Courtney Ferguson
Special to The Union

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July 5, 2013
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Log home harbors ship-shape style

Jim and Sharon Beckett’s traditional log home isn’t about quilt; Victorian loveseats; or sweet, bucolic paintings.

This is a very different masterpiece – one that harbors a nautical theme!

Hardly what you might expect; however, it flows with surprising grace (and more than a touch of good humor).

Purchased as a short sale in the mid-1990s, this kit log home has undergone a major extension and remodel to become a 3,000 square foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home set on two secluded acres.

Many readers will know Jim and Sharon as the owners of Sugar Pines Studios/True Grit in Grass Valley. As we sat in the open-plan great room, I couldn’t help but notice the contemporary style they’ve introduced.

“We moved here from Santa Barbara, where I had lived on my sailboat for 10 years,” Jim told me.

He taught photography (including underwater photography) at Brooks Institute and had run a studio in San Diego. Since he sailed between these two ports, understandably, the sea holds a special significance. Brooks is where he met his wife, Sharon, who worked in accounting and taught aerobics. They now share their rustic home with one ballerina teenage daughter and one golden retriever.

“The nautical link was a natural progression and we’ve had great fun with it,” Sharon said.

In fact, from where we were sitting, I couldn’t help but notice the sleek lines of a large, metallic sailboat sculpture near the slate surround for the wood-burning stove.

This was the first of many nautical artifacts I would discover. A large, inset fish tank appears at the end of the upstairs hall, and their daughter’s blue bathroom features tide pools on the floor, made with sparkling glass beads – making a trip to the bathroom more like a trip to the ocean. The railing on the upstairs hallway is made of massive posts and glass panels that Jim designed, creating an illusion of gentle waves while adding light. There’s an unusual loft with an angled, built-in sofa and brass railings like those on the bow of a ship.

A titanic transformation

The 1,000-square-foot extension added a photography studio with a sundeck above (just off the master bedroom). Special kudos goes to contractor Eric Adams. A new roof was added, as well, and Frank Gowin did a masterful job. However, Jim and Sharon fired up their creativity, rolled up their shirtsleeves and transformed a work in progress into a unique-and-stylish home – one that combines sturdy, rustic charm with contemporary sophistication.

“When we purchased this house,” Sharon recalled, “there were no gutters, walkways or baseboards. There was no landscaping, either. The kitchen was, predictably, pine and small. Since I am passionate about cooking, we redesigned it to include a baking station and an island unit with a slate slab countertop. We placed the oven and refrigerator in a separate, large butler’s pantry.”

“Besides updating the electrical and plumbing, we added new doors,” Jim said. “Sharon did the painting herself, using faux techniques that give an interesting, suede-like finish. She included unusual, effective touches, such as shadows of tree branches in the dormer ceilings.”

Downstairs carpets were replaced with Brazilian cherry wood floors that add a welcome contrast to the sugar pine, floor-to-ceiling walls. Jim made custom baseboards that give a finished look. (Since logs are far from uniform, imagine the precision work this involved!) The brick fire surround was replaced with slate, and the old bricks were repurposed for outdoor walkways. Together, they also sanded and refinished the interior log walls.

“A natural advantage of log homes is that they maintain comfortable temperatures year round,” Jim explained. “Yet anyone who owns one knows that a log home requires lots of maintenance. Refinishing the logs reduced the inevitable dust considerably while enhancing the wood’s character and luster.”

A cement mixer for Mothers’ Day?

Sharon got so into creating informal walkways around the property that she asked for her own cement mixer for Mothers’ Day. That’s what she got, and she continues to put it to good use, enhancing the landscaping and making a walk to the swimming pool safe and simple.

Extensive redwood decking was added, with outside dining, complete with a charcoal barbecue and a locally sourced, pitch-faced bluestone bar.

“It’s our home and our retreat,” she said, “yet we thoroughly enjoy entertaining. With a waterfall and slide in the pool and a playhouse, children stay active and amused.”

Now that the improvements are almost complete, the Becketts must share a sense of satisfaction for their sea-faring, new-wave, log home!

Courtney Ferguson has written home-and-lifestyle articles for many years, both in Nevada County and in England. Contact her at courtneycopy@gmail.com.


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The Union Updated Jul 5, 2013 10:54PM Published Jul 5, 2013 10:54PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.