Back to Its Roots

By Shannon Quimby | Photography by Laurie Black

A log cabin shared by two families goes back to its roots.

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For Marti and Eric Jacobsen and Debbie and Ian Walker, the restaurants, motels and equipment rental shops that dot the town’s main street became a familiar sight on their frequent treks to and from their kids’ ski races and practices. After several seasons spending much of their weekends in transit, the two families decided to ditch the commute and to purchase a vacation home together.

BackToRoots2 FW14Many of the homes in Government Camp are tucked away on narrow windy roads that scale the hills behind the commercial buildings. Set in the natural beauty of Mt. Hood’s national forest, classic bungalows and A-frames mix with modern condos and shacks in need of rescue. Yet, with less than 200 full-time residents, this alpine town did not have the luxury of multiple for-sale listings that met the needs of the four adults, four children and five dogs. When a 3,000-square-foot log home hit the market in 2006, the families snagged it.

While the exterior of the three-story house showcased a traditional round timber design, the beauty of the exposed stacked logs on the interior was lost amidst cheap tile, high-gloss finishes and unfinished floors. “It felt like you walked into the worst looking Mexican restaurant ever,” Eric says. “There was even a residential sprinkler system installed and exposed pipe on the third floor.” Built to accommodate up to 30 people, the home’s utilitarian layout also included several small bedrooms.

The Jacobsens and Walkers agreed a total remodel—including an upgrade of all finishes—would be required to improve the flow of the home and meet the needs of both families.

Equipment builds up fast when eight skiers shed gear as they enter the home’s foyer. A simple portable ski and pole rack left of the front door helps corral the clutter. Eric discovered the primitive-style door with iron hinge straps while flipping through the pages of a book he had purchased while researching log homes. “I just called them up and asked about the door,” he says. He tracked down the maker and the perfect log home front door arrived.

The most dramatic interior change of the dual family log home is the main floor great room consisting of the kitchen, dining and living space. The visual and functional success of the design begins with the kitchen layout.

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Acting as general contractors, Marti and Eric collaborated with Simon & Toney Custom Cabinetry & Furniture, a Portland company known for their custom color and painting techniques as well as their cabinetry. “We buy the pigment and make our own paint,” Bill Toney says. Layers of paint were applied directly to the upper kitchen cabinets and the rectangular island to achieve a custom rustic red color. The company crafted an open plate rack and lower cabinets from Oregon native hardwood chinkapin. The golden blonde tones of the wood blend with the exposed beams and wide plank floors in the space. The soft gray natural plaster finish on the walls provides a calming backdrop to the deep blue-gray Pietra Cardosa sandstone countertops and backsplash. The kitchen island adds space for meal prep and cooking as well as seating for young helpers.

BackToRoots5 FW14Because of its round timber construction, the Jacobsen/Walker home required some special consideration as the remodel progressed. During the kitchen installation, workers purposely left space between the upper cabinetry and ceiling to accommodate the movement of the logs. “Log homes continue to shrink,” Toney says. “You must give the wood room to move.”

The log home structure also allowed for the addition of a stone fireplace in the living room. “We didn’t have to build additional structural support because of the sturdiness and stability of the logs,” Eric says. Crafted by mason Troy Seeger, the hefty hearth with its simple wood mantel draw the owners and their guests to cozy up on two chocolate-brown leather couches after a day on the slopes. Pendleton wool pillows and blankets help shake off the chill. Two rows of wood pegs on both sides of the fireplace add space to dry ski gear, sweaters and outdoor wear.

The natural beauty of the exposed wood walls takes center stage in the great room leaving little need for additional artwork. Built-in bookshelves, cabinetry and a window bench created by Simon & Toney provide supplementary seating and storage for the families and their guests. The three pieces, painted in the same red hue as the upper kitchen cabinets, frame a window and hide exposed plumbing. Cabinets house favorites for family game nights while the comfy bench in the alcove adds a place to stretch out for an afternoon nap. Adjustable shelves hold selections of books for reading by the fire.

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BackToRoots6 FW14While the new three-story floor plan provides plenty of communal space, two master bedroom suites on different levels of the house assure the adults have plenty of privacy. Two additional bedrooms accommodate the four children and guests. Fitted with knotty pine built-in bunk beds, the guest room comfortably sleeps up to five while the kids’ quarters can pack in seven for an impromptu sleepover. Solid-sided railings on the upper bunks hide the occasional unmade bed. Noticeable only when needed, drawers under the lower beds store Pendleton blankets and other linens.

After a nine-month remodel, this once overcrowded, outdated and underused timber structure is now a warm and welcoming haven that combines natural materials and modern conveniences while staying true to the log cabin style. The Jacobsens and Walkers have proven that two families can live together—and separately—creating wonderful memories under one roof.