A suburban family chooses a natural habitat in Hocking Hills

When Powell residents Kyle and Andrea Hanson began looking for an ideal spot for their second home in 2014, they kept an open mind. They knew they wanted a plot with a lot of trees, rolling hills and a flat area for erecting a family retreat made of logs.

They wanted a location within a four-hour drive of Central Ohio; however, that left a lot of land to consider.

Their search ended later that year when they found the ideal property in Hocking Hills. Sarah Claypool, an owner of The Jubach Company, a custom log home builder in that area, helped the couple realize their longtime dream. Claypool's family business had purchased 150 acres in Hocking Hills, originally parceled into 10 lots for log homes. Eventually, the Hansons purchased 84 acres of private, rolling and wooded land upon which to build their dream escape.

A Surprise

According to homeowner Andrea Hanson, the family had put the search for their property on “the back burner” in October 2014, partly because their search for land was exhausting, even though they had already started looking in Hocking Hills at the time.

Little did Andrea know that, in fact, her husband was planning a Christmas surprise neither she nor the couple's two young children would ever forget. Kyle had secretly purchased the property in Hocking Hills and finalized the architectural drawings for the log home. “He even lined up the construction schedule so it would begin right after Christmas,” she says.

When Christmas morning arrived, Andrea and the children had an unusual package to open. “He had the formal plans made and wrapped for us. He even had a Jubach home keychain, calendar and other items” wrapped in festive paper, she says.

“I was shocked because he had said the project was on the back burner,” she recalls. “Our kids were over the moon excited because they love the outdoors.”

Construction began in early 2015 but was delayed by a snowy, icy winter. Still, by the fall of 2015, the Hansons were able to enjoy their new space.

A House of Logs

Although the Hansons, who were high school sweethearts, lived through home renovations in the past, this project marked the first time they were immersed in new construction. On top of that, building a log home presents its own set of challenges.

Claypool, whose family business includes building log homes, helped with the design of the home. The house's exterior logs are white pine, a species of wood that allows for expansion and contraction during the settling process. “Using hardwood, like oak, for the exterior structure would be more costly and tends to twist, warp and check more aggressively than pine,” she says. All the wood is from Ohio.

One big construction challenge was placing electrical outlets. That called for Andrea to map the layout of each room to be certain outlets would be accessible where needed. “In a log cabin, once the plug is placed, that's it. It's there. It's not like you can move a log,” she says. The placement of vents posed the same challenge.

There are other considerations linked to erecting a log home that a traditionally built home does not involve. For example, because there is no access to exterior walls for electricity and mechanicals, interior partition walls become very busy with HVAC, electric and plumbing. “Also, the structural integrity of a log home is a post-and-beam construction, so you have a closed rafter system without any attic space. That's how you get the big, open cathedral look and exposed beams,” says Claypool.

Today, there are countless reasons Andrea enjoys her family's 3,500-square-foot retreat. Take the natural aroma of the cabin, for example. “The house has its own unique scent. It smells like fresh-cut wood, fresh-cut grass and leaves,” she says.

The property upon which the home sits is idyllic, too. The heavily wooded, rolling lot allows for a wide variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, relaxing by the large fire pit and riding ATVs. A 12-foot-by-24-foot shooting pavilion constructed from treated pine sits on the property, while a small structure holding trap targets is nearby.

Owning a second home in such a pristine location has led to quality family time, playing board games, reading, talking and laughing, says Kyle. It also allows the Hansons to host both sides of their families at holidays, something they love to do.

The log cabin accommodates 10 people, with additional sleeping quarters for four guests in a studio apartment above the detached garage.

“It is all wonderful, relaxing, ever-changing, yet constantly serene,” says Andrea.

The home features a welcoming, large front porch, perfect for enjoying a crisp fall afternoon while reading a book. The Sonos wireless sound system ensures music is ever-present. When they visit, the Hansons aren't living off the grid: the log cabin is equipped with satellite television.

One endearing aspect of living in Hocking Hills is Grandma Faye's, the general store where the family often buys groceries, near Old Man Cave. It is a “throwback,” says Andrea. “You can get anything there, from touristy stuff to a steak.”

When it came to designing the cabin's kitchen, the Hansons were in agreement: Natural elements were a must. The kitchen granite is leathered, a finish that creates a matte appearance. Andrea decided to inject a bit of color into the kitchen to offset the darker woods in the room. She found a green, transparent stain that allows the natural wood grain to shine through while not overwhelming the wood.

Other natural elements include a travertine and stone tile, a cherry countertop for the lower level's bar, mixed hardwood paneling, cultured stone, red oak hardwood floors and deer antlers used for ceiling chandeliers. Leather couches, coupled with animal hide pillows and rugs, inject a rustic feel throughout the space.

A central feature of the home is the two-story, wood-burning, stone fireplace in the living room. Made from cultured stone cut in Ohio, the welcoming hot spot was built by masons from the Hocking Hills region.

Tami Kamin Meyer is an Ohio attorney and writer.