When a Florida couple decided that summers in the Sunshine State were too hot and muggy, they began planning a vacation home in Banner Elk, North Carolina, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains where the average summer temperature tops out at a pleasant 70 degrees. They also wanted a log house with a distinctive look, so they called on Allen Halcomb, architect and president of MossCreek in Knoxville, Tennessee, to come up with a design that would suit their personalities.
“The couple expressed a desire to create a home that included elements of the surrounding mountains blended with elements of the American West,” Halcomb says. Halcomb introduced the couple to “Nouveau Adirondack,” an architectural style created by MossCreek to combine traditional log construction techniques with timber framing elements. The style complements the natural mountain surroundings by blending the 1920s cottage feel of the New England Adirondack style, such as shingles and poplar bark, with massive logs reminiscent of log houses typical of the West.
“It’s classic MossCreek, where we take a bunch of regional elements, stir them up in a pot, and create something fun with them,” Halcomb explains. “From an aesthetic standpoint, it creates lots of drama, and that’s one of the things we try to do at MossCreek: create lots of expression in the structure so you give power to the architecture that you don’t achieve with a traditionally framed home.”
The couple’s Banner Elk home, located at 5,000 feet above sea level, sits atop a knoll that drops off steeply on three sides. The vantage point provides breathtaking views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Produced by Nicola Logworks, British Columbia, Canada, the house is constructed out of hand-peeled, draw-knifed Douglas fir logs ranging from 12 to 14 inches in diameter. The exterior is covered with poplar bark and accented with granite from the property. These natural elements blend with the surroundings to create a peaceful mountain retreat.
The building system incorporates numerous features designed to provide protection from the elements—particularly the rain, snow, and ice that are common in the region. Eight-foot-wide overhangs, for example, extend along the perimeter of the house to serve the dual purpose of enhancing the home’s outdoor living space and shielding the logs from moisture and from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The authentic, timber rafter structural roof is built with layers of protection—including SIPs (structural insulated panels) and an ice and water shield—to provide both energy efficiency and water resistance. Additionally, metal clad windows, which are more typical
in the West, add a layer of protection.
“These features are ideal for the moist climate where it rains almost daily,” Halcomb says.
The homeowners wanted to enjoy their mountain views, so they designed the home with large windows wherever possible. In the great room, Native American totem poles, handcrafted by a local artisan, are placed between each window—a whimsical touch that adds to the personality and charm of the home.
“The homeowners like to imagine that they are keeping watch over the activities of the home,” Halcomb says.
The kitchen is separated from the great room by a log, wood-topped serving counter decorated to resemble a bar from an old Western saloon, complete with saddle stools. A wooden canoe hanging over the rear kitchen counter is wired with lights to shine down on the work surface. The kitchen décor also incorporates rustic features such as a gray tile backsplash, a copper vent hood, and Appalachian pie tin front panels on the antique wood cabinets. A wine shelf located at the end of the kitchen creates an archway entrance to the space and showcases the homeowners’ love of fine wine.
The master bedroom, located on the main level of the home, is separated from the activity of the great room and kitchen. Its antique brick fireplace provides a secluded retreat for the homeowners. The spacious master bathroom is the perfect spot for relaxing, with a large copper bathtub and an all-glass shower that offers spectacular mountain views.
The homeowners incorporated numerous local materials into the structure, such as board and batten obtained from a local sawmill. The stone along the foundation is granite collected during the excavation of the property.
“This home is built on an old volcano dome,” Halcomb explains. “The volcano is gone, but the lava is left.”
Even the outdoor living spaces of this home exude character and warmth and a sense of style. An outdoor porch, for example, features a beautiful stone fireplace where the homeowners and their guests may enjoy quiet evenings outdoors even when the weather is cool. Other outdoor features include spacious decks and patios, a custom wood picnic table that seats 10 people, an old-fashioned horse trough and hitching rail, and a huge waterfall off the rear balcony that plummets 50 feet below.
For Halcomb, the design of this home originated “on a cocktail napkin during a flight back from designing the HGTV Dream Home in Jackson Hole, and ended with the last drop of stain.” He says having the opportunity to work on such a distinctive home is one of the highlights of his career.
“One of the most rewarding professional experiences is when you have homeowners who request lots of creativity in the design of both the building and the décor,” Halcomb says. “It’s not often that you get a chance to create an entire new style of architecture. Our self-imposed challenge was to create a ‘Nouveau Adirondack’ style of home. This style has gone on to be popular among an entire cadre of log timber framers.… The entire process was filled with creative opportunities and free flowing ideas.”