Their Scandinavian log home is a wish come true for the McHugh family. Paradoxically, it is also the result of an unfortunate event. A few years back, the cottage the McHughs owned in the Laurentian Mountains burned down. And though the loss was regrettable, this dynamic and enterprising man saw it as a sort of blessing in disguise. It gave him the opportunity for him to fulfill a childhood dream.

Kids collect all kinds of things—baseball cards, butterflies, coins, rocks. For McHugh, it was log home magazines, an unusual hobby that turned out to be quite useful when the time came to draw the plans for his new cottage. Going back to his collection of magazines, he selected his favorite elements from different homes and combined them. The result is a warm, spacious log home with a definite personal touch. “My wife knew it was a project dear to my heart, so she gave me carte blanche.” And the first time she saw the house, it was completely finished as well as furnished.

The construction was handled by Harkins Inc. of St-Faustin-Lac-Carré, Quebec, a family-owned and -operated business specializing in building ecological and energy-efficient Scandinavian log homes. Because most of the work was done in the company’s yard, the actual building of the home on the site took just 45 days. “David Harkins and his crew were amazing” declares McHugh.

Located in the Laurentian Mountains north of Lachute, Quebec, on a 4.5-acre wooded lot overlooking a pristine lake, the home is set on a vast landscaped area where the lawn, decorative stones, and gravel are combined for easy maintenance and maximum leisure activities. There is a trampoline for the kids, a thatched hut for the barbecue, and a fire pit to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. The couple has three young children and McHugh kept them in mind when designing the interior of the cottage, avoiding all superfluous frills and ornaments in favor of down-to-earth comfort. This is a place where they come to relax and have fun.

In the entryway, the saddle-notched corners show the impressive size (up to 18 inches in diameter) of the logs. The white pine logs come from sustainable sources. “We harvest mature trees where new roads or housing developments are being built,” says David Harkins of Harkins Inc. The wood for the staircase and the beams of the ceiling—also pine—were stained a darker color for contrast. And oak was used for the floors. The strange sphere beside the staircase intrigues all first-time visitors to the home. Few can guess that it hides a bar and that it’s a copy of a former light bulb voltage-testing machine from the 1920s.

With its 27-foot high cathedral ceiling, the living room is airy yet cozy. The gray tones of the sofa and carpet echo the stone wall in the background. A beautiful star-shaped chandelier hangs in the middle and was purchased online, like almost every other piece of furniture and decoration in the house. Having no time to shop, McHugh browsed the Internet instead. It may seem like an easy solution but, considering the wide range of choices offered, one has to have a definite picture in mind and a sure taste to pull it off so successfully, as McHugh did.

The kitchen-dining room opens up onto the living room, yet a clever design makes it separate. A line marks a change in floor materials, oak for the living room side and cork in the kitchen, and the ceiling is lower so the room seems encased in a niche. One element not often seen in a home kitchen is the wood-burning pizza oven appropriately named Daddy’s Pizza. The cabinets are walnut and the countertops granite. High chairs surround a rustic dining room table. It was made by Woodland Creek Furniture, a company specializing in reclaimed wood. “They keep track of the material they use,” says McHugh, so he knows his table was made with 100-year-old barn wood. The same company also made a beautiful dresser on wheels with numbered drawers. Each member of the family has his or her own drawer for storing scarves, mittens, and hats.

On the second floor, a guest bedroom is sparingly furnished yet inviting because of its warm tones. The walls are covered with textured wallpaper. In fact, none of the walls in the house are painted, all are wallpapered. In the master suite, a king-size bed stands against a stone wall under the eaves. Like the nightstands, it was made by Restoration Hardware, a luxury brand of furniture.

Round mirrors seem to be a favourite of McHugh’s. There is one in the hallway, one above the dresser, and three in the main bathroom playfully designed as cogwheels. The countertop is tinted concrete and the washbasins are made of copper. A vast shower stall with sliding glass doors offers plenty of elbow room, and the deep bathtub has elegant lines. The girls’ bedroom is bright and colorful, with their initials above the beds and swings hanging from the ceiling. Their friends love to come over and visit. And who wouldn’t when you can sleep in custom-built bunk beds. And when they have exhausted all the fun outside, they can always watch a movie or their favorite TV programs in the home theater. The room can seat 16 in front of a 180-inch screen.

To extend the enjoyment of the outdoor season, the indoor gazebo-dining room has windows clad with plexiglass that slide up and down to let in the fresh outdoor air. For warmth during the colder months, heaters were installed in the ceiling and a TV above the door for entertainment. McHugh’s childhood dream has become a heavenly getaway for the whole family, a place to escape from work and the city, but also to bond with his children and share his love of nature. He was particularly proud when one of his daughters won the local fishing contest, catching the biggest bass in the lake.