In the early 1980s, twenty-three year old Brian Schafer started his first business, the Log Home Log Company, which milled and manufactured logs for wholesale to builders. Without any formal education in engineering, Schafer built his own mill out of an old steam-driven machine lathe that was originally used to manufacture cannon barrels during World War I. He found a local logger to supply all the wood he needed, and by the time the mill was completed, he had already sold seven log home packages. For several years, Brian successfully grew his business and expanded internationally- but this success did not satisfy him.
Schafer had a dream that one day he would not simply mill logs, but would design and build exquisitely crafted log homes families would cherish for generations.
Armed with virtually nothing but this dream and an unfinished high school education, he spent the next ten years learning everything he could about the log home construction business. “I knew that I wanted to get into the creative custom side,” he recalls, “and I intuitively felt that design was going to be a key differentiator. But I also felt that I needed to take the time to learn all of the business- the design side, the raw materials acquisition side, the on-site construction side… and I had scant experience in these areas. I have a perfectionist element to my personality, a kind of compulsion to do things in absolutely the right way. I knew that I couldn’t create the kind of high quality, design-driven company I envisioned without a holistic understanding of all aspects of the business.”
In his teens and twenties, Brian had spent five years in apprenticeship under several Master Builders. As he recalls, one of their favorite phrases was, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right,” and this is the approach he wanted to take with his own growing company.
Yet, this approach lay in direct opposition to the mass-production building methods that have dominated the home construction markets since the 1970s. Explains Schafer, “In the 1950s and 60s, when a family built a custom home, they hired an architect / master builder who worked directly with them through the entire process. That individual designed the house, managed the construction of the project, reviewed and approved the payments to the people working on the home, and made key decisions about important material elements like the kind of stone that would be used and how the fireplace would be executed. This heritage of ‘creative ownership’ and craftsmanship in home building has been largely forgotten by the industry, but it’s the model for Edgewood’s business.”
Following an opportunistic 1991 re-location of the company to Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho just outside “Log Home Row” in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, Brian Schafer’s original log milling business completed its transition into a full-service log home construction firm. He officially incorporated the company in 1994 as Edgewood Log Structures.
“By 1994, we already had a solid reputation as a firm that puts design and client service at the forefront of everything that we do, and we gained a lot of recognition and publicity for our numerous design and structural innovations. For two decades Edgewood grew, as did the company’s reputation for consistently delivering extraordinary, previously unimagined log home designs, integral building practices, and an unprecedented level of personalized service on time and on budget.
“We’ve built homes in spectacular locations all over the country, but primarily throughout the Rocky Mountain West, from Steamboat Springs to Telluride in Colorado, in the San Juan Islands in Washington, in Lake Tahoe in California, in McCall, Coeur d’Alene and Sun Valley, Idaho, in numerous locations in Japan … the list goes on, says Schafer. “People walk up to our projects and their typical reaction is, ‘Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything like this!’ There is something fundamentally different here. It’s a grace and elegance that can most accurately be summed up with the word … ‘forethought.’” In fact, Edgewood credits its growth primarily to people’s personal experiences of the homes and a stunning 90% referral rate.
“This works the same way with the tradespeople I employ on my projects,” Schafer explains. “My people have been working with Edgewood for years. They appreciate the well thought out design and structural approach in everything we do. They’re craftsmen who deeply care about the legacy of the work they leave behind. In fact, I feel that while it is certainly important to source a company with creativity in their log work, the job is not done there. I derive as much satisfaction in detailing the foundation and connection under that cool log element so as to make each home builder friendly, structurally integral AND pleasing to the eye. That is the innovation the provides intrinsic value to our projects and clients. This approach to projects delivers a level of quality unheard of in our industry. In fact, after building more than 800 homes, we have never been called back on a single structural failure. Never.
“The typical log home company today is a ‘supplier.’ Now, to build one of these homes you do need a supplier. You also need an architect, a structural engineer, a general contractor, and an interior designer … and you need all of them to play nice with one another over an extended period of time and through multiple project phases. What I do is make sure that that happens, and that ultimately translates into the creation of an exceptional, one-of-a-kind home designed to last for centuries- not just a couple of decades.”
Today, Brian Schafer is doing the work he intended to do nearly thirty years ago when he began his milling operation; designing and building bespoke homes for a limited number of clients at a time.
“My experience is that people can literally feel this level of thoughtful design and detailing when they walk into an Edgewood home, says Schafer. “The discerning layperson can feel the difference that respect for the trade and a true level of craftsmanship creates. Attention to detail, a sophisticated and thoughtful approach to balance in design, and a gentle merging of the exterior landscape with the home’s interior … these are the distinctive features of an Edgewood log home.