Green Before Its Time

by | Jul 9, 2021 | Entire Home

The large sprawling farm with fenced, hilly pastures appears to be a large ranch. In fact, it is home to Big Springs Resort, the idyllic site of five log homes built by partners Doug Spurber and Charles Rateliff in 2005.
These retired Wal-Mart executives each owned a good bit of land near Gravette, Arkansas, and decided to join forces and create a low-impact cabin community. Rateliff had built a Satterwhite log home several years earlier and knew that this company could deliver the quality cabins they had in mind.
Aside from the goal of building fine cabins, they wanted the entire property, consisting of almost 500 acres, to be a great outdoor destination for families. Their first decision was to maintain the environment and not overbuild. It would be easy, they thought, to take advantage of every possible building site, but they knew that would negatively impact the quality and naturalized aesthetic of their property. To that end, each of the original five sites was set in the woods with minimal removal of trees. Beyond that, careful site planning ensured that each structure would be out of the line of sight of the others. This put them on target with the then relatively new concept of building green.
Spurber says, “The point of building these cabins was more about the enjoyment of the outdoors than structural development. We didn’t want to crowd the property with as many houses as we could fit. Even today, we have chosen a few additional sites for cabins, but we haven’t begun construction. So, for now, there are five log houses and one timber frame barn on the property, with miles of naturalized trails for walking and horseback riding.”
Another of their green goals was to keep the buildings as maintenance free as possible. To that end, all four sides of the logs in the cabin have a four-foot overhang, making it possible to walk around the perimeter of the house—staying dry in the rain and keeping the logs dry, as well. As Sam Satterwhite says, “We are almost fanatical about the use of porches in our designs because we know that as time goes on, it will mean less need for chemical treatment of the logs.”
The green thinking goes back to the forest and highways, because, as Satterwhite, who has headed up the Texas-based company for 36 years, puts it, “The logs are so dry that when we harvest them in Colorado and Utah, they weigh less than even kiln-dried logs and therefore it takes less fuel to transport them back to the construction site.” This forward thinking and environmentally sound principle of log manufacturing has been key to the company’s process since its founding.
The logs themselves are standing dead spruce; this makes their moisture content extremely low. The thinking behind the Spurber/Satterwhite cabins, constructed by local builder, John Stimson, was on the same page among all the participants. Windows are aluminum, inside and out, utilizing less wood in their manufacture, thereby saving on natural resources. Because this cabin has large windows on three sides of the open downstairs, the outside—in a suggestion and extension of Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic lifestyle architecture—becomes part of the living space.
This house has just over 2,800 square feet of living space on two levels. The floorplan for the public rooms is wide open so that families and groups of friends can gather anywhere in the living room, dining area, or kitchen and be able to interact with each other. Each of these areas is relatively small so that, although the space can hold a crowd, there is a feeling of intimacy.
Spurber and Rateliff chose a country theme for the décor of the house. Simple checks, plaids, and country furniture enhance the feeling of rural life. Red, white, and blue are the predominant colors in each of the rooms. This cabin is all about comfort. Down-filled couches and wing chairs allow daydreaming in front of the fire; at the same time, a television in a cabinet can be seen from the same seating area as well as from the kitchen and dining spaces.
The color choices and fabrics are iconic country but are also gender neutral. The design in this home proves that cabin décor can be simplified by opting for one or two colors and using them throughout. This makes decorating simpler than choosing a color palette that runs a much broader spectrum.
More of the beauty of what was done in the decorating of this cabin was to keep the furnishings as maintenance free as the hardscape of the house. Fabrics are washable and, where possible, upholstered furniture is slip-covered. Popcorn, muddy dog prints, and the usual family grime disappear in the laundry. Solid painted country furniture can be wiped down with a damp cloth. No carpets, a quick broom sweep and a shake-out of rugs and it’s ready for company.
This Arkansas cabin is a true getaway to a place where life can be simple and conducive to enjoying the pleasures of the outdoors, the comfort of log cabin life, and the satisfaction of knowing that the structure is environmentally consistent with living green.