Back Home in the Northeast Kingdom

by | Jul 9, 2021 | Entire Home

They say a man’s home is his castle. Such is the case for Mark Robbins, a Vermont native who after many career years as a pilot was happy to reset roots in northeastern Vermont, also known as “The Northeast Kingdom,” referred to by most Vermonters as simply “The Kingdom.”

“My home sits on a prominent feature in the middle of my father’s farm,” says Mark. “It’s well back from the town road and, with its elevation, provides 360 degrees of incredible views and vistas of northeastern Vermont’s mountains and valleys.” The home’s location is significant to Mark’s family history; numerous weddings and reunions have been held there over many years.

“While walking the property with my dad,” explains Mark, “looking for the right location to build, he brought me to the hilltop and said this is where I needed to put my house. It was such an honor… that he wanted me to live on this special place on his farm.”

For many years Mark had dreamed of building a second home in Vermont. His primary residence is a good distance away, in Florida. He reasoned, “A getaway place in Vermont would allow me to spend longer periods of time with my family. But with a job that required me to travel a significant portion of the time, I never found a good opportunity to start the process.” Then one day a good friend gave Mark a stack of log home publications, telling him it was time to pursue the dream. “That push was just what I needed to start the process,” says Mark, “and that pile of magazines hooked me on the notion of a log home.”

He began a yearlong research project on log and timber homes and the companies that produce them, particularly in the northern Vermont area. “I looked through lots of magazines and books,” says Mark, “and also did quite a bit of research online. There are so many variations, options, and companies that it can be a bit overwhelming. I settled on Coventry Log Homes, based in Woodsville, New Hampshire, because of their outstanding reputation and the fact that they are a local business, which was very important to me.”

Mark didn’t need a large home, but he did want three bedrooms and two full baths. He also wanted an exposed beam home with an open floorplan, a design that would optimize and complement the building site’s views and topography. “I got all that and more with Coventry’s Alpine model,” says Mark, “one of their Craftsman Series homes. The wonderful thing about Coventry was their ability to start with one of their basic designs, then add features and modifications that made it unique to my particular desires and vision for the house.”

Mark worked with Coventry sales representative Kris Still, who guided him through the entire planning and design process. She was helpful in suggesting ideas and modifying the Alpine plan based on Mark’s input. He says Kris made the whole design process easy and fun. The feeling is mutual. “Mark was such a pleasure to work with,” recalls Kris. “His ideas enhanced our basic Alpine model and subsequently gave way to a new plan that we call Skyline. The name is appropriate given the positioning of his cabin on top of a hill, and the amazing views it affords him.”

In addition to the exposed beam open floorplan, special features of the Robbins’ cabin include a natural stone fireplace and extra ceiling height obtained by additional log courses on both the first and second levels. Wraparound decks and a covered porch were essential to Mark for taking in the surrounding views and providing protection from the elements. “Because the house sits on a slope,” says Mark, “I was able to incorporate a one-car garage, along with a workshop and utility/laundry room in the basement. I gained an entire extra floor at a very reasonable cost.”

Mark hired Craig Schulz of Schulz Contracting in North Haverhill, New Hampshire, to build the home. “Since my job did not allow me to spend much time in Vermont,” says Mark, “I knew that I would need to find a reliable general contractor to manage the project. Craig has an outstanding reputation and has built a number of Coventry Log Homes. He was able to cut in the road and get the building site prepared in the fall and was ready to start construction the following spring, as soon as the snow melted and we could gain access.” From the first concrete pour in late May to Mark’s moving in during the last week of October, the project progressed smoothly, on time and on budget.

“Throughout the process,” says Mark, “Craig was right there to provide ideas and suggestions, with a sharp focus on details and quality. He demonstrated a remarkable ability to make the entire building process seamless and painless.”

Coventry’s Alpine design included exterior log wall systems, subfloor systems and interior wall systems. Also part of the log home package were the exterior doors (Therma-Tru Fiberglass), Anderson 400 Series windows, and solid wood interior doors. A complete roof system was supplied, normally to include architectural shingles. Mark opted for a metal roof for a more contemporary look and low maintenance.

Mark wanted a substantial look to the exterior walls, so he upgraded to Coventry’s 8X8 “D” Log profile. In keeping with a clean, contemporary aesthetic for the home’s exterior, he selected the company’s Spline Post Corner. “I went with a medium-colored exterior stain,” says Mark, “which provided a nice contrast to the natural, clear interior finish. The Alpine design called for two exterior decks. Connecting the decks to achieve a wraparound outdoor living area was something I just had to have! They are the launching pad for my love of the outdoors.” The surrounding countryside provides endless opportunities for Mark to hike and bike, and from his deck he looks across the valley to a local ski and recreational area.

Indoors, Mark never tires of his great room, the focal point being the massive stone fireplace constructed from stones gathered on the property by family members. Oversized windows with spectacular views, and comfortable kitchen and dining areas that are open to the living room satisfy all of Mark’s criteria for a dream home. “I also enjoy woodworking and building,” he says, “so my basement workshop is where you will often find me when the weather is not conducive to outside activities.”

For someone who had never considered a log home until his friend dropped by with an armload of magazines, Mark enjoys his cabin immensely. “It’s such a unique atmosphere,” he describes. “I love the warm appearance of the wood, every piece is different, with a personality of its own. The spaciousness of the vaulted beamed ceilings and the smell of the white pine logs always delight me. Everyone that comes to visit enjoys the home as much as I do.”

To keep the cabin from being overly rustic, Mark leaned toward modern finishes and furnishings. With the help of family and friends, including Kris Still, he selected cabinetry, appliances, and hardware that he felt enhanced the clean, open concept of the great room. ”The home turned out so well,” says Kris Still. “Mark’s color choices were exquisite. He has graciously permitted me to show his home to prospective clients, resulting in numerous sales for me. His take on the log cabin is very refreshing and inspiring.”

Since Mark spends most of the winter months in Florida he had to look at ways to ensure his Vermont home would winter safely, while at the same time be ready to open up and use during his winter stays. He decided to keep the house heated during the cold months and, due to the inevitable occasional power outages, had a Generac whole house generator installed. He also had the plumbing system designed to quickly drain if and when he decides to completely close the house up for winter.

Mark advises anyone looking to build a log home to take the necessary time to educate yourself. He says, “There are so many companies, designs, and construction options that it’s really important to visualize in detail what your log home is going to be for you. Know the right questions to ask both the log home company and the contractor in order to decide what you want and what you should expect. If you can find a professional, knowledgeable and helpful team like Coventry Log Homes and Craig Schulz, I’d recommend taking on a project like this without a moment’s hesitation.”