When Pete Holmberg set out to build on an empty lot on the corner of Cajed Lane and Smithtown Road in Shorewood in the mid-1980s, he knew he wanted a log house.
Holmberg's search led him to a company out of northern Minnesota that not only could build such a house, but sourced logs from an old-growth forest of red pines planted in 1831, more than 120 years before the evergreen became the official state tree. The builders also specialized in a handcrafted, labor-intensive method.
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"I was originally going to do milled logs, but then I saw this ad for Norway [red pine] log homes that were hand-peeled, hand-scribed," he said. "I had to pay extra. I didn't mind, it was worth the extra cost."
Taking it from there
The house was built off-site just south of Isanti, Minn. Logs were pre-assembled using a scribe-fit method for stacking and fitting logs together. The pieces, including the roof support of ridgepole and purlins nearly 70 feet long, were then taken apart and reassembled on the Shorewood property.
"Once they erected the logs, it was my turn," said Holmberg.
Holmberg wasn't afraid of a project. The now-retired pipefitter with Local 539 in Minneapolis grew up with a dad who was a mechanical engineer and they remodeled houses together. Holmberg also helped build his brother's house.
Holmberg did the mechanicals and built out most of the log house himself. He enlisted artisans to lay a fieldstone porch, build a 20-foot stone fireplace and handcraft mosaic doors.
"I wanted an authentic log home," he said. "I had everything as real as I could get it to nature."
While spaces such as the living room, dining room, kitchen and porch have a log house feel, others were given a more modern vibe.
"The main level is a log home environment with darker walls and heavy stonework. If you go upstairs, there are Sheetrock walls with the log beams, and that's more Southwest contemporary with lighter colors," he said. "The basement is also more contemporary, so much that you'd never know you were in a log house at all."
Holmberg said the house is designed in a practical way.
Eaves were located with the angle of the sun in mind. "In the summer, the eaves will shade the sun. Then in the winter, when the sun is lower, it was designed so that the sun would hit the fireplace and get some passive solar gain out of that," Holmberg said.
The house also has room to grow and modern amenities. A heated and insulated garage comes with an upper level with a balcony that can be used for recreation or office space. The finished basement includes a bar and entertainment area as well as a home theater.
As nature lovers who like to enjoy the outdoors, Holmberg and his wife, Libby, have also added landscaping to the property that comes in at just under 1 acre.
They've planted over 250 trees, most of which are pine and birch. In addition, "we've got literally thousands of hostas," Holmberg said.
Now after more than three decades, they've put the 3,200-square-foot, two-bedroom, three-bathroom house built in 1987 on the market.
"After 35 years of house and gardens and everything else, we want to downsize and simplify a bit," Holmberg said.
Real estate broker Douglas Miller said a house like this isn't something one comes across every day.
"This house is truly unique, and it would probably cost well over a million dollars to build something like this now," he said. "My wife and I walk by this property every day and we have always been in awe of it. You are just not going to see another house like this."
Holmberg hopes the next homeowner will appreciate the home's craftsmanship as well as how it lives up to its log home reputation of efficiently retaining heat during the winter while having a cooling effect in the summer.
He added that the location — 3 miles west of Excelsior and 3 miles east of Victoria and a mile from Lake Minnetonka's Howard's Point Marina — and easy access to walking, hiking and biking trails can't be more convenient.
And that's all been a bonus to the fulfillment of having lived in a classic log home.
"It's a rare house. It's 100% Minnesota through and through," Holmberg said. "I've lived here my whole life, so I know."
Douglas Miller (email@example.com; 612-284-9000) has the $798,000 listing.