Rustic pleasures in a log house Warm, cozy haven has airiness of beach retreat

Dream Home

September 08, 1996|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Libby Ballenger's Winfield log house combines the airy informality of a beach house with the owner's love of rustic furnishings. The result is a home that seems to welcome the best of every season.

On a recent afternoon, a gentle breeze passed through Ballenger's living room while sunlight cast a golden glow on the southern white pine logs with which the house is built. In winter, she said, the same room becomes a cozy haven from the cold outside, warmed by the cheery wood stove that sits on the large stone hearth.

Returning to Maryland after a divorce, Ballenger was determined to build a house that suited her tastes. "I've lived in tract housing, ranchers, apartments and townhouses, and I've hated every one of them," she said.

The 48-year-old was equally determined to use her new home to start a new phase in her life. After many years of riding, breeding and showing horses as a hobby, she wanted to market her talents into her own business. Ballenger approached her mother about splitting a lot off the family's Carroll County farm, and her own Roan Hill Farm was born.

There, Ballenger teaches riding, dressage and show jumping; breeds horses; and cares for her own horses and those belonging to other people. The farm is named for National Boh, the 26-year-old roan-colored hunter who was Ballenger's top show horse for many years.

When she designed her house, she paid special attention to efficiency and detail. "I went in every old house I could find," she said. "I'd drive down the road and if I saw an old abandoned house, I'd go in and take notes and draw pictures of the things I liked."

She also visited many log homes in a 100-mile radius of Carroll County to get better acquainted with building styles and the contractors who offer them.

Eighteen months after she began, Ballenger took her sketches, prospective floor plans and wish list to Hearthstone Log Homes of Lovettsville, Va. Her home is log and stucco, with insulation behind the chinking.

The log house sits sentry over nearby fields and forests, at the top of a winding drive. Built in the Southern plantation style, the roof slopes downward in one long line, with two dormer windows.

A gardener, Ballenger landscaped the flower beds herself. Showcased in one is a large piece of driftwood carried back on a car roof from a beach vacation.

The bright blue front door opens to a small entry. The center

staircase stands directly ahead, just as it did in many original log houses.

To the left of the entrance is the galley-style kitchen. "All of the cabinets were built along the exterior wall, which gives you extra insulation," Ballenger pointed out. The blue enamel sink matches the front door, and the window over the sink offers a clear view of the barn and pasture.

The dining room is at the rear of the home in a "bump out" nook that allows guests to see how the logs were dovetailed together to build the house. A love seat divides the dining room from the living room. The arched hearth in the living room was assembled from large fieldstone from West Virginia. The mantel is a 6-foot hewn log.

Upstairs, there are two suites. Ballenger had the logs in each stained darker than the logs downstairs. Every spare bit of space in the master bedroom -- including both sides of the dormer -- is used for storage. The oversize bath includes a Jacuzzi tub with skylight overhead. A specially designed hexagon window brings in additional light for the plants that flourish there.

The smaller room across the hall includes a large half-moon window which offers a view of the pasture and an oversize window which overlooks the back yard. A bathroom is tucked into the space under the dormer.

Ballenger successfully blends her rustic and nautical accessories to give a general feel for the outdoors. Dried flowers and primitive crafts mix easily with driftwood and small watercolor prints of beach landmarks.

The first-time home designer said she has few complaints about her house.

"As soon as I walk through the front door, I start to relax. The only thing I'm missing is the ocean."

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