By Nancy Oakley • Photographs by Amy Freeman
“We stay outdoors most of the time. We’ll come out here and never even come in the house,” Stan Clinard says with an ironic laugh. Ironic, because the house he’s referring to, a log cabin perched on a remote finger of High Rock Lake in Davidson County, took more than two years of painstaking construction. “Prior to building, we’d come out and camp here all the time,” he continues, “a whole bunch of kids and dads.” But when Stan Clinard and his wife, Dana, full-time residents of High Point, were traveling on the highway outside Statesville and espied Southland Log Cabin Homes, inspiration struck. “We saw a kit and we loved how it looked on the outside,” says Dana, “and it came with a free garage.” Their woodsy, lakeside campground, they decided, would become a comfortable — and sleek — weekend getaway.
There was just one problem: The Clinards’ spread is part of a forestry program that timbered the area’s native hardwoods in 2004 to grow loblolly pines for pulp wood. Lots of loblollies. They would have to be felled, not only to create a clearing for the house, but for the winding gravel road leading to it. That’s when construction became a family affair. “My dad helped with that,” says Dana, explaining that her father had the know-how and access to the necessary equipment to “knock down the trees and pull them out of the way.”
“He knew how to do it all,” Stan adds. But even with Dad’s expertise, cutting the road and clearing the land was unusually arduous, thanks to hijinks from Mother Nature: The project began in 2013, “the wettest winter of all time,” Stan remembers. “We were constantly having to wait for dry days.” Additionally, the terrain was full of what Dana describes as “humongous” boulders that her father had to excavate. The challenges prompted the Clinards to christen their second home with the name “Rock and Roots.”
Their cleverness would extend to the construction of the cabin, as well. The design of the kit called for a second story in the front of the house. “We didn’t need all those chopped up little bedrooms up there,” Dana says, explaining that the house’s position on a slope called for a finished basement, so why not install two bedrooms and bathrooms for their teenage son and
daughter downstairs? As for the master suite, what better use of the garage that came with the building kit? Both decisions added considerable light and space to the core of the house, an open living and dining area lined with rear windows flooded with sunlight, and expansive views of the lake and shoreline opposite.
Minus the second level, the cabin’s beamed ceilings now measured upward of 20 feet and required a vertical support beam just beyond the front door (painted a bright, welcoming, fire-engine red). “I was like, ‘Let’s do something that’s a little bit more fun,’” Stan recalls. “The guy that was doing the grading said, ‘I just cut down a bunch of cedars if you want any of them.’” And that’s how the trunk of a cedar tree came to stand in the middle of the Clinards’ living room.
They also used massive cedars to build the I-beam entrance to the property, and cedar stumps as coffee tables for the wraparound porch containing some of Dana’s D.I.Y. ingenuity: an old trunk, a couple of wicker rocking chairs. “‘Are you sure about those things?’” she recalls Stan asking, her, dubious of the chairs’ “orangey” color. “But I loved the shape of them,” Dana says. She was able to see past the off-putting hue and refurbished the chairs in an elegant dark brown; in a whimsical touch, she sewed faux-fur cushions and added some brightly colored pillows — an effect that would rival anything in Robert Redford’s Sundance Collection, and at a fraction of the cost.
Dana’s artistic eye is responsible for the cabin’s eclectic décor that is warm and inviting, yet decidedly chic. And as incredible as it seems, she has no formal training as an artist or an interior designer. “I like art and I love thrifting,” she says. By the stone fireplace is an armchair with a snazzy black-and-white pattern, a junk store find that Dana picked up for a song ($35), refinished and reupholstered. Across from it is a worn leather sofa, complemented by a couple of polished wood end tables with amoeba-like shapes that she found at Capa Interiors on North Main Street in High Point. A blocky sectional sofa ordered from IKEA (along with all the the beds and barstools) adds a midcentury vibe to the living room, as do the metal kitchen light fi xtures that remind one of a knight’s chain mail, perfect complements to the massive white granite bar. In contrast are various pops of color — a pillow here, a throw rug there, a couple of cherry-red ottomans, and most striking, the dining room chairs. At $12 apiece, they were another thrifty score that got a makeover. “I had a bunch of Kantha quilts,” Dana explains, referring to the multi-colored, hand-stitched throws, a Bangladeshi art form. “I had them for years and I knew I’d use them at some point. So I cut them up and laid them out and took them to the upholsterer and said, ‘This is how I want them.’”
She had time to hunt and gather, as it were, and assemble the cabin’s furnishings to her liking, she says, “because it took so long to build.” Fourteen months, to be precise. During that time, a host of mishaps occurred, not the least of which was the stamped concrete fl oor of the basement level that set before it could be leveled and had to be dug up and repoured. “A lot of stuff had to be done twice,” says Stan. The list of redos grew so long that the Clinards began to wonder if they’d built atop an Indian burial ground. On one of her thrift store excursions, Dana bought an Indian head. “I thought, ‘He’s going to have a home here, to bring some good juju through the house!’” she laughs.
A major hurdle was creating and installing the steel railing for the stairs to the basement. “We got the idea for it on Pinterest,” Stan says, “but it was hard finding somebody to do it.” Eventually a welder came out to the site and built the solid banister supported by cross-hatched steel wire. It creates an industrial vibe, echoed in a rippled corrugated metal wall, courtesy of D.H. Griffin’s scrap yard. Here hangs an unusual painting by Greensboro artist Michael Northuis, one of his signature “Eye cons” jammed with figures — a fellow balancing a wine glass on his nose, another wielding a pair of scissors, a bald chanteuse, a strange masked fellow — and symbols, such as a horn, a classical column and a figurine of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. “It’s kind of hard to figure out,” Stan observes. But it makes a festive addition to a downstairs den with flat-screen TV and a bar.
In contrast are the warm pine stairs crafted by one of the construction workers who framed the house. The “off-the-grid types,” as Dana characterizes the motley crew, literally camped at the construction site while it was being built, hanging their pots and pans from what is now the downstairs fireplace. “They put a cot in the back bedroom. They had a lantern and books,” Dana remembers. And they were meticulous craftsmen. Dana points to the staircase’s smooth risers bearing nary a hint of joint or a nail hole.
The Clinards had the help of friends, too: one who assisted in erecting the huge I-beam entrance, another who helped install the water lines. “In turn, they have been able to hunt, and fish, ride bikes,” Dana observes.
At this, her husband’s eyes light up. “We ride really light motorcycles,” Stan enthuses, explaining that more trails were cut through the dense loblollies to accommodate the sport. They’ll also enjoy using a tractor and mini-excavator with a weeder to clear out the weeds and underbrush that grow under the younger trees.
The outdoors, of course, is the reason the Clinards built the log cabin. Construction woes behind them, they enjoyed their first summer at the cabin in 2015. They’ve kayaked down the narrow creek off the bend where the house sits; the kids have enjoyed paddle boarding, wake boarding, horseback riding along yet more trails. (In a couple of nods to this, Dana added a wooden horse’s head, courtesy of Capa, in the dining room, and colored in a giclée print of a horse at full gallop in one of the downstairs bedrooms.) From the back porch, where, she says, “there’s always a breeze,” they’ve watched the rippling currents of the lake, listened to the wind rustle among the pines and the howl of coyotes at night. They’ve observed bald eagles and waterfowl. Stan, who comes to the cabin once or twice a week, installed wood boxes for wood ducks to inhabit in the winter. Artifacts from their walks around the property fi ll the narrow ledge next to the stairs to the basement: shells, feathers, animal skulls. Dana picks up a piece of wood with a swirling imprint in it. “They’re branches that had vines wrapped around them,” she says, fingering the spiral grooves in the wood. “We found them down by the water.”
It is a place where the tree roots that Dana’s father excavated are being replaced by intangible ones, as the basket of wine corks atop the refrigerator, or the half-finished jigsaw puzzle in the dining room attest. The Clinard children’s friends are “piled up everywhere,” on visits, says Dana; she’s used the cabin for a convivial girls’ weekend; Stan’s mother has come and enjoys strolls around the lake; last year the family celebrated Dana’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary at the cabin. Over the stone fireplace in the living room hangs a contemporary painting of two figures standing side by side, Dana’s gift to Stan for their own wedding anniversary. In the front hall is another, a print in purple hues of a tree whose swirling roots take up the bottom half of the image. “It seemed appropriate,” Dana muses. For indeed, the Clinards’ roots are the sort that endure.
Nancy Oakley is the senior editor of Seasons.