Nestled within the hardwood forests, craggy cliffs and meandering waters of the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau is a 26-room house of stone and timbers, marble and metal, hard work and happiness.
Not so long ago, home owners Greg and Sandra Teslia could feel the ocean breezes poolside at their sprawling, sunbaked stucco Palm Beach, Florida, home. After moving from Toronto, Canada, in 1991, they spent 27 years on Florida’s Gold Coast, where they developed a successful international business. However, lush terrain coupled with their equine interest enticed them permanently to their 7.5-acre Tennessee escape situated adjacent to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
“We purchased the property many years ago,” Sandra said. “There are horse trails in our community with direct access to the Big South Fork. This area is also great for hiking, biking, ATV riding and hunting. Nearby Dale Hollow Lake is considered one of the top lakes in the nation for boating, house boating, fishing, camping and swimming. Because we love the area and the fact that it is centrally located in the United States, we chose to relocate here to build our retirement home.”
They researched floor plans on the internet, and collected, compared and consolidated until their ideal plan began to take shape. Initially, the Teslias had only considered a conventionally built home.
“We ultimately decided to change the center of the house to heavy timber frame,” Sandra said of the couple’s 7,800-square-foot Honest Abe Log Homes timber frame hybrid, completed in 2018.
Award-winning Honest Abe designer Michael Hix drafted plans for the Teslias’ custom design, and the 40-year-old company’s mill began production of the heavy timber system.
“Our standard timbers are 4 inches by 8 inches,” said Greg Watson, the Honest Abe sales representative who, along with his wife, Melissa, worked with the Teslias. “They wanted timbers milled to 8 inches by 12 inches to fit the scale of the home, and they were right. When you walk into the central room, it is just spectacular.”
The house is more than just aesthetically awe-inspiring — it’s practical. Equipped with a smart home system, everything from the security system to the lighting to the thermostat can be controlled remotely though a cell phone. The Teslias installed a generator with sufficient capacity to serve the entire house. With retirement in mind, exterior material selections were made to ensure easy ongoing maintenance.
“The exterior is mostly stone with Hardie board,” Sandra said. “The roof is metal shingle and metal standing seam. The pre-cast foundation walls and the decks and porches on all levels are concrete. Outside staircases are Timbertech, aluminum and stainless steel.”
Accommodations for their recreational pursuits were incorporated, such as the 1,344-square-foot garage designed to house ATVs and outdoor equipment. Greg’s timber frame “man cave” has just been completed in the 937 square feet above the garage. In the 2,730-square-foot basement, there’s a movie theater and a fitness room, with plans for a wine cellar, game room and safe room. Outside, they are planning a pavilion, a barn with stables and other living spaces to enjoy together and to entertain guests.
For easy airport access, the busy couple continues to maintain a house near Nashville. Although it may be a few years before the Teslias retreat permanently to the woods, they are certain they’re in the right place.
“We have a beautiful home in a great location,” Sandra said. “Plus, the people we’ve met in the area — many of whom are transplants like ourselves — are wonderful.”