When Alison Houghman decided a glorified shed wouldn’t do for her wilderness retreat, she turned to the land of
the lumberjack to find her dream log cabin.
Personally, when someone says “log cabin” I think of American settlers and Little House On The Prairie.
Alison Houghman thought the same, so it was hardly a surprise when she discovered that finding someone to build one nowadays would prove rather difficult.
It was when one of her fellow sailing enthusiasts came into some endowment money that the search started. “He said he fancied buying a little cabin,” Alison recalls.
“I said if he found one, I’d go halves with him and maybe we could buy something a bit bigger, something we could both use.
“When I started Googling cabins, what came up wasn’t what I had in mind. The only things you could buy were prefabricated, static, caravan types and they were on site with maintenance fees, just not what we were looking for.
“Even when I started Googling log cabins they were more like glorified sheds.
“I was just about to give up and then on page 10 of the internet search I found a Canadian company, Pioneer Log Homes, and I thought: ‘That’s it, that’s exactly what I had in mind.’”
After contacting their UK agent, Alison came up to Scotland to see a couple of examples of what they’d built, and she liked what she saw.
“I had thought about building down south but the agent mentioned there was land for sale in the area and it was probably cheaper as well, so I went home and compiled a list of places I wanted to view in Scotland.
“However, a week before I planned to return to Scotland, I went on a blind date.”
Whilst Alison and her date didn’t hit it off romantically, it transpired he was selling a piece of land in Scotland and Alison asked if she could have a look. “I viewed his land first because it sounded idyllic, and it was.
“I did go to the other appointments, but it was by far the best and that’s how I came to own 1.7 acres in the woods on the shores of Loch Garry with a little burn and a lovely old Sir Thomas Telford bridge.”
Once planning and building warrants were organised Alison ordered the logs. “About half way through the process I went over to Canada to check on progress, and on 28 September 2016 the logs arrived in Scotland.
“I ordered a crane, and some lumberjacks from Canada came across, and the whole thing went up in a day and a half.
“Then my carpenter took over to frame the roof and do all the internal work.
“Electricity and heating were put in, the windows came a bit later than they should, but by February everything was in and then it took me about a month to do all the little bits to get it just right.”
Alison had been living on site since the groundwork started in July, starting off in a caravan and then building a garage, which has now become more of a bunk house.
In February, she finally moved into the cabin.
Whilst Pioneer Log Homes creates some amazing properties, Alison’s design was relatively simple. “My brief to the architect was to design a log cabin very classic in appearance,” she says.
“The architect suggested the mezzanine level, which has been something of a bonus, but aside from that it’s pretty straightforward.”
The layout incorporates a master bedroom and en-suite on the ground floor along with a kitchen, dining and living area, and the gallery space upstairs houses a twin bedroom, a sofa bed and bathroom.
The shepherd’s hut that sits out the back under the oak trees offers additional accommodation for another couple if required.
Although the layout is straightforward, the decoration and furnishing of the property is intricate and highly detailed.
“I own lifestyle store The Packhouse in Surrey, so although I’m not an interior designer, I do have an eye for interesting pieces. I knew how it was going to look inside and I just worked backwards from there.
“It was during my time buying for the Packhouse that I came across the sleighs. I bought a small, medium and large one, which were made in Eastern Europe.
“I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I really liked them, and I took them up to the cabin.
“In March it was my 50th birthday and I had invited friends up to the cabin, but my sofa hadn’t arrived yet. I had a hot tub but nothing to sit on,” says Alison.
“A friend mentioned that the large sleigh was so big you could make it into a bed, so I brought it in from outside, put the mattress from the bunk house on it and covered it in some lovely goat hair rugs and cushions and it was the best seat in the house.
“When the sofa arrived, everyone agreed that I couldn’t get rid of the sleigh. Fortunately, I’ve managed to fit both the sofa and the sleigh in.”
Another talking point is the rock basins in the en-suite bathroom. “The first rock basin I bought for my house down south and it came from eBay,” says Alison.
“There are a few companies that sell them now and I think they originate from Indonesia. They’re real river boulders that have been carved out, and I think they’re stunning.”
Alison certainly has an eye for the unusual but she’s also not afraid to get her hands dirty to get the look she wants.
“I had planned to have a large stone chimney going right up through the house but it’s incredibly expensive.
“Then, I found a company at The Grand Designs Show and they were importing stone slips from America, which looked incredibly realistic.
“So, we framed the chimney breast and clad it in this faux stone from America. It was a joint effort between myself and the tiler.
“He was cutting while I was up there sticking it on where I wanted it. Everyone that sees it thinks it’s real stone.”
Again, dismayed by the cost implications Alison had to think outside the box to come up with a balustrade design that came within budget.
“The balustrades were going to be this lovely plasma cut steel but as much as they were beautiful I couldn’t justify the money,” she says.
“The carpenter suggested I cut some thistles into the wood but I’m not that keen on thistles, so I thought perhaps some trees?
“I made up a template, got the jigsaw out, had a go and they looked all right so I went for it. I’m very proud of my trees, they’re by me.”
This is indeed the house that Alison built and so successfully that Pioneer Log Homes is impressed with the result and they have made her their UK distributor.
Just goes to show, seek and you shall find, eventually, on page 10 of a Google search.
The Caledonian Cabin is available to let here, or tel: 07967 028938.
Words: Nichola Hunter