When Mallory Walden and his wife, Tommie, decided to move from South Carolina to East Texas a few years ago to be closer to their family, they were determined their new house would be exactly what they wanted - down to the tiniest detail.
Their checklist of must-haves was quite challenging.
They wanted to live on a lake and have great views of the water;
They wanted a house with plenty of room for when all their children and grandchildren visit;
They wanted plenty of outdoor living space for entertaining;
They wanted a stylish and rustic house where they could enjoy their retirement years in comfort;
And, if that wasn't enough, they wanted it all in the form of a large log cabin.
The first step was buying a sloping lot on an East Texas lake that provided the fantastic water views they craved.
Coming up with the home of their dreams wasn't nearly as easy. Tommie said they loved the cedar planking in their South Carolina home and that Mallory's eyes would light up when they talked about building a log home.
"I spent hours and hours looking through catalogs (for house plans and designs)," Tommie said.
They settled on a floor plan featuring multiple levels, large bay windows and high vaulted ceilings from Golden Eagle Log Homes, a specialty builder in Wisconsin. It wasn't exactly what they wanted but the company offered the ability to modify any design.
Mallory said they took advantage of that option and ended up customizing and super-sizing just about everything.
The cut pine logs and other materials were shipped from Wisconsin to be assembled on-site. Nationwide Log Home Builders, a company based in northern Illinois, had completed the framing when disaster struck.
One night, the house caught on fire and was quickly engulfed in flames. The Waldens, who were staying at a nearby RV park, were notified of the fire by the homeowner next door. By the time they arrived, the house was all but gone.
Mallory, who had worked as an electrical systems designer on large industrial projects, said investigators determined the fire started in the basement but they never found the cause.
It was frustrating and pushed the time table of having the home finished back by more than a year. Months after construction resumed, the Waldens at last had their log cabin home.
The centerpiece of the 5,700-foot home is the great room - a living room, dining room, kitchen combo - on the ground floor. With a soaring pitched roof, the great room is anchored by a stone fireplace on one side and has large pine columns and exposed timbering.
Tommie and Mallory's master bedroom is just off the great room and also looks out onto the lake. They modified the original design to add a sunroom off the master bedroom. Furnished with a trundle bed and two wicker-chairs, the room also serves as a bedroom for the younger grandkids.
A stairway of custom-cut pine logs leads to the second story and two more guest bedrooms. From the front, the house appears to be only two stories but the view from the lake reveals it is actually three stories. The basement contains two more guest rooms that share a central kitchen and den. On this level the doors open to a large patio.
The outdoor living space includes covered sitting areas, an outdoor kitchen and an entertaining area centered in front of an outdoor stone fireplace.
A manmade stream landscaped with native plants flows around the side of the house and in front of the outdoor fireplace area.
"I said I didn't want it unless it looked real," said Tommie of the water feature. "I loved the way it turned out."
When it came to decorating the log home, Tommie collaborated with interior designer Becky Ann Chelf of Swann's Furniture and Design in Tyler. Because almost all of the Waldens' existing furniture remained in their home in South Carolina, Tommie and Becky Ann started from scratch.
Using "rustic elegance" as their theme, Becky Ann and Tommie filled the rooms with large pieces that echoed a Southwestern theme. In the great room, a brown leather sofa and two chairs surround a coffee table that displays a decorative wooden bowl with carvings of wild horses crossing a river.
Becky Ann said the challenge was to soften the dominant brown tones of the wood and to add pops of color. The decorating starting point in most rooms were the large area rugs that Tommie had carefully selected.
"We were able to pull out the colors from the rugs to use elsewhere," said Becky Ann.
Pops of color, especially reds and greens, are found in bedding, cushions, pillows, artwork and accessories. Red upholstery is used on the high back dining room chairs. A red leather couch adds a pop of red to the upstairs landing.
The granite surfaces in the kitchen and bathrooms are from Granite Division in Tyler. Each one was picked out by Tommie.
"They (granite tops) are all very distinctive and different," said Tommie of her selections.
Mallory draws attention to the shutters on the arch-shaped windows that are positioned high on some of the walls. Gotcha Covered, a Tyler retailer that specializes in blinds, draperies and shutters, made them.
Mallory and Tommie wouldn't trade anything in the world for the life they are enjoying on the lake.
Shortly after moving to East Texas, they joined Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, and now perform in its Praise Team vocal group. Mallory said they will never forget the outpouring of kindness fellow congregation members showed them after learning their home had been destroyed.
"They made us feel like we belonged here," said Mallory.
Tommie said it is a blessing to be living where their children and grandchildren can visit much more often.
In fact, they have named their new home "The Blessing."
Tommie loves the simple pleasures that come with living on a lake, such as waking up to watch the sun peek over the horizon each morning.
"The sunrises are so nice when it is calm out on the lake," she said.. "The way the colors go across the water it's more like a sunset. It's really beautiful."
Golden Eagle Log Homes Gotcha Covered Nationwide Builders Endless Pools Swann's Furniture & Design Five Star Stone & Brick Barrett Appliance & Home Products Builders Carpet & Design Center Granite Division