Let Furniture Set the Stage in Your New Log Home
Story By: Pellham D.W. DeGroot
Guest Commentary by Log Home Living
There’s no shortage of information about building a log home, whether you’re cutting down your own trees or stacking pre-cut logs. But precious little tells how to furnish a log home. Most people wind up OK, or at least think they do, but some regard furnishing a log home as an impossible mission.
No wonder, even if you are blessed with taste and confidence, few people have any experience with log homes, even those who have done and re-done other kinds of homes many times, even a few pros, Logs pose challenges.
There’s the wood, obviously. But because logs represent more than just a place to live, furniture has to go beyond form and function to convey who the owners are and how they live in their log home. That means worrying less about a stated theme – Southwestern, art deco, rococo, French Country, Victorian, etc. – and more about setting feelings: casual, comfortable, rugged, outdoorsy, down-homey.
Log homes accommodate many of the same furniture pieces that you’d find in ordinary homes, tried-and-true pieces brought right off the showroom floor. But there are identifiable companies whose furniture tends to be popular in log homes: Stickley, Timberlake, Old Hickory and New West, to name but a few. Finally, there are one-of-a kind pieces created by local craftspeople.
One point to keep in mind, Eclectic as a decorating scheme is OK for log homes, especially if it sounds a note of whimsy. But there’s a fine line between eclectic and catch-all. The latter invites clash and clutter. Avoid having your living room up looking like the inside of a suburban garage.
Before you decide which furniture belongs in your new log home, survey the field. Two sources for ideas are model homes and printed pictures.
Model homes are sales tools for companies and dealers trying to sell homes, not furniture, so they tend to be furnished with broader appeal, but they offer general visual cues, such as use of texture and color. Magazines show a broader range of furniture by depicting actual homes that reflect individual expression. There are also books that celebrate certain themes, such as rustic, country, cowboy, lodge and camp as well as regional styles.
If you want a strong sense of what furniture goes wells with logs, the, perhaps only book on the subject is Cindy Thiede’s Inside Log Homes The Art & Spirit of Home Décor (Gibbs Smith Publisher). The book offers insightful guidance and inspiring photography.
Theide reminds us to think of furnishing a log home in terms of livable space, offering five suggestions for making sure rooms, especially ones in large, open log homes, don’t lose sight of human perspective:
· Create separate furniture arrangements to accommodate smaller groups or different activities.
· Use different sizes and shapes of rugs to divide rooms and anchor individual groupings.
· Tuck nooks and comfortable crannies into rooms. Window seats and little alcoves create coziness and privacy.
· Each room should have a dramatic element that draws your attention: a large picture window, prominent fireplace, wonderful staircase or eye-catching chandelier.
· Include drop-down lighting fixtures to break up tall unbroken expanses of log walls.
The trick to buying furniture for your new log home is remembering that furniture is furniture. Regardless of the setting, furniture means comfort, style and function. A forth feature, quality, also is important but not as easy for the average shopper to identify.
If you are purchasing furniture that will be used often, it’s important to learn about the interior workmanship. Well-crafted furniture can be recognized from the foundation to the finish. And, today’s technologies make quality furnishings easy to find in any price range.
According to consumer research by the American Furniture Manufacturers Association, most Americans wind up with at least one piece of furniture in their homes that they want to pick out all over again because they didn’t choose the right piece the first time. Mistakes occurred most frequently with a sofa purchase (22 percent), followed by bedroom furniture (12 percent), dining room (11 percent), recliner (7 percent), entertainment center (6 percent) and home office (5 percent).
To avoid regrets, where can you gather ideas to assure your choices will be satisfactory? The AFMA survey found that most Americans (38 percent) turn to their local furniture retailers for information. Newspaper articles (14 percent), friends and relatives (14 percent), magazines (8 percent) and television shows (4 percent) are other places we rely on for information about buying new furniture. These sources help you narrow down the color and style choices that best fit your taste and lifestyle.
The next step is to consider which quality features will be important to ensuring longtime satisfaction with your purchase. For example, when selecting upholstery, a solid frame and durable cushion construction are essential for pieces that will be used every day. Always buy the best quality you can afford when considering an upholstered piece you will use daily.
When selecting wood furnishings, which are especially popular in log homes, make sure pieces sit squarely on the floor and don’t wobble. Drawers and doors should open and close easily. Some additional quality features likely to affect the price include:
· The type of wood. Is it constructed of an abundant species (like pine or oak), something more rare (like mahogany) or an “engineered” wood (made by mixing chips or fibers of wood with adhesive and bonding it to create a strong uniform panel)?
· The type of finish. Is it a complex, handcrafted finish, a simple finish of uniform color or an artificial laminate surface?
· The type of woodworking. Was the piece mass produced, handcrafted or some combination of the two?
Ask your retailer about interior workmanship. When you match interior features with your expectations for durability, it’s easy to choose the best quality within your budget.
Turning to your budget, everyone’s goal is to create a harmonious haven where your family can live, grow and thrive. While today’s homes are bigger than ever, with more bedrooms, bathrooms and a cast range of enhancements, economic uncertainty directs many Americans to look for ways to express their personal style beautifully, yet on a budget. You can achieve this goal by following a four-step approach to making decorating and home furnishings dollars go further. The wide variety of furniture available at retail allows everyone the opportunity to achieve the great look they want on any budget. The secret is to learn how and get inspired.
Step 1: Determine your priorities. When creating the perfect comfort zone at home, start by understanding your needs. Ask yourself how a room will be used and by whom. Decide where you would most like to improve your home. When asked which at-home activities would be most improved with the addition of new furniture, most people rank reading and relaxing number one, followed by spending time outdoors and entertaining visitors.
Begin with some serious thought about your ideal home. How many people live in your home now and how many might live there in the future? Do you have pets? Do you prefer to entertain in a casual manner or host more formal occasions? Will you assemble small groups of guests in your home, or will you invite a large number of guests? After you identify your preferred lifestyle, begin collecting pictures of room settings or home furnishings items that you admire from books and magazines, model homes brochures, etc., along with paint chips of favorite colors and fabric swatches, for your decorating notebook. Plan to bring the notebook to your local retailers for reference while you shop.
In addition to your furniture, consider decorative accessories, such as lighting, pictures, accent pieces and clocks. As you create your plan, think about cosmetic changes such as window treatments, floor coverings and wall hangings.
Step 2: Establish a budget. Nearly nine of every 10 homeowners don’t set a budget for decorating and furnishing their homes. That’s a big mistake. A budget will help you plan, understand your decorating goals and, most of all, give you confidence to go out and do it. No budget is too small, plus it can fluctuate with your changing needs.
Because quality home furnishings will last many years, plan to purchase the best you can afford. If you are working with a smaller budget, decorate what you can now and start saving for a piece of furniture you would love to have but just can’t afford at the moment. An entertainment center and large-scale decorative accessories, such as wall art, sculpture and botanicals, are the top items people say they would like to have in their homes but can’t afford immediately.
Step 3: Be your own resource. When it comes to decorating your home, you’ll be surprised at the wealth of information that is easily available to you. Watch your newspaper to learn about home tours, charity showcase home events or special seminars offered at nearby furniture stores. Surf the internet, and visit the library to look at decorating books and search for great ideas in magazines.
Step 4: Shop with a plan. You already have a list of priorities, so shop with your top selections in mind. Start by researching prices and availability of the furnishings you want in your area. Look at pieces in all price ranges, and choose what works best for you. Show your decorating notebook to your retailers, so they will be able to offer helpful information on decorating solutions, styles, color trends and so on.
Above all, if you like something you can’t go wrong. If you buy a piece of furniture that makes you feel at home, then you have done a great job. Regardless of the size of the budget, everyone gets an immeasurable feeling of satisfaction when creating a home they love to live in.
Make the shopping process for your decorating project a fun experience by giving yourself plenty of time to browse and talk with the furniture store interior designers and sales associates. Recognize that you’ll want to visit several stores to see the greatest variety of furnishings available. But don’t try to take in too much in too little time. Home decorating is an evolving process; don’t feel you have to do everything at once. You should expect your home to change many times over the years, as your lifestyle changes, so have fun along the way.
Suppose you have a limited furniture budget, a common predicament if you’ve just finished building your log home and needed to spend more money than you anticipated. You have little left for furniture and yet you don’t want to drag your shabby old furniture into your brand-new home. Consider a partial plan.
Remember that the biggest challenge to furnishing a log home usually isn’t dealing with the wood. It’s adjusting to the scale of the rooms, especially the volume. Even if your old furniture is newish and stylish, it still might not fit so that it doesn’t get lost and look like dollhouse furniture.
By concentrating on several foundation pieces that do stand up to the scale of your new home, you can get by with spending very little money and probably even make most of your existing furniture look right at home. You need to deal with just two rooms: the living room and the master bedroom.
The living room is crucial because it is your most public space. The one visitors see first and the one that enjoys the best views and the grandest display of logs and complementary materials, such as window glass and fireplace stone. You certainly want your visitors to admire your new home, especially after the hard work and sacrifice that went into it. The last thing you want is for them to leave thinking it’s a flop.
So start with a new sofa and one or two chairs. The ubiquitous leather sofa goes well. It’s a natural material and, no matter how fashionable, has a ruggedness that logs can’t overshadow. Brown is the far-in-front favorite color for leather, but you’ll find other choices. Black and blue work well. Red works, too, but requires more accessorizing to subdue red’s boldness.
You needn’t go to the leather route, however. There are plenty of substantial upholstered pieces that will do the trick. Any you can always mix and match pieces to achieve your foundation grouping. So, a new sofa and one or two chairs and presto. Your entire living room suddenly looks new and up to scale.
The master bedroom is important because this is your very personal haven. Big or small, it is where you look forward to spending a third of your life. You probably took great care in planning your bedroom, perhaps including, besides walk-in closets and a luxurious bathroom, a balcony, a fireplace and a sitting area. Whatever went into the room centers on one piece: the bed.
Again, scale is the key factor. You don’t need to have a log-pole bed, any more than you need the leather sofa. You want something that you feel completely at home with and yet conforms to the scale of the bedroom. Accessorizing will be a personal matter, bringing in photos, mementos, heirlooms – all the treasures that define you and stir your emotions. Having that one new bed will allow these other pieces, now and over time, to provide one place where you feel totally at home and totally yourself.
There you go. You’ll agree that furnishing a log home isn’t the daunting task you might have feared. It actually is an opportunity to establish an identify that makes you live more comfortably. And it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. So, make a plan and follow it, and you will arrive at a home that goes beyond the logs, just as your life goes beyond your home.