A Great Second Home – Ingredient #1

In our previous (and first) article of this Summer Blog series on planning your second home, we proposed what we believe are the three most important objectives for owning a second home. They are as follows:

1 – A place that renews you;
2 – A place that fosters the making of memories with your loved ones; and
3 – A place where you create a legacy of enjoying simple pleasures.

While these reasons do not seem earth shattering, we staked a big claim in the first article with the assertion that a second home – one that actually meets these three goals – is far humbler, far less expensive, yet far more rewarding than the dream home you’ve been wanting.

Over the next several articles, we would like to share our secret recipe and the ingredients we believe will help reach these three goals and ultimately create your most optimal second home experience. Many of the ingredients may seem counterintuitive in today’s culture, but as we present each one you will begin to realize their significance. Let’s start with the first ingredient: A Natural Texture.

Ingredient #1 – A Natural Texture

Years ago, I had the fortune of enjoying lunch with a very wealthy gentleman who shared his experiences and insights about a second home he owned that was located on a famous trout river in Montana. My initial images, as he began sharing these experiences, was that of a large elegant, yet rustic, highly architected lodge, perched high above the river, adorned with all the trappings of comfort, including marvelous detailing throughout guests suites, large stone fireplaces, grand views, etc.

A few more minutes into the conversation however, it became evident that he was talking about a small, rustic river cabin that apparently had been built along the banks, long before he was the owner. As he continued, I found it was far more humble than I could have ever imagined. It was within earshot of the tumbling waters. From the stories he told, its setting obviously encouraged adventurous outdoor activities during the day and cozy gatherings around the hearth into the evening. It was clear, as we talked about his cabin on the river, that he had accumulated a wealth of memories and it was a place incredibly special to him and his family.

As our lunch conversation ended, he did share that he indeed had built that large stately lodge above the river that I had first imagined, but it meant nothing to him compared to the simple cabin along the banks.

I had not thought much about that conversation through the years, until I began to enjoy my own second home experience with my wife, Angie and our four children at our sweet but simple cottage home along Mill Creek at Cloudland Station. I began to appreciate what I believe he shared that day, a theme that ran through his stories quite vividly, which is this: a second home must envelope and engage you with the many textures of nature.

I believe we are all created with a soulful longing to be back in nature (the first garden), and the right kind of second home experience can foster this. While many of us do not necessarily enjoy an outside adventure in the woods or even camping as we get older, we all need to touch and feel nature in some way; hence, my use of the word texture. It is as simple as a rub up against it, a feel of its roughness, its warmth, its coolness, its chill; or to smell it, to breathe it, to sample it; to see its colors, its sheen, its new growth and its gnarly old limbs. And, to be surprised by its revelations that are always forthcoming. This can all be experienced without feeling its prickliness. But then again, the best discoveries are found by those willing to venture out and risk the small scrapes and scratches.

Now more than ever, our children and grandchildren need to set aside their electronics and venture out. The sting of an ant, the scratch of a briar, the bruise on a shin – all minor incidents in exchange for the bravery and the confidence gained to venture out again and again, reaping a lifetime of memories and rewards.

A mountaintop view doesn’t do this, if you can’t step out and take a nice hike. A large home filled with games, props and technology inside doesn’t do this, if you can’t break the addiction and disconnect from the grid. Such a place is nothing more than another primary home experience. A second home must be somewhat of a radical change from your everyday experience; otherwise, there is no renewal. And if you have to get in a car to do anything outdoors, then that’s just another extension of your life back home.

Note: I personally have no issue with my children fully enjoying our modern culture, but not at the expense of experiencing nature. The importance of enjoying the great outdoors and creating this legacy for our children and grandchildren, warrants its own separate discussion and is a topic that we will return to time and time again. I believe it’s one of the most important legacies we can leave behind in this modern world, but it has to be intentional, or it simply will not happen.

So now let’s get specific. What are the best ways to enjoy the textures of nature? We will discuss this in two parts. First, we will discuss how to gain texture in your home, on your porches, and in your yard. Here are some examples:

Sleeping Porches

Consider an extra large porch that can be a sleeping porch. Sleeping porches provide an awesome experience that takes advantage of the sounds of nature. Whippoorwills and crickets and bullfrogs are nature’s lullaby. Screen in some of your porch, but not all of it, thereby giving you more year-round enjoyment.

Outdoor Patio (with a fire pit at least 50 ft away)

There is something about a short walk to the edge of the woods. Test this. Go and stand at the back of your primary home lot and look back at your home and imagine a patio there. But a few feet away, this place has a completely different feeling than the patio next to your home.

If you can, forage for your firewood in the adjacent woods for building a fire. Don’t take the easy way out and buy your wood. A spitting fire with light from the flame dancing on the surrounding tree limbs is a wonderful texture you can repeat over and over. And, don’t forget the s’mores!

Casement windows with screens

Much like an outdoor patio, casement windows put you closer to those incomparable breezes on a cool fall evening, and closer to the rhythmic sound of spring and fall rains that will soon follow.

Why casement windows? There is something special about their style and practicality. They get opened, whereas double-hung windows remain closed. I think a lot of it is simply just the fun of cranking a window open. The handle is like an invitation to do so. Also, with the screens on the inside of casement windows, they do not change the aesthetic of the home’s exterior. Couple these open windows with an attic fan and you may have one of your best sleeping experiences yet.

Note: Purchase the best mattress you have ever owned. We rarely come around to replacing the one at home. So, make the second home mattress extra comfy when you make the purchase.

Outdoor shower

It’s a great way to start the morning – the sun shining down as you enjoy your regular morning routine.

Backyard Treehouse

Build a treehouse. They are becoming more and popular but are often restricted in primary community neighborhoods. Ensure that your second home community will allow this. Make it a place you can sleep.


Sunrooms let in all the natural light, but more than that, they allow you to enjoy the beauty of nature in its full glory. With a sunroom, it’s an excuse to have less light, and a more cabin-esque feeling in the main part of your home. It makes both experiences special and different, yet under one roof.

By the way, less light for many is a no-no. However, we love it in our cottage. It forces us out on the porches to enjoy the sunshine during the day and back indoors during the evening where we huddle around the hearth and play games late into the night. We wouldn’t trade this coziness for anything.

In summary, these are just a few of the ways you can stir the ingredient of natural texture into your second home experience. This is a short list, but we hope that it inspires your own creativity as you plan your second home. We do believe that each ingredient we share, just like your grandma’s secret recipe for pumpkin pie, cannot be omitted, or it will just not taste the same. Just ask Grandma. So we hope you will stay tuned.

In our next article, we will continue our discussion on Ingredient #1 – The Textures of Nature with a focus on the right amenities to look for in and around the community, that is, the fun activities, the adventures, the healthy recreation, and the places that give you rest – all without leaving your community.

Thank you for following us and again, I hope you stay tuned.

Note, we always welcome your input! What unique ways do you like to enjoy the textures of nature in and around your home? Please leave your comments.

John Tatum
And the Team at Cloudland Station