A Rangeley kit home pushes an old-fashioned aesthetic farther forward along the log cabin continuum.
In its heyday, Badger’s Dodge Pond Camps in Rangeley boasted a dining room renowned for its cuisine; hosted water sports, golf, tennis, and shuffleboard; and housed a riding academy. Established in 1921, the camp comprised 500 acres of heavily forested land dotted with quaint log cabins. Badger’s is lost to history, but it lives vividly in the memory of one member of the fortysomething couple who built this contemporary cabin. The husband’s family has owned this property for generations, and he spent many a summer hiking the trails and paddling around the pond.
Of course, in the manner of seasonal camps, the old house he used to bunk in wasn’t winterized and had no foundation. So when he decided to make it a year-round retreat for himself, his wife, and their three adolescent daughters, there was nothing to do but raze the old structure and start from scratch. In order to preserve the spirit of the old camp, the couple purchased an unpretentious 1,400-square-foot kit cabin from Coventry Log Homes and brought the plans to Mark Gordon, owner of Rangeley Building and Remodeling, and his in-house designer, Jill Crosby, to customize and erect a new, more substantial residence.
While classic log cabins are certainly the vernacular style of this region, the couple craved a fresher take on the genre. The wife, recalls Crosby, “was looking for a modern lodge feel, something with rustic finishes but with industrial details that would make it feel more up-to-date.”
Unlike the original cabin, this one has two stories, which could have commanded quite a visual presence in its sylvan setting. “We got lucky with the leach field, which was mounded up on one side of the property,” explains Gordon. “By setting the house up against it, the building didn’t feel like it was this big structure sticking up out of the land.” To contemporize the rustic log cabin look, the team clad the foundation and the chimney stack with black corrugated metal and ringed the deck with a railing of metal cables strung through black steel posts. All window frames were also black, thus achieving the desired balance of traditional and modern architectural sensibilities.
Inside, says Crosby, “The kitchen layout didn’t work for the family.” So she reorganized it and opened it up. Other programmatic reconfigurations included snatching some space from a bedroom to make a bath large enough to accommodate a washer and dryer, relocating a few windows, and replacing conventional doors with sliding barn-style versions throughout.
Crosby also devised a palette of materials that would help connect the interior to the surrounding forest and pond. The green of the conifers comes inside with a custom-blended Benjamin Moore paint applied to the cabinetry and interior window frames. After picking an initial shade and covering drywall panels with it, the team placed the panels in the kitchen area to see how changes in light affect the color, says Crosby. “We discovered it was still too dark, so we brought it down to about 25 percent strength to get the perfect color,” she recalls. The end result is brighter and far less somber.
Silverado-honed granite for the counter-tops “keeps that rustic feel,” says Crosby. “It looks like soapstone but requires far less maintenance.” The granite, in turn, informed the choice of limestone veneer for the hearth and wood keeper, which is grayer than the bluestone often used in log homes. “It also had an interesting texture and movement to it,” Crosby notes. Ditto for the complex Asian walnut floor on the main level. “She was a little nervous because it was so active,” recalls Crosby of the wife. “But she went with it. It has a more edgy feel than the pine flooring.”
As with the exterior, freshening the cabin vernacular’s interiors required creating an intriguing visual tension between the traditional cabin aesthetic and more modern industrial touches. On the former front, the owner commissioned local craftsmen at Maine Mountain Millworks to create a dining room table and all the beds from natural cedar tree stumps so that they look as though they are growing directly out of the floor. There is also the de rigueur deer antler chandelier, sized to work in the living room area, and a slightly more contemporary take on the conventional wagon wheel chandelier over the dining table. A dark cowhide rug grounds the living room, where a bench upholstered in a Navajo blanket sits under a window.
Modern adaptations include black hardware throughout, including the “Y” gussets that join various components of the enormous trusses supporting the roof. Incidentally, that roof, explains Gordon, is unusual in that it is composed of longitudinal purlins rather than the usual latitudinal rafter system of a traditional log cabin. “It’s more labor intensive,” he says, “because there’s a lot more notching of timbers into each other.” But the effect— combined with the height—is partly what makes the interior feel larger and airier than it actually is.
But the tallness of the ceiling also presented a challenge for Crosby. “It’s such a vaulted space, so you’re limited in what you can use for pendants because a lot don’t come in these long lengths,” she says, noting that the eventual factory-style lights that now illuminate the kitchen required rods about 10 feet long to achieve the desired height over the work surfaces. As a general rule, too, these and most other lights in the home feature clear shades. “The nature of the kit is you’re going to have a lot of wood everywhere, which just soaks up the light,” she observes. Glass shades compensate for the heaviness and brighten the rooms. The desire to maximize natural light is also why the family eschewed window treatments. “Fortunately, the house is in a very private spot,” she says, making curtains or shades unnecessary.
Black steel throughout provides the consistent contemporary note. This extends from the previously mentioned “Y” gussets to an industrial work stool at the kitchen island, the fireplace unit that creates more efficient heating in the hearth, and blackened sand-cast bronze handles on the rolling barn doors. This last detail’s material nicely connects modern industrial processes with a twig form that nods to the log cabin’s rustic origins.
Stone vessel sinks provide “art in the baths,” says Crosby, while also harkening to the landscape outside. Additionally, they serve another purpose. Everyone in the family but the wife is tall, which is why Crosby raised the vanities, and the vessel sinks bring them even closer to waist height for the husband and daughters.
In the end, the home isn’t exactly a humble Abe Lincoln–like cabin. But neither is it an immodest McCabin that’s out of proportion with the rustic camp envisioned by Frank L. Badger in the early twentieth century. Of the updating, notes Crosby, “It’s simple, but not done in a trendy way.” When it passes down to the next generation, she says, “They won’t have to do a lot of changing and renovating.”