Log home Luxury

An Anchorage couple takes log home living to a new level of modern sophistication

Story by Bronwyn Ashbaker • Photography by Chugach Peaks Photography

When Dan and Linda Barnes* were planning their dream home, they had one pressing question: What style?

"Dan grew up knowing he wanted to live here in Stuckagain Heights, and that he wanted to live in a log house," Linda says. "But I didn't want log. When I thought of a log house, I thought of a square, dark, oppressive cabin. In pictures I had seen, log houses were either country or Southwestern in style, and that just isn't me."

But after friend and neighbor Greg Booth showed them examples of local homes that were built with larger, lighter logs, and Linda was able to see the creative possibilities firsthand, she realized that cedar was a wood she could not only live with, but love.

"We wanted something unique," says Dan. "We thought, 'What about round?' Could you even do round with a log house?"

Enter Mark Ivy, with Ivy & Co. Architects in Anchorage.

"Mark is phenomenal," says Dan. "He listened to us, he heard what we wanted. He took our basic ideas and ran with them. He spent a lot of time on the land, figuring out where the sun comes up and goes down and where the best views are. Before long he had this amazing design, sooner than we had imagined and way beyond what we had thought possible."

Ivy took the round elements the couple so desired and made them the crux of the design.

The great room spreads out in a wide semicircle from the base of a fireplace that seems to float in the room even as it serves as an anchoring focal point. The sunlight pulls attention across the inlaid floor, past the curves of the furniture, and out through the two-story picture windows. The room juts out just enough beyond the other rooms to create the feeling of being on a stage above the valley.

But the real sensation of hovering above the valley, of actually floating in the view, comes from standing on the glass floor of the indoor balcony above the great room itself. This balcony also allows a bird's eye view of the large, efficiently and exquisitely designed kitchen and entertainment areas.

Two different granites accent the kitchen, one a black and the other a green crisscrossed with coppery veins and flecks of color that catch and release the light. The granite countertops were specially designed for the space and custom-made to echo the curves and rounded features of the overall design of the house.

The kitchen boasts two sinks, one in the island next to the stove, which means the cook can be right in the middle of the action entertaining and being entertained by guests. The base of the island is carved with lots of nooks and crannies for storing and showing off wine bottles, cookbooks and art pieces.

The kitchen and the rooms that branch out from it showcase the craftsmanship of Ron Burnett, owner of Alaska Kitchen Distributors. He outfitted the entire house with custom cabinetry and handmade furniture, using exotic hardwoods such as Jarrah and Jatoba.

The home's clean, uncluttered look continues in the master suite. In the walk-in closet, where the wall does not meet the ceiling, an abundance of natural light flows in. A variety of cubbies and shelves and hanging spaces accommodate all the details of the couple's wardrobes, but perhaps the greatest feature is the center wall that divides the closet space from the bathroom. It houses a washer/dryer unit behind mirrors on one side, and the ironing board and Dan's ties on another side.

There is no shortage of clever storage space, counter space or sitting space in the master bath. The color palette and design for this bathroom were taken from the bowl sinks Linda found and fell in love with. The backsplash wall tiles are a random run of blues and grays that complement the blue glass of the sinks, while the feature wall at the end of the room was Linda's inspiration.

"They had all the tiles laid out on the floor and kept arranging and rearranging them and I finally said, 'Why don't you just run them light to dark?'"

The result is a light-to-dark pattern that echoes the mountains framed by the large bathroom windows.

One of Dan's favorite rooms in the house is the smoking room. From time to time, Dan likes to sit and enjoy a cigar while watching his flat screen TV and the amenities of a full wet bar.

"The way the roof lines dictates the window angles is unique. You can sit in here and see the mountains behind us, McKinley and downtown. And it's fun to have a guys' room."

Linda, however, cannot stand cigar odor, and in a house with such an open layout, a compromise had to be reached. The smoking room comes complete with its own ventilation system as well as thick plates of glass that enclose the room without shutting it off visually.

Mark Ivy, general contractor Paul Lethenstrom of Sundance Design, and builder Tom Blackburn of Roundwood Log Homes in Prince George, British Columbia, collaborated on this home. They have worked together on a number of successful projects and brought the benefits of those experiences with them. "It made everything easier," says Dan, "especially communication."

Once the painstaking process of placing the first log in exactly the right position was complete – a full day's work – the actual construction of the house only took about a week.

"The logs were numbered and just had to be placed according to the plans, and up the walls went," says Linda. "It was amazing to watch, and we were able to help. That was a real experience."

After raising the log walls, the remaining interior work – from flooring to cabinetry – was finished two years later in 2005. Although, as Dan points out, a house is never really complete. "There's always something to do, those last little things. That's all part of the process."

Sanding the logs to reveal the color and texture the couple wanted was by far the most time-consuming, messy and labor-intensive part of the project; a nephew and a friend were employed to help.

"I think we're still washing the sawdust out of our hair," Dan says.

At more than 4500 square feet, this three-level house sits on prime real estate with floor-to-ceiling windows that highlight extensive views across the Anchorage bowl.

"There is a ton of glass in this house," says Linda. "I think there are 87 windows." The windows, the open layout, the multitude of glass and curving glass-block walls, the reflective granite and marble surfaces, the gleaming tile floors and the lightness of the cedar all blend together to capture and play with the light as it pours in. Every room delights in the light, embraces the view, and lifts the spirit.

"In a custom home, everything is handcrafted. Every log and every detail has to be put into place, smoothed, sanded, and fitted on site. Watching that happen is the fun part," says Dan.

The result is a showcase of quality workmanship, custom craftsmanship, and attention to fine detail. Although large, open and expansive, this home is full of light and warmth. Driving home from work is a 10-minute transition where Dan and Linda can shed the day and get back into the frame of mind their home gives them: A paradise retreat high above the city.

*The homeowners' names have been changed.