Taking Great Log Home Photographs

01-L11482-ForbesParkCO-01Real Log Home owners love taking pictures of their homes, as evidenced by our customer submitted photographs section. But while taking photographs of your home can be rewarding, it also presents challenges you don’t find when taking snapshots of people or pets. While modern digital cameras are more forgiving than film cameras of the past, there are still several techniques that will allow you to produce better shots of the interior and exterior of your home. Whether you are looking to take pictures to advertise your home for sale or just share with friends and family, here are some tips to improving your log home photographs.

Lighting

mammothcave-ky_l11207_11_0While beginning photographers may focus on other issues, professionals will tell you that lighting is the most technical aspect of photography and the most important one to get right. Even though entire books have been written on lighting, there are a few simple ideas to keep in mind. Diffuse light is much more flattering than direct light. To get diffuse natural light, it helps to shoot an exterior in overcast conditions and an interior when light is not flowing directly from windows into your shot. Also, moderate shadows are desirable to create a sense of depth in the photo, so shooting in morning or evening is better than midday.

l11508-groveok-09While natural light can create the strongest images, sometimes supplemental light is necessary. Usually, you do not want to light subjects head-on since this washes out textures and causes backgrounds to be underexposed. If you use a flash, bouncing the flash off of the ceiling (or out-of-shot wall) will create a more diffuse and pleasant light. If you have a flash diffuser, this can also help. It is also important to match your flash to the type of light you are shooting in; camera makers sell flash “gels” for this purpose.

Exposure

100_5602Cameras have very good autofocus systems these days, so typically focus is not an issue. The most important setting here will be controlling your aperture, also known as the f-stop. With a lower-numbered f-stop, a smaller range of distances from the camera will be in focus. This can be useful if you want to isolate one subject in the shot. If you want more of the room in focus, then a higher-numbered f-stop is required. However, the aperture cannot be too small (high f-stop number) or diffraction will blur the images. Typically, full-frame DSLRs look best at f/11, crop-sensor DSLRs look best around f/8, and smaller cameras will need even wider apertures. Use your aperture priority mode to control your camera. Since the inside of a home can be dark (for a camera) with just natural light, make sure to use a tripod for longer exposures.

Framing

mammothcave-ky_l11207_01_0If you want a room to look normal, it is best to shoot walls straight-on. Angled shots can make for interesting photographs, but you’re probably best starting off with straight-on shots. If there are low-height objects like couches or coffee tables in the foreground, shooting from a lower height avoids the feeling that you are towering over the room. Also, the small space indoors will mean you will likely want to shoot with a wide-angle lens, but make sure you use a non-distorting lens (not a fisheye).

Staging

04-L11482-ForbesParkCO-04When arranging furniture for a shoot, try to keep things simple. In person, your brain is very good at throwing out extraneous detail and building a mental image that gives an overall sense of a space. When looking at a photograph, however, you will notice every single item in a room and normal spaces can seem cluttered. If you need to, remove items from the room to make a more engrossing shot.

All of the log home photos shown in this post are from the Real Log Homes customer submitted photos gallery.  Take a look to see more.  And, if you’re a Real Log Home owner, please feel free to try out these photography tips on your home and send us the results!  And if you have any questions on designing and building a photo worthy log home of your own, contact the design team at Real Log Homes to learn more on how you can get started.

How Large Are Various Rooms?

log home great room with prow wall of windowsLast October, we wrote a post on predicted future trends in home design. The conclusions of that post were that great rooms and first-floor master bedrooms would become even more prevalent while living rooms and specialty rooms like media rooms would decline in popularity. While this addresses the kinds of rooms that are found in new homes, it did not address how large each of these rooms are. When clients first start working with the Real Log Homes design team on their layout, many have questions about how large each room should be. Clients starting a design from scratch are often especially interested in this question. To help guide your planning, we’ve compiles data about average room sizes from a 2013 National Association of Home Builders survey of new construction.

Overall Figures

log home first floor planAt the time of this study, the average new construction house was 2315 square feet. In this space, on average, were 2.56 bathrooms and 3.38 bedrooms. Although this may seem like a great deal of space to work with, 530 square feet (or about 23 percent) of space in the average home was occupied by “other finished space”. This category included hallways, bonus rooms, studies and so forth, but in reality the hallways take up a large amount of space in the average, stick-built home. One great advantage of a log home is the open floor plan allowed by log construction eliminates unnecessary hallways, freeing space to be used in more functional ways throughout the house.

The Great Room

Log Great Room Metal ChandelierThis room fully lives up to its name, occupying 550 square feet in the average home. This makes it the largest single room by far. Interestingly, the size of this room does not vary significantly with home size. In homes under 2000 square feet the great room averaged 487 square feet, while in homes between 2000 and 3000 square feet the size was unchanged at 481 square feet. This likely reflects the great importance modern buyers place on the great room and that a larger room would not be more functional. Buyers of smaller homes likely sacrifice space in other rooms in order to maintain the great living and entertaining space of a full size great room.

Master Suite

log home master bedroom with sliding patio doors

While the great room doesn’t change much with home size, master bedrooms definitely become more spacious as home sizes increase. The average master bedroom was 309 square feet, while homes under 2000 square feet allocated 231 square feet on average. In homes above 3000 square feet, the master bedroom averaged an impressive 411 square feet. Meanwhile, the master bathroom also grows impressively with home size. The average master bath was 160 square feet, with smaller homes having around 100 square feet and larger ones over 200.

Guest Bedrooms

MammothCave-KY_L11207_09For many years, a 12 foot width was common for guest bedrooms, with small rooms offering 10 feet of length and larger ones maybe offering 14 feet. Since carpeting comes in 12 foot widths, this made the flooring cheaper and easier to install. Today, the resurgence of hardwood floors has broken this pattern, and guest bedrooms tend to be a bit larger. The average total space dedicated to additional bedrooms was 481 square feet. This amount varies greatly with home size, with small homes only dedicating 261 square feet to all additional bedrooms. In homes over 3000 square feet, a whopping 713 square feet were dedicated among the multiple additional bedrooms.

Closet Space

Yorke-013Storage can be a tricky matter in any home, and here is another area where larger homes have a great deal more to offer. The average home had a total of 146 square feet of closet space, but this figure is dominated by large homes which averaged over 200 square feet. Smaller homes averaged only 106 square feet of closet space, and even homes between 2000 and 3000 square feet only had, on average, 125 square feet of closet space.

If you would like to learn more about any of the log homes featured in this post, or learn more about how you can work with a designer to craft a log home plan of your own, please contact Real Log Homes today.

Alternative Cooling Methods for the Log Home

Log Home Porch Overlooking LakeThis Fourth of July Weekend is set to be a warm one, with a great deal of the country experiencing high temperatures in the 90s or above. For the remainder of the summer, the National Weather Service is predicting above average temperatures in the South and West. This hot weather may get you thinking about ways to cool down your log home. While we appreciate the moderating effect of thermal mass in a log home’s walls, if the average daily temperature is above 80 degrees it can feel uncomfortably hot. Air conditioning is an option, but requires a great deal of electricity to run and can therefore be expensive to operate. If you’re considering other ways of cooling your home, here are a few alternatives.

Evaporative Cooling

If you exert yourself on a warm day, you will sweat. The evaporation of water on your skin requires energy, and as a result you cool down. An evaporative cooler, also known as a swamp cooler, works on a similar principle. These cooling systems evaporate water into the air, which simultaneously cools the air and raises the relative humidity. Every gallon of water that is evaporated removes about 7400 BTU of heat from the air.

Log Home Montana

This log home in Montana could successfully utilize an evaporative cooling system.

water15The primary advantage of evaporative cooling over air conditioning is the lower cost of operation. Conventional air conditioners require special refrigerants and compressors, which means installation costs are around double that of an evaporative unit. Furthermore, since water is much cheaper than electricity, the operation costs of evaporative cooling are around 12 percent of air conditioning.

251-2The primary drawback of evaporative cooling is that it does not work in humid climates. Since water does not evaporate well in high humidity, conventional air conditioning is a much better choice in humid environments. Conversely, in dry environments like the Mountain and Desert West, the increased humidity levels can aid comfort. Another disadvantage is that evaporative coolers do not filter the air, which can be important for allergy sufferers.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

gshp_diagramConventional air conditioning is an air source heat pump, which means that it pumps heat from the inside of your home to the air outside your home. One issue with such a system is that it is much less efficient to pump heat outside when the temperature is high and you need air conditioning the most. A ground source heat pump (GSHP) uses the ground as a heat sink, which remains at a much lower temperature. The ground has enormous thermal mass, so below 20 feet down the ground remains constant at the average yearly air temperature. This makes it an efficient reservoir to pump heat to in the summer and extract heat from in the winter.

While this more efficient system means lower energy bills, the increased installation cost means that it usually only makes sense to install if a GSHP is an effective heating solution for you as well. Typically, if natural gas is available for heat then a GSHP will not make sense, but if you use heating oil or electric heating then the payback time for a GSHP can be less than five years. Tax incentives may also be available for installing a GSHP system.

6892-millsaptx-16No matter what cooling method you choose for your log home, there is something about sitting by the pool with some iced tea that makes for the best cooling.  If you have any questions about the homes featured in this post, or would like information on designing your own log home, please contact Real Log Homes.  We hope you all enjoy a safe and wonderful 4th of July, and stay cool!

Log Homes at the Movies

log home great room with sectional couch big screen tv and soapstone stoveWhile dedicated movie rooms are a popular way to enjoy films right at home, the aesthetics of a log home make them a perfect candidate for filming in a movie. Sometimes, a log cabin or home is used for historical accuracy. Other times, the log home is the perfect metaphor for any place away from the rest of civilization. Whatever the filmmaker’s needs, log homes have found a place in American cinema. Here are a few examples of log homes featured in movies.

Kelly Gulch

This entry is not about a movie, but rather a place: Kelly Gulch in Topanga, California. The Kelly family owned a small house in the area, but bought two-and-a-half acres of land intending to build a larger home for their family. Since the family appreciated the old and beautiful, they decided a Real Log Home would fit the landscape perfectly. Frank Kelly purchased the kit and constructed the house himself, taking about six weeks to put up structure and around a year to finish the interior.

Photo courtesy Blackberry Creek Farm At Kelly Gulch.  http://kellygulch.com

Photo courtesy Blackberry Creek Farm At Kelly Gulch. http://kellygulch.com

While the home served well as a family house, it got its big film break in 1984 when location scouts for Friday the 13th, Part IV were looking for a log cabin site near Los Angeles. Since then, the house has been in over 200 still and film shoots, including episodes of The Rockford Files and Parks and Recreation. The house has since changed owners, and continues to serve as a family home to this day.

A Plethora of Horror Movies

log cabin in the woodsHorror movies seem to be the most popular type of movie to set in a log house or cabin. We swear that there’s nothing especially “haunted” about log homes, and the use of them in horror movies is due to the cliché where writers strand urbanites in an archetypal rural location away from any hope of rescue. Whether it be the aforementioned Friday the 13th series, the more recent The Cabin in the Woods or a comedy horror movie like Evil Dead 2, the log cabin gets plenty of use in the horror genre.  Frankly, we feel that an isolated home in the middle of nature sounds like the perfect way to get away from “horrors” of urban living!

And a Few Action Movies as Well

Log Home Custom Garage Addition

An action movie in a log home, just wouldn’t be complete without a Hummer in the garage….

While the horror genre claims the greatest share of cinematic log homes, action movies can also use them to great effect. The novel True Grit was set in Arkansas and Oklahoma, but both movie adaptations decided to set the action in a more westerly location. The great vistas and log homes of Colorado (the 1969 film) and New Mexico (the 2010 film) were a perfect location to make the movies grander affairs. Since Abraham Lincoln was raised in a log cabin, the fantasy action film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter features log cabins, although this may be the only historically accurate element of the movie. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger lived in a log home in the movie Commando, with a filming location at a home in Mount Baldy, California. However, if you cut firewood for keeping your log home warm, we recommend you do not carry fifteen foot sections of tree trunks over your shoulder like Arnold does in this flick.

It’s funny to think of how the log home is sometimes the victim of type-casting in movies.  We at Real Log Homes know the real character behind these homes, though.  When the lights go off and the film crews leave, a Real Log Home in the woods is a well-built and sturdy shelter constructed with the highest quality natural materials and designed to help you feel at home.  If you have a favorite movie that features a log home, please leave a comment and let us know.  And if you have any questions on a designing a log home fit for the big screen (or everyday living), then contact the design team at Real Log Homes to get started.

Kitchen Lighting in the Log Home

l11508-groveok-09Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is probably the most “functional” room in a house. Since the layout of a kitchen is dictated by its function, with little floor space to spare, lighting in the kitchen must be accomplished by wall or ceiling mounted fixtures. Complicating matters, more types of light sources are required in a kitchen than other rooms. While a bedroom or living space may only need ambiance lighting so you can see in the dark, a kitchen also requires task lighting to help you prepare food and clean up afterwards. If you are looking at designing appropriate lighting for the kitchen in your log home, here is a guide to several types of lighting.

Natural Light

log home open floor planWhile electric lights are a must in any kitchen, planning for appropriate natural light is a very important first step when designing a kitchen. For decades, the standard has been that a lone window is situated above the kitchen sink. While this no doubt makes doing the dishes a more enjoyable task, having only one source of natural light on one wall makes for pesky shadows and weak natural light. If you are just designing a home, consider siting the kitchen in a corner where it can have windows on two walls. This will provide more even light with fewer shadows, and make working in the kitchen a much more appealing prospect.

Recessed Lighting

BAI_06Recessed lighting is a great way to provide ambient light to an area without making the lights the focus of a room. In terms of light spacing, the general rule is that the lights should be placed half the ceiling height apart from one another. For example, if the ceiling is eight feet high then the lights should be four feet apart. If you wish to provide more light to an area of the kitchen where you prep food or cook, then you can make the lighting more concentrated. Since recessed fixtures concentrate heat, make sure to use bulbs with an approved watt rating and only use CFLs and LEDs approved for recessed fixtures.

Track Lighting

Log Home Kitchen | Country Kitchen

While old track lights were unattractive, newer designs can be quite stylish. These types of lights can be used to light whole areas or concentrate light where it is needed most. Unlike recessed fixtures, track lights remain cooler and are thus friendlier to LEDs and CFLs. New models can be digitally controlled, so each light can be individually dimmed to get the illumination level just right.

Pendant Lights

Log Home Kitchen with island

If you need to illuminate a freestanding area, like an island, then pendant lights work very well. This type of lighting is extremely popular, since the pendant design can be personalized to match the space and your style. Functionally, these lights are great for illuminating a table or other small area without drastically increasing the light levels throughout the room.

Under-Cabinet Lights

Log Home KitchenMost prep work occurs on countertops, but the cabinets and your own body will block light from overhead fixtures. Under-cabinet lights are great at removing shadows under cabinets and providing illumination for your work space. LED lights are perfect for this task lighting, since they have a neutral color spectrum, consume very little power, and can be bought in strings of emitters that provide even radiance.

We certainly hope we have helped shed some light on how to pick the right lighting for your log home kitchen.  If you have any questions about the homes featured or would like to get started on a custom log home design of your own, please contact Real Log Homes to learn more.