Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
At one time, the log cabin was the primary dwelling in Western North Carolina. Plenty of available lumber facilitated the architectural style. Yet, even in modern times, the log cabin remains a popular design. Craig Duncan’s half-century-old cabin is proof that even in modernity the style is a viable residential option.
Perched on a summit just off Highlands Road, Duncan’s log cabin was visited in 2019 by the son and grandson of the original builders.
“I was working in the yard and an SUV pulled up with a family in it,” said Duncan, an Atlanta, Ga.-based interior designer who spends part of each week at the Macon County cabin. “David Andrews got out and introduced himself and said he grew up in the cabin and explained that his family moved from Macon County to Arizona. We walked around the house and he showed his dad the house through Facetime on the phone.”
Duncan connected so well with the former owners’ son that he invited the family back to stay in the cabin during this year’s Thanksgiving. “It will be special for him and for me to know that he can enjoy the log home where he once lived.”
He added, “I love knowing that the former owners who built the log cabin have seen it and are happy with how it’s been maintained and how it’s continuing to be viable as a home for future generations,” said Duncan.
Duncan purchased the 1,200-square-foot log cabin in 2014 from his father, Donald Duncan, who had lived in it previously but who purchased another home in Macon County. “I fell in love with it right away,” said Duncan.
Although the log home’s foundation as well as exposed log walls and ceiling made of local white pine were “solid,” Duncan decided to update the cabin using local, skilled craftspeople, local woods, and other area supplies. When upstairs pipes burst in 2018, the logs continued to hold firm with little-to-no-damage, but the kitchen and dining area, especially, needed another renovation.
“All along, I wanted to add touches, but not lose the integrity of the original log home,” said Duncan.
Some distinct details include hand-collected river rock on the floor of the master bedroom shower and in the kitchen’s backsplash. Wide-plank oak floors were refinished. A new roof was added. Some walls of exposed logs were painted and some walls were covered with sheet rock in order to establish contrast inside the home. Tongue and groove planks exist between the exposed ceiling logs.
A large stone fireplace displays a collection of local pottery and face jugs, one of which was purchased at the Bascom in Highlands. “I’m also a big local auction person, and when the Franklin Auction House was in business, I was able to purchase seven original signed Charley Harper lithographs of woodland creatures,” said Duncan. “And, in the kitchen I have a wall display of antique red barn paintings.”
On the fireplace-flanking, built-in bookshelves, constructed by Duncan’s father, are not only books but antique porcelain platters and more pottery.
Although Duncan has provided his interior design expertise for a makeover at Ms. Lois’ Restaurant in Franklin and for occasional clients in the Cashiers or Highlands’ areas, he said the purpose of maintaining the log home is to have a place to truly relax and enjoy the seasonal beauty of the mountains. “It’s a getaway, and I want people to know that log cabins were wonderful as homes years ago and they work as homes today,” he said.
He recommended that anyone purchasing a log home avoid “dressing it up too much or making it look too modern … to not make it something that it’s not.” He refers to his cabin’s decorating style as “modern cabin grandma/comfortable southern.”
And, since many log cabin designs tend to be dark, he suggested letting as much light penetrate through windows as possible instead of covering them with heavy window treatments – and using lighter fabrics and colors inside.
A large window in the living room area enables Duncan to see the mountains from the sitting “nook,” and a covered porch added in the 1980s is a well-used outdoor room with comfortable seating and an expansive mountain view.