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Couple's log home carved out of -- but still fits in -- the countryside
By Kathleen Ostrander

Rick and Karen Branham's cabin in the country is an inviting oasis of comfort and rustic elegance carved into the Waverly countryside.

"We found the land on the Internet," said Karen, "and even though we worked to keep as many trees as we could, we still had to take down 150 or so to clear the land. It was painstaking work to get the cabin, the garage and the workshop to fit while disrupting the area as little as possible."

The couple and their children did much of the work on the house themselves.

"I think people were afraid to come over because they thought we would put them to work," Karen said. "We always wanted a log cabin, and we had an idea in our minds on how we wanted it to look and what we wanted it to be."

They started work on their home in September 2005, and they were ready to move in by February 2006.

Visitors know they are in for a treat when they see the little gnome home as they come up the driveway. It hides the outside electrical box.

The front of the home, complete with a huge wraparound porch and dormer windows, seems to rise out of the trees. The look of the adjacent garage mimics the home, but it has a cupola with a weather vane for an added touch. The house is heated and cooled geothermally.

On the porch are some chairs that Rick Branham made, his "practice" chairs that later evolved into real furniture. The charming wooden faces carved into the stumps placed in the landscaping also are Rick Branham creations.

Light streams into the great room through high windows as well as through a double set of double doors out to another porch. Three sides of the home have inviting porches with hewn wood pillars.

The kitchen features natural hickory cabinets that retain their "wood" look and blend with the décor.

A staircase leads upstairs to a loft where the master bedroom is located. The staircase has wrought iron balusters. "We needed the iron to offset the wood," Rick said.

Rick made the bed in the master bedroom using lumber from trees cut on their land. Karen said she went with furniture in keeping with the rustic open feel. There are armoires in the bedrooms instead of closets.

The Branhams worked with Wolf Creek Real Log Homes in Williamsville. They picked white pine for their primary building wood, and they worked in decorative touches to accommodate some of the idiosyncrasies of building a log cabin.

"They put up the walls and then basically left us with one big open room," Karen said. "We cut the wood for the staircase and put up the cabinets in the kitchen."

One of the idiosyncrasies they had to plan for was the wood drying and settling. "Everything settles two inches when the wood dries," Rick said. "So you had to put the kitchen cabinets up two inches from where you would like them to be and they will 'settle' at the right height. You even had to plan for the porch to settle."

Rope coiled around pillars in the house and used elsewhere looks like decorative accents, but it actually covers areas where the wood either has settled or will settle.

Karen said the couple had to miter the corners of the logs when they were making the walls and be careful that the walls would fit together inside, but the work was worth it.

The newest addition to the property is the Skeeter Hut outside. It is a screened in tiki bar complete with a parrot, tiki figures and a palm ceiling fan. "Perfect for entertaining," Karen said.

Sitting outside enjoying the setting yields some surprises. High up are birdhouses Rick carved and some look like the house and then there are the skulls which show up around the house because Rick is a pirate fan.

"I think we accomplished what we wanted," Karen said. "We wanted our log cabin that was comfortable, and we wanted the least disruption to the surrounding area."

The Branhams chronicled their build on their Web site: www.branhams.com.


Story published Friday, November 6, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 6 )

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