The Duke family history is permeated with a love of the outdoors that can be traced back to David’s father. He loved to hike in the mountains and built a cabin for his family near Hebrew, Utah, when he was 70. When he died, he left the cabin in trust for his six children. David and Hanne Duke vacationed at that cabin with their children for many years. “We really enjoyed the chance to bond as a family and be in a beautiful place in nature,” David says. “We decided that it would be nice to have a place like that for our family.”


That dream inspired David and Hanne to enlist the help of their daughter, Debbie, and her husband, Gregg Winn. Gregg had a similar background vacationing at cabins in the Hayward, Wisconsin, area while he grew up in Chicago. During those years Gregg often fished on Ole Lake, a private lake with no public access and a reputation as one of the best fishing lakes in the area. “We always said, if anything ever opened up on Ole Lake, it would be the opportunity of a lifetime,” says Gregg. Eventually their lucky day arrived, and the family was able to purchase a three-acre parcel.


While Debbie and Gregg were searching for property, they began planning a log cabin. “We knew we wanted a log home,” Debbie says. “One of the main reasons we wanted to build log was the atmosphere up there—the big pine trees, the fact that we’re right next to the Chequamegon National Forest. We wanted something that blended in. A log home really improves your experience. You feel like you’ve escaped from the everyday world and gone back to a simpler time.”

To collect ideas, the couple attended several log home expos, and Debbie bought dozens of log home magazines. “We collected information for five years,” she says. “I had a big file of ideas.” Gregg remembers doing lots of shopping online for cabin accessories and decorations. “It was actually a lot of fun during our evenings,” he says. “It was an enjoyable part of the building process.”

Debbie and Gregg were initially torn between a handcrafted full-log home and insulated half-log construction. They finally settled on an insulated half-log package from Expedition Log Homes of Oostburg, Wisconsin. “What Gregg and Debbie liked about full logs was the randomness of the look,” remembers Greg Grimes, co-owner of Expedition Log Homes. “In handcrafted, full-log construction, there’s a lack of uniformity, and that’s what they liked. So we worked with our insulated full-round corner and created a package that included differing combinations of 8-, 10-, and 12-inch-diameter corners so when you look at the home, what’s most striking is the fact that the courses differ in size and they’re randomly placed. We called it a ‘variable stack,’ and that’s the first and only one we’ve delivered in that style.” The Winns were pleased with the natural and rustic result of the 6-, 8-, and 10-inch courses of white and red pine logs. Unlike most log home companies today that deliver a machine-knifed log, Expedition’s logs are hand drawn at the factory by staff using a draw knife. Gregg believes the insulated half-log construction is more suitable for northern Wisconsin’s cold climate while it avoids some of the settling issues involved with whole-log construction.


The cabin is a complete custom design that is now included in Expedition brochures. “We took a standard Expedition plan and used that as a foundation and started to mark it up,” explains Gregg. “We made it larger. We didn’t want a loft on top, so we put in a catwalk. We added a portico and changed the way the decks were built on. We started with something and then customized it to a very high degree. “

Among the features on Debbie’s wish list were large character logs in the center of the great room, a natural log for the mantel, a farmhouse sink in the kitchen, and a breakfast bar finished with stone. “One of the things we added that I rarely see in plan books is a portico to drive into,” says Gregg of one of his favorite features. “You’re literally two feet away from the front door when it’s inclement weather. That’s something we knew we wanted.”

Gregg didn’t want to obstruct the view out of the main living area with a deck that covers the entire front of the house. Instead he chose two separate decks on either side of the prow front. “By putting a deck on either side, you’ve got a private deck off the master bedroom that is peaceful and quiet,” he says.


Everyone’s favorite feature is the 14-by-14-foot screened porch that extends from one end of the cabin. If he were to build the cabin again, Gregg says he would enlarge the porch. “We rarely eat inside,” he says. “We play cards, read the paper in the morning, and have coffee.” David Duke enjoys sitting on the porch and watching the wild animals. “We spend the majority of our time out there,” says Debbie, “and you feel like you’re part of nature without having to open up windows.” The builder put screen down over the rafters before laying down the floor boards, so no insects can come up through the floor. “What is a little bit unusual about the screen porch,” adds Greg Grimes, “is that most of them have flat ceilings. This one is cathedraled and has upper screens to allow for a great view of the lake. You don’t see that very often.”


Greg Grimes also points out that while the lake side of the house is beautiful, everyone that drives into the property sees the front elevation first. “You want to have something there that creates some character to the drive-up side,” he says. “Yet in the original design, it was a bit of a boxy look. We ended up building gables centered within the shed dormers matching the pitch of the portico. It really dressed up that elevation considerably.”

A massive wood-burning fireplace centers the great room and helps heat the main level. Radiant heating on the lower level is so efficient that they can lower the thermostats upstairs because the radiant heat filters up from below. Debbie and her mom decorated the cabin in earth tones keeping it natural and casual for a lived-in look.


Debbie and Gregg envision retiring to the cabin on Ole Lake someday. Meanwhile, they still have three teenage children who enjoy the vacation home as much as they do. “If we didn’t go up there for the 4th of July and do fireworks over the lake, I think the kids would revolt,” Debbie says. “We count down the days until we can go up there and relax and decompress. It has become a tradition, which is nice. We see the cabin as being something that will stay in the family and be cherished for generations to come.”

Photography by Roger Wade Studio