Dream On

A LITTLE LESS THAN A YEAR AGO, WE BEGAN PLANNING the Outdoor Life Dream Cabin. Our fantasy cabin wouldn't be some frilly cottage loaded with Martha Stewart touches, but the ultimate getaway for hunters and fishermen. We wanted a place where sportsmen could put up their feet and feel comfortable--a dog-friendly place, with ample room for guests and gear and a big walk-out garage for parking a pickup and maybe unloading one of those huge Midwestern bucks we all dream about.

Of course, our cabin would be located in a region that offers some of the best hunting and fishing in the country. And it would also incorporate our readers' desires, based on how you responded to surveys we posted on outdoorlife.com.

So here it is, the final result. We hope you'll be as taken with our dream-turned-reality as we are.

Our project started in January 2006, with a visit to the offices of Northeastern Log Homes in Westfield, Mass. As your comments and suggestions came in, the floor plans began to take shape; the next step was to locate the perfect site. We found it just 2½ hours south of St. Louis, in Carbondale, Ill., at a place called Cabin on the Hill.

Owned by Jill and Dan Fager, Cabin on the Hill is an 80-acre property smack in the middle of some of the best whitetail deer hunting in America. It's also right on the central flyway, so the area's many lakes and impoundments are a waterfowler's paradise. There's good upland hunting nearby, and the same fields that hold pheasants play host to thousands of geese each fall. Want to shoot clays? America's largest shooting facility is just up the road, in Sparta, Ill.; it features more than a mile of trap fields. There's great action for fishermen, too. A number of large lakes surround Carbondale, offering a wide variety of game fish, including bass, walleye and panfish. And with the Mississippi River only 25 miles away, there's great catfishing, too.

THE MAIN FRAME

Designwise, almost everyone said they wanted a great-room-type design, something open and inviting. The ability to house a number of people was also a frequent request. Northeastern worked with us to customize a plan that, in the end, made our dream cabin more of a home than just a cabin (total size is 1,900 square feet, not including the basement), with plenty of room for friends and family.

As you walk in the front door you immediately notice the soaring cathedral ceilings, massive open beams and giant rock fireplace. Above the fireplace is a huge whitetail rack belonging to a buck taken by Jill Fager's brother-in-law. He'd easily score 160 and is typical of the kind of deer this area can produce. The warmth of log construction is restful for the eyes, and the huge glass doors and set windows that flank the fieldstone fireplace really bring the feeling of the outdoors in. Just about everyone surveyed wanted a living room that was open to both the dining and kitchen areas, and this open floor plan does that seamlessly.

An island and ample counter space were also high on everyone's list. Our cabin's island sits three comfortably and doubles as a worktop and serving sideboard when you need to feed a mob of hungry hunters buffet-style.

The main floor has a guest bedroom with a queen-size bed and a smaller back bedroom with two single beds. Fourpanel solid fir doors are found throughout, and while hardwood floors on the main level were an option, the Fagers chose to go with a Congoleum product that looks like hardwood flooring but doesn't scratch and is a breeze to clean.

ABOVE AND BELOW

Upstairs, a spacious loft area can be used for a variety of purposes. The Fagers chose to make it a recreation room, furnishing it with a comfortable couch that folds out to provide extra sleeping accommodations, but it would be a great place for a pool table or a home office. The master suite is quiet and private, with a spacious bath and a huge walk-in closet. Additional storage is accessed under the eaves, so every square inch of space is utilized.

The lower walk-out basement area features a large enclosed room that we originally envisioned as an indoor work area, with fly-tying benches and lots of workbench space for gun cleaning, arrow fletching and more. Since this area is below grade, there are no windows, so it's very secure--the perfect place for a gun safe, which we added.

We wanted this walk-out area to double as a mudroom and it does so quite nicely, thanks to a three-quarter bathroom just off the entrance to the garage, which features a shower, washtub, stool and hookup for a washer and dryer. Got a bunch of muddy hunting clothes? Just come in through the garage, throw your dirty duds in the laundry and take a shower right there.

KICKING BACK

Our dream cabin faces due west, so views of the sunsets from the many west-facing windows and the all-weather deck are spectacular. The logs are stained a warm honey color, which is complemented by forest-green trim, roof and decking. The front of the deck is covered, providing an outdoor space for entertaining or simply kicking back in a rocker and enjoying the view. The wider deck on the south-facing side of the house is uncovered and accessed via two sets of huge sliding glass doors in the dining room and living room. This is where the Fagers added a hot tub (something many readers said they wanted). A huge propane barbecue on casters allows you to cook under the stars or move under the covered front porch if the weather's bad. And the deck provides a nice carport area down below. Best of all, you never have to paint or stain the all-weather decking.

No matter what the weather, you'll find this a comfortable and cozy getaway. Want to give it a try? The Outdoor Life Dream Cabin (and others on the property) is available for rent. Just go to cabinonthehill.com for details.

THE PERFECT PLAN

Northeastern Log Homes worked with us to develop a great-room design that transitions seamlessly from the living room to the dining room and into the kitchen. The large island provides lots of workspace for cooking and doubles as a buffet table for serving. The private master suite features a huge walk-in closet, large bathroom and under-eave storage. Its Adirondack-style furnishings from Bass Pro Shops add warmth and charm.

Our Thanks

Turning a dream into a reality cannot happen without the talents and commitments of many. Here are some of the businesses and manufacturers who helped to make our Outdoor Life Dream Cabin concept possible.

Development Partners

Cabin on the Hill cabinonthehill.com 618-529-5667

Northeastern Log Homes northeasternlog.com 800-624-2797

Product Donors

Bass Pro Shops basspro.com

Andersen Windows andersenwindows.com

Congoleum congoleum.com

CorrectDeck correctdeck.com

Continental Products continentalprod.com

Dickies dickies.com

EEmax eemax.com

Great Outdoors Co. 618-303-0350

Sentry Safe sentrysafe.com

Igloo igloocoolers.com

Jeld-Wen jeldwen.com

Owens Corning owenscorning.com

ReddiForm reddiform.com

Moen moen.com

Hurd's Antler Art hurdsantlerartand engraving.com

RUUD ruudac.com

Saint Gobain plastics.saintgobain.com

Fastenal fastenal.com

Therma-Tru thermatru.com

OMG olyfast.com

Utica Boilers uticaboilers.com

HO Bouchard hobouchard.com

TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR

Come join us on a video tour of the Dream Cabin

• outdoorlife.com/march07