Jean A. Steinbrecher, A.I.A.
Furnishing a log home is different from furnishing a conventional home.
(Why wouldn’t it be? Not much is conventional in a log home. That’s
why you want one. . .) Therefore, getting the basics “right” is
Scale and Size.
To begin, log homes have a different scale (relative size) than
conventional homes. The large log elements demand furniture that is big
enough to stand up to them visually; otherwise, they’ll seem dwarfed and
If you’ve ever seen a stage production of Hansel
and Gretel, you’ll know what I mean. Typically, the props and
scenery are built larger-than-life. Therefore, adults playing children’s
roles appear to be the size of children as they climb up onto chairs or
stand in front of an over-scaled fireplace.
Even if you’re planning only a small cabin built
from 8” diameter logs, a few large pieces of furniture will look better
than many smaller ones. The room will feel full without being cluttered.
In rooms with cathedral ceilings, scale is
especially important. Tall spaces need to be conceived in all three
dimensions. Tall furniture elements help fill the volume, as do large
pieces of wall and sculptural art. Over-scaled light fixtures brought down
to a mid level put a visual “lid” on the space. The best fixtures also
cast light upward, thereby illuminating those precious and beautiful log
structural elements in the ceiling.
Materials, Textures and Patterns.
Natural materials are a natural compliment to a log home. Leather and wood
furniture, tables with stone tops, metal light fixtures and wool rugs all
make a log home feel even more natural, warm and inviting.
Once again, however, scale is important. Materials
with a nubby or irregular surface texture work well against a log
backdrop. For example, sisal rugs with an interesting weave look great. So
do throw pillows in a nubby raw silk or an antique Kilim rug fabric.
Freestanding pieces that are visually interesting on
all sides work well, too. I’ve used bronze sculptures, metal mobiles and
Chinese kites to flesh out a space. Things feel complete.
In log homes, pattern also requires a scale change.
Avoid sweet little Laura Ashley-like prints. Look, instead, to large,
strong stripes or florals, bold and interesting weaves, over-scaled checks
or plaids, large natural motifs such buffaloes, trees or fish.
Many people automatically think of wood furniture in
any home-and especially in a log home. But, when is there too much wood?
When does the eye demand some relief so it can see the forest? Consider
other materials, too.
Examples include metal tables with glass or stone
tops, wrought iron lamps, leather upholstery, woven blankets and hides as
wall and floor decoration. Look at the feature articles in this magazine
and others. You’ll find interesting blends of materials.
If, however, you simply must have all wood
furniture, choose wood in a species and finish different from your logs.
For example, fir logs look great with birch, ash, beech, white oak or
maple furniture. Darker woods such as fir, mahogany or walnut set
themselves off well against pine. The point is to get some contrast
between the color of the logs and the color of the furniture.
As a personal preference, I avoid log furniture in
rooms with log walls-unless I’m really trying to create a “Lodge
Look”. Again, it’s about seeing the forest for the trees. In upper
story rooms, however, I sometimes use log furniture to compliment the log
structural elements-especially if I’ve used sheetrock or plaster on the
walls and ceilings.
Even here, though, I prefer logs mixed with other
materials. For example, I’ve seem a favorite log bed that incorporates
end panels with dried flower arrangements sandwiched between two layers of
glass. Another special one uses curve-topped metal frames with vertical
metal rods. In both these beds, the peeled poles give the feeling of log
furniture without being overwhelmingly “loggy”.
Style and Line.
Furniture design seems to be in a rather clean-lines and few-frills mode
right now. I consider that a plus in a log home. With so much going on
overhead and with so many horizontal lines (lateral joints) in the log
walls, clean, crisp furniture lines are a refreshing visual counterpoint.
doesn’t mean furniture has to be stiff and straight. Gentle, sweeping
curves actually compliment the log elements. However, avoid lots of little
curves or tiny motifs. Visually, it’s too weak and confusing. Look for
stronger, beefier, more robust lines and elements, instead. They need to
hold their own in a room.
Currently popular are Contemporary furniture and
Mission Style (also known as Arts and Crafts) furniture. Look, too, at the
more traditional lines such as Country, casual and cabin or “Lodge Look”
In your own home, any of these styles can be used so
long as the scale, texture and pattern are large enough to stand up to the
logs. Consistency of style is nice and safe, but you can also mix styles.
In my own residence, I have a dining table and
chairs with simple, sensuous, curving lines, as well as a very Italian
feeling leather couch and matching chair with ottoman. The wood is cherry
colored, the leather burgundy. In the room, I’ve also mixed an Empire
style antique mahogany side table, an 1840’s walnut and maple veneer
dresser and two Arts and Crafts brown hammered metal lamps with opaque
peach-colored frosted glass shades. The walls are painted a soft
gray-green. The floors are fir. With area rugs in the warm reds, rusts and
beiges, and with some darker blue accents, the room is an interesting
collage of disparate elements that magically holds together. When my log
home is finished, I expect these same pieces to fit into it nicely.
You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it. The same is true for
furniture. Beyond style and appearance, comfort is essential or the pieces
I’ve become quite bold about removing my shoes and
hopping up onto the beds in any furniture showroom. I want to know what it
feels like to sit against that back board and read. Do the slats fit my
back correctly? Is the top trim at a height that won’t cut into my neck
or head? (I don’t bother lying on a bed unless I’m purchasing the
After the test drive, I carefully smooth the bedding
and replace the pillows, then lift the bed skirts to check the frame
construction and joinery. Furniture is an investment-one I’m unwilling
to make without a thorough investigation.
I never buy a chair without sitting in it for at
least five minutes-with my feet up if it’s a reading or relaxing chair.
I want to know if my back feels supported, if my feet touch the floor
properly, if the stuffing gets bogged down from having my weight on it. If
I’m shopping for a sofa, again my shoes come off and I lie down for a
while. After all, Sunday afternoon naps are important. . . If showroom
employees have trouble with my actions (and most don’t), I shop
For your own purposes, if you live with others, take
them along furniture shopping-or bring them back with you after you’ve
done the recognizance work. The pieces should work for all family members,
unless you’re looking for a piece that’s exclusively your own.
Benchmarks of Quality.
Not all furniture is created equal-no matter how stylish and comfortable
it may be. The quality of materials and craft vary widely, as reflected in
the price. Buy the best furniture you possibly can. It will look better
and last longer.
According to Joe Richardson, III, a sixth generation
furniture manufacturer and award winning furniture designer, all-wood or
solid wood furniture without veneered plywood or particle board parts is
far superior. It will react better to seasonal changes and show less wear
and tear at the joints and fittings.
When shopping for furniture, look for well-fitting,
carefully crafted connections. (English dovetails are especially fine
drawer joints.) Hardware and pulls should be of good quality and proper
styling. (I’ve also been known to change out the hardware on furniture
when I got it home or got tired of it.) The wood finish should be tough,
long-lasting, evenly applied and highly complimentary to the wood. You’ll
know it when you touch it and see it.
For my own tastes, furniture styling should be
timeless-especially since I intend to keep my pieces for a long time.
Besides, log homes are truly timeless, and their furnishings should
celebrate reflect that.
As you can see, there’s more to selecting
furniture for your new log home than meets the eye. Start looking and
planning now. However, avoid the buying-too-soon pitfall unless you’re a
really experienced home decorator. Otherwise you could end up with a
truckload of furniture you can’t make work in your brand new log home.
Jean Steinbrecher, A.I.A., is a licensed architect
in private practice with offices in Langley, Washington, on Whidbey
Island. She specializes in the design of log structures.
article is reprinted from Log Home Living Magazine, copyright Home Buyer
Publications, Inc. 4200-T Lafayette Center Drive, Chantilly, VA 20151-1208
Reprinted with permission from the author.