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A Timber Home Fit for the Tennessee Hills

A home of stone and timber emerges from the Cumberland Plateau forest.

Written by Claudia Johnson
Photography by Brandon Malone
Styling: Cooper and Co.
 
 
Nestled within the hardwood forests, craggy cliffs and meandering waters of the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau is a house built from stone and timbers, marble and metal, hard work and happiness.
 
Not so long ago, homeowners Greg and Sandra Teslia could feel the ocean breezes poolside at their sprawling, stucco Palm Beach, Florida, home. After relocating from Canada in 1991, the couple spent 27 years on Florida’s Gold Coast, where they developed a successful international business. However, even the allure of the ocean couldn’t hold them when the Tennessee hills began calling. The lush terrain, coupled with their equine interests, enticed them to put down roots at their seven acre escape situated adjacent to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
 
“We purchased the property many years ago,” Sandra says. “There are horse trails in our community with direct access to the Big South Fork. This area is also great for hiking, biking, ATV riding and hunting. Nearby, Dale Hollow Lake is considered one of the top lakes in the nation for boating, fishing, camping and swimming.”
 
The couple researched floor plans on the internet, collecting, comparing and consolidating until their ideal design began to take shape. Initially, the Teslias had only considered a conventionally built home.
 
“We ultimately decided to change the center of the house to a heavy timber frame,” Sandra says of the 7,800-square-foot hybrid built by Honest Abe Log Homes in 2018.
 
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Award-winning Honest Abe designer Michael Hix drafted plans for the Teslias’ custom design, and the 40-year-old company’s mill began production of the heavy-timber system.
 
“Our standard timbers are 4-by-8-inch,” says Greg Watson, the sales representative who, along with wife Melissa, worked with the Teslias. “They wanted timbers milled to 8-by-12-inches to fit the scale of the home, and they were right. When you walk into the central room, it is just spectacular.”
 
The house is more than just awe-inspiring. It’s practical, too. The smart house is equipped with everything from a security system and lighting to a thermostat that can be controlled remotely through an app. The Teslias installed a generator with sufficient capacity to serve the entire house, and with retirement in mind, made exterior material selections that would ensure ease of maintenance.
 
“The exterior is mostly stone with Hardie Board,” Sandra says. “The roof is metal shingle and metal standing seam. The pre-cast foundation walls and the decks and porches on all levels are concrete. Outside staircases are TimberTech, aluminum and stainless steel.”
 
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Of course, not all of the building decisions were purely practical. There are plenty of allowances for fun, too. The 1,344-square-foot garage houses the couple’s ATVs, while the timber-framed “man cave” above the garage provides Greg and his guests with nearly a thousand square feet of room to relax. In the 2,730-square-foot basement, there’s a movie theater and fitness room with plans for a wine cellar, game room and safe room. Outside, the couple has hopes to add an array of outdoor living spaces for themselves and their four-legged friends, including a pavilion and a barn with stables.
 
For easy airport access, the busy couple continues to maintain a house near Nashville. So, although it may be a few years before the Teslias retreat permanently to the woods, they are certain they’re in the right place.
 
“We have a beautiful home in a great location,” Sandra says. “Plus, the people we’ve met in the area — many of which are transplants like ourselves — are wonderful.”
 

Home Details

Square footage: 7,800
Floor Plan: Michael Hix, Honest Abe Log Homes
Manufacturer: Honest Abe Log Homes
Builder: Lewis Enterprises