More than 20 years ago, a young couple wandered into a model log home at Southland Log Homes close to where they lived. “It would be so neat to have one of these one day,” they agreed. That dream stuck long after Sally and Graham Taylor got married and started their family. But it wasn’t until three years ago, after purchasing a piece of land as an investment, that this vision blossomed into reality.

Big House, Little House

The Taylors’ property is in Gilbert, South Carolina—not too far from the bustling art and culture hub of Lexington. “But once you head down our dirt road, you feel like you’ve left all that behind,” says Sally. “I just couldn’t picture building anything other than a log home out here.”

Although the couple can’t remember many details from that log cabin they toured decades ago, they both recall its general impression. “It was so cute and cozy,” says Sally. This is what inspired the Taylors as they burned the midnight oil – designing their future home during those few moments their busy schedules allowed.

“Remember? I did the talking, and you did the drawing,” says Sally, reminding Graham about the brainstorming sessions that resulted in their own snug 2,200-square-foot home. “We started with the concept of a big house connected to a little house,” she continues. “We’d seen pictures of a contemporary house built in that style and thought: ‘Wouldn’t that look cool as a log cabin?”

From the front, the Taylors’ log home does appear to be two. (The smaller structure is actually the couple’s master bedroom suite.) A covered porch, 8 feet deep and 24 feet wide, creates an inviting spot to greet guests at the front of the main house.  “We wanted a low profile, so the house sits down and fits perfectly into the land,” says Graham.

DIY Time

Once the couple was happy with their design, they took it to Southland Log Homes in Irmo, South Carolina. Southland created a blueprint, determined the necessary building materials and rounded up on the numbers, allowing for error and supplying some extra lumber for other projects. The Taylors then built their home themselves, starting by clearing the land.

Graham, a landscape contractor, took seven months off work, making their home his main project. They hired local construction workers where needed, and Sally spent afternoons onsite, overseeing the efforts.

“I was amazed watching our home go up,” Sally says. “Since all the logs are numbered, you just start stacking. It took shape quickly.”

Not that they felt confined by their blueprint. “Since we were there every day, we could visualize opportunities to add something different. Though sometimes they came with a price tag,” says Graham with a laugh. “Like the day one skylight morphed into five!”

Living Large

Just inside the front door is the living room, where the walls soar to 18 feet. The Taylors decided to skip the traditional tongue-and-groove ceiling (“We didn’t want too much wood,” Graham says) and, instead, coated the drywall ceiling with a caramel-colored paint that complements the logs.

Spiral stairs ascend to a single bedroom—a haven for the Taylors’ eldest daughter Amber Jade. She and her friends “fly up the staircase” to the retreat, with its own bath and small refrigerator. At the other end of the house, daughters Autumn and Ally share a Jack-and- Jill bath (but with two sinks and vanities) between their bedrooms.

“Many of the home’s special features capture space that likely wouldn’t have been used,” Graham notes. Amber Jade has a desk built into an alcove corner that was not drywalled as originally planned. Autumn has a desk and vanity area with a mirror and a built-in drawer. Ally even has a dollhouse built into her bedroom wall.

Shutterbug Style

The Taylors put a lot of heart into designing their kitchen, starting with the dramatic L-shaped bar where the countertop doubles as a portrait gallery. Sally, the resident photographer, wanted a special place to put her images of family and friends.

“It’s one of our home’s main attractions,” she says. “Our friends go straight to the bar and start laughing and reminiscing about the photos.”

To maintain an open feeling, the couple kept overhead cabinetry to a minimum. Instead, at one end of the bar, they crafted a brilliant storage tower, which houses a cupboard on the bottom, a microwave in the middle and a TV (which swivels to face the kitchen or living room) on top. Cottagestyle open shelving rounds out the storage-friendly scene.

If you want proof that this kitchen is a family hangout, just consider the wooden swing that sits smack dab in the center of the doorway (but with plenty of room to get around it, Sally points out). “The teenagers love it as much as the little ones,” she says.

The couple originally designed the kitchen with a lower ceiling to help define that room in the open floorplan. But once the beams were in place, Graham couldn’t resist “throwing a floor up there” to add extra living space. He built a ship’s ladder to access the loft, which Sally now uses as her office.

Lumber Leftovers

The Taylors were precise in their planning and construction and ended up with leftover lumber they put to good use. Remaining 1-by-6 foot floor boards found purpose as kitchen countertops. Other lumber became the loft above the kitchen, and extra logs are slated for a logcabin doghouse.

Another unique feature is a barn door that rolls along a track. For just $80, this contraption has become like a secret passageway – closing off one end of the house when the girls want some privacy.

“The way this house is laid out is all about raising a family,” notes Graham. “We got a lot of ‘house’ with many great features—but in a really small package.”