The Place To Be
By Stacee Sledge
Log Home Living, 2006 Annual Buyer's Guide

Sometimes getting away from it all leads you home.

Pete and Carole DeSoto fell so hard for the contemporary log home style they found in Park City, Utah, it became their destination for countless ski trips with their children. Finally, after nearly 40 years of marriage and decades spent in a ranch-style home in central Pennsylvania, the couple decided to duplicate the log look they love in their own back yard.

“We weren’t interested in a log home of our own until we discovered the look of spacious lines and lots of glass that’s so commonplace in Park City,” says Carole. “We like a contemporary and eclectic style in our homes, and found the same feeling there.”

“And yet it’s isn’t cold,” Pete says. “Something about when the logs get warm, they stay warm.” The DeSotos can thank the logs’ thermal-mass properties for that. Like stone and other natural materials, logs absorb the heat from the sun, then emit it slowly over time—a big energy-saving feature that makes owning a log home so appealing.

Ideal Design
The perfect piece of property presented itself when 42 acres overlooking Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River opened up right next to the landing strip that Pete, a recreational pilot, uses.

Their next task was to find the perfect plans.

The DeSotos looked to Kuhns Bros. Log Homes. Having driven past its model homes in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania many times, Carole and Pete were well aware of the craftsmanship and innovative design they could expect from the company. They met with sales representative John Johnson and pored over the company’s stock plans in search of just the right one. But when an exact fit proved elusive, the couple opted for a custom design.

“They created a file with photos and magazines clippings of ideas they’d like to see in their new home,” says John, who was appreciative of the DeSotos’ organization. “I then drew up those ideas and added a few suggestions.”

Any custom plan is an evolutionary process, and as soon as the design was nearly finalized, Pete and Carole knew exactly who to bring into the mix: interior designer Randall Thomas, whom they’d worked with on many projects in their previous home.

“The DeSotos came to me early on and asked me to develop the plans further,” says Randall. “I made considerable changes, like adding the cupola and changing the staircase.”

With plans in place, crews got to work creating the 8,500-square foot riverfront home. Constructed of 6-by-8-inch northeastern white pine, the home’s logs are double-beveled with trimmed corners.

While the shell was being built, the DeSotos selected their favorite local contractors to do the finishing work. Jim Facinelli and his team constructed most everything found on the first floor. “Randall worked with us,” says Jim. “He’d come up with the designs and I’d execute them.”

The talented designer even had a hand in how the home sits on the land. “We tried to carefully site the house so everybody has privacy,” Randall says, with a nod at the three neighboring homes sprinkled comfortably far apart on the 120-acre plot. “It was imperative that we give the house enough room to breathe.” Although the home is quite spacious, it retains a cozy feel. Individual touches cap off the personalized design, which adds to the welcoming air.

“We took our time selecting furnishings,” says Carole, describing the décor she and Pete chose for their home. “We wanted unique things, from photographs to an old Vermont license plate—different objects that give a picture of our life.”

They were in no rush to finish. “It’s been fun taking our time, getting just the right thing for each of the shelves. We even left some spaces empty until we found just the right piece.”

Another prominent interior-design decision was more structural in nature: flat log walls with a bleached-blond finish accented with dark-walnut timber trusses. “If we’d have used a more traditional honey-toned color, the house would have looked like something out West,” says Carole. “But Randall came up with the idea of whitewashing the wood to give it a very contemporary look, while leaving the beams dark for contrast.”

Come Together
Eighteen months and 80 craftsmen later, the DeSotos were rewarded with a fabulous finished product. From small family gatherings to large civic celebrations, the home is ideal for entertaining.

“We’ve hosted a pig roast for 110 people, complete with a folk trio, and have opened our home for a local art gallery’s fundraiser, serving dinner to 100 guests,” says Carole of her party-planning prowess. “I also hold Sunday brunches and many small dinner parties for friends.”

Though Pete and Carole essentially use the place as a three bedroom home—with a first-floor master suite and two guest rooms at each end of a second-floor catwalk—when guests come calling, sleeping quarters expand to accommodate 14 people. “We have trundle beds in each of the guest rooms, so six people can fit in one bedroom and four in the other,” says Carole. Her office above the garage also holds a couch that converts into a queen-size bed for even more sleepover options. “We knew it wouldn’t be a frequent need, but if all of our sons and two granddaughters visit at the same time, the space can be used quite effectively.”

“We love it when we get a lot of children and grandchildren visiting,” says Pete. “We don’t need to use those rooms daily, so everybody can have their privacy.”

How has life changed for the couple, now that they’re living the log home dream? “Quite a bit,” says Pete. “Although this place is only 10 miles from our old house, it’s much more rural. We’re really in the country now. It’s very quiet.”

On weekends, Pete soars the skies in his Cessna and Mooney airplanes or bikes down the country roads that wind past the farms of their Amish neighbors. Carole can be found golfing or tending to her herb garden. But more than anything, you’ll find the couple enjoying the tranquility afforded by love and a spectacular place to call home.



Silencing the squeaks
General contractor Jim Facinelli and his crew at Restorations Unlimited went to great lengths to ensure the DeSotos wouldn’t face a future of creaking floors, an eventual occurrence in some older log homes.

Jim’s approach is different from the usual installation: he eschews nails. “All the floors are put together with construction adhesive between the main joists and the floor boards,” Jim says. The boards are then pulled tightly together with two 3½-inch deck screws in the tongue. “This eliminates all the squeaking,” Jim says.

The wood used on the first floor was 3-inch red oak, clear grade. And because it came from a local manufacturer and longtime friend of Jim’s, it was available in longer lengths than other products.

The wood flooring for the second floor was manufactured, 1-1/2-inch-thick tongue-and-groove pine, which was included with the Kuhns Bros.’ package. But because wood naturally loses moisture over time, some boards shrunk slightly. Jim and his team compensate for this by painstakingly cutting pine wedges, driving them in with hammers between every joint, and then cutting them off and sanding them. “You can’t tell that’s what we did,” says Jim, “As a result, there’s very little shrinkage in between those boards now.”


Photo Captions

A 150 year-old millstone from a corn mill in Vermont is used as a beguiling water feature in front of the home’s entrance. A flip of the switch inside, and the fountain drains to become a bench. 

Stair/Front Door
Granite accents the staircase’s newel posts and is carried throughout the home’s design, reappearing on the kitchen countertops and the fireplace surround. 

Great room
Surrounding the great room’s soaring fireplace, complete with sunken plasma television above the arched hearth, is a wall of west-facing windows, perfect for capturing sunsets. Columns of simple wood blinds—three separate shades made to look continuous—can be controlled as one. 

The tower on the cooking island, complete with plumbing and a moveable spigot for filling pots and pans, was carefully placed to block the sight line of the sink from the great room. A second island serves as a buffet and gathering spot, while a second sink adds convenience. 

One of the guest bedrooms is decorated with an outdoorsy sports theme. Antique snow shoes mingle with a fishing lure that dangles down to a fish Pete caught himself.

Pete’s Office
Pete DeSoto’s office is appointed with photos and personal memorabilia, including a neon “DeSoto” sign, salvaged from a car dealership and old-fashioned airplane placards that remind Pete to get out of the office and enjoy his passion for flying.


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