stone clad exposed foundation walls and columns, chimneys and fireplaces give traditional contrast and texture. Manufactured stone cladding textures like installer-friendly Cultured Stone® Country Ledgestone, or the more rustic Dressed Fieldstone and River Rock, with hand tooled mortar joints, deliver the look of stone that could have been gathered or quarried right on the property. Wood shingles were the traditional roofing material, but today asphalt shingles or metal roofing have also become popular. Log houses can be as rustic or as contemporary as you like. If you’re not able to build your own log home, some elements of the style are easily transferable to an existing home.