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The Intriguing History of Quebec’s Log Homes

Reminiscent of pioneer days, the cozy log homes of Quebec emanate warmth and beauty.

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Log homes of QuebecCourtesy: Perry Mastrovito

The Log Homes of Quebec: A History

In Quebec and throughout much of North America, the first log homes erected in the 17th century by newly-arrived settlers from Europe were often just small, simple, rustic square log cabins. Built with hand tools such as saws, axes, chisels and planes, these cabins provided the newcomers with a basic roof over their heads to stay warm, dry and safe. In many cases, these crudely built cabins were just temporary shelters or homes for use while the construction of a more practical and larger square log (pièce sur pièce) family dwelling was taking place nearby. Afterwards, these makeshift cabins often became barns for keeping livestock.

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Crudely built log homeCourtesy: Perry Mastrovito

Pièce Sur Pièce

In my book Log Homes of Quebec, you’ll discover several pièce sur pièce log homes from the 1800s, and more recently built round log homes of various styles. While some homes are used as primary residences, others are holiday getaways and weekend retreats. (Don’t miss these unforgettable places to spend the night in Quebec.) Although most of the homes are located in bucolic and secluded surroundings in various regions of Quebec, a few are situated on residential streets.

Many of the older pièce sur pièce log homes of Quebec were reconstructed from two or more original homes that were purchased in one region, taken apart, then transported to a new site to be reassembled as one residence. In many instances, the new owners themselves erected these old homes with help from family members and friends, or from skilled craftsmen.

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Cozy log home in a small town in the MonteregieCourtesy: Perry Mastrovito

Authentic Details

For some owners in search of authenticity, the interior decor takes years to complete. In fact, I cam across a couple who searched for close to 30 years to find all the period accessories and furnishings (doorknobs, chandeliers, bed frames, tables, chairs, earthenware, windows and even antique telephones) for their cherished 190-year-old home.

There are also some pièce sur pièce log homes from the 1970s and ’80s produced from milled logs and advertised in magazines as easy, build-it-yourself prefabricated kits. Initially, these kits appealed to those who were handy with wood-cutting tools or inspired to live more harmoniously with Mother Nature. Some of these homes are built with so much attention paid to the architectural details, both on the inside and outside, that they are often mistaken for an original pièce sur pièce log home.

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Medieval-style chandelier in a Mont-Tremblant homeCourtesy: Perry Mastrovito

Contemporary Log Homes of Quebec

Although these kits are still available today, new designs range from tiny cabins to full-size opulent homes that include a double-car garage. The milling process is now state-of-the-art, and the logs are uniformly produced in various lengths, sizes and profiles (D-shaped, flat, square, rectangular or round) to suit any taste, budget or floor plan.

Many of the more recently built round log homes are sumptuously designed with large rooms, open floor concepts and panoramic windows. These are built using the Scandinavian method. As the name suggests, this building technique has its roots in the Scandinavian countries and is popular the world over. One of the most visually impressive characteristics attributed to this style is the extended interlocking outer and inner saddle-notch wall corners and the size of the hand-stripped logs used, up to 122 centimetres in diameter and larger. Often equipped with the latest technologies in terms of comfort, with country-themed furnishings, the interior decor in these luxurious homes is the embodiment of rustic chic.

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Beautiful log cabinCourtesy: Perry Mastrovito

Hybrid-Style Log Homes

A new trend offers a hybrid-style log home that uses not only round logs but also timber, posts and beams with a mix of conventional cladding materials. Vertical or horizontal brightly coloured wood and aluminum siding, brick and stone are harmoniously and aesthetically integrated. This saves on maintenance and costs. There are two fine examples of this featured in my book. Finally, there is one log home that, on the outside, reflects a definite medieval architectural influence, putting it in a class all by itself.

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Luxurious grand staircaseCourtesy: Perry Mastrovito

A Dream Retreat

No matter the style, shape or size, however, for many people a log home remains the ultimate wish-list type of shelter to live in, or to have as a retreat. A home made of logs transcends primitive cabin design, but it is reminiscent of the pioneer days and affords a way of living that’s unlike any other.

Find out what logging was like in Quebec in the 1940s.

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Peaceful cabin at duskCourtesy: Perry Mastrovito

The Warmth of Wood

In addition to a log home’s appealing aesthetics, it is hard to resist the allure and warmth emanating from wooden surfaces and structures, including the distinctive aroma that each type of wood releases into the air. Wood grain, whether smooth or rough, invites one to touch it and feel rustic beauty in its purest form. The presence of wooden floors, stairs, handrails, posts, beams and timbers—along with wooden furniture—warms up the ambience in any type of residence, but it’s especially notable in a home built with logs.

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Originally Published in Our Canada