Oh, what a feeling: Cabins come of age

BY JAY PRICE

McClatchy-Tribune

RALEIGH, N.C. – The log cabin, it turns out, exerts a sort of cosmic force, an almost gravitational pull.

Again and again, people wandering the aisles at the Log and Timber Home Show at the N.C. State Fairgrounds recently succumbed. They would stop, then veer – no more able to resist than, say, a hungry beaver – toward one of dozens of sample sections of notched and dove-tailed wall dotting the exhibit hall. Then they caressed the smooth, peeled surface of the logs and poked at the tight corner joints. Some even leaned down to sniff.

“The feel, the touch, the smell, all brings something to the table you don’t get with siding and sheetrock,” said Mark Munzert of a company named – yes – Lincoln Logs Ltd. – that makes home kits in the Adirondacks.

“It’s building a place for family values, a place to breathe a deeper breath, a place to get back to nature, to hug a tree, to hike a trail, to bike a trail, to sit on a porch,” he said.

Munzert, it must be said, not only sells these things, but dabbles in cowboy poetry in his free time.

The modern log cabin may indeed be a place to breathe a deeper breath, but judging from Munzert’s well-attended lecture and slide show on planning one, it also can be the place for $7,000 Sub-Zero refrigerators, $20-a-square-foot cherry floors, in-law apartments and sunken tubs surrounded by hand-cut stone.

“You don’t get much for a quarter of a million dollars anymore,” said exhibitor Bill Moss. “They have to get that $10,000 chandelier for their 25-foot cathedral ceiling.”

His Shenendoah Valley company, F&B Farm, makes hand-forged iron chandeliers, butcher-block tables and rustic hardware such as elk antler door handles.

Most log houses are sold as second homes, Munzert said, to buyers who plan to retire into them. The majority, even by Triangle buyers, are built in the mountains.

Log or timber homes can actually cost a little more than similar-sized typical homes, Munzert said.

Still, some who feel the pull of a cabin don’t feel the pull of $10,000 chandeliers.

“When mine is done, it’ll be paid for, at least if everything goes as planned,” said Robert Lowry, who plans to start building this coming fall on a six-acre tract in New Hill, near Jordan Lake.

Lowry owns a company in Apex, R&J Mechnical, that does steel work and customizes cars. He’s not the kind to hire someone else do something he wants done precisely his way. So he bought his own sawmill and, to move the logs around, a forklift and a truck with a lift boom.

For three years, he has been cutting down trees and drying the logs at the site where he will build the house, about 200 of them so far. He’s even cutting the white oak planks for the flooring from trees he felled himself.

His won’t exactly be like ol’ grandpap’s cabin, either. There will be a separate kitchen with a wood-fired brick oven, accessible by a breezeway that’s open in the summer and enclosed in winter, and space for the antiques he hunts on weekends.

Lowry’s a hands-on guy, not a poet or salesman, but he feels that cosmic pull, too.

“When you walk in, you just feel good,” he said. “And whoever comes to visit, they feel like they’re home.”