The Giordano family treasures the moments they spend in their log cabin vacation home on the lake, with its poolroom, lakefront patio and expansive kitchen. But the best part? It’s only 30 minutes from their Moorestown home.

The log cabin, complete with moose head and stone fireplace, is over 100 years old

The log cabin, complete with moose head and stone fireplace, is over 100 years old

When Dottie and Frank Giordano want a vacation from daily life in Moorestown, they hop in their car and head down a few roads, make several turns and arrive at their destination: their log cabin in Medford Lakes.

Most people are forced to endure long traffic jams as they head for vacation locales. For the Giordanos, their vacation takes place less than 30 minutes away, and it’s family central for their three adult children. Everyone can be refreshed and renewed by a weekend or occasional midweek retreat on this private lake.

“Absolutely everything changes when we pass the little church near our log cabin. The tensions just lift,” says Dottie, a lifelong resident of South Jersey.

Both Dottie and Frank love to tell the story of how smitten they were with the Medford Lakes home they bought sight unseen almost three years ago.

“We’d been looking for a place on a lake, and we’d given up on the Adirondack Mountain area, which we love, because it was just too far away,” Frank explains. “Even the Poconos meant a trip of a couple hours.” So they began looking closer to home – and Medford Lakes was on the short list.

The Giordanos spend summers kayaking in Lake Aetna

The Giordanos spend summers kayaking in Lake Aetna

One day, Dottie and Frank got a text from their Realtor while they  were vacationing in Florence, Italy. She wanted them to know about a new listing in Medford Lakes. “There was a home she thought might be right,” recalls Frank.

Thanks to 21st-century technology, the couple was soon looking at pictures of a log cabin that instantly charmed them. On the spot – and from another continent – they bought it, telling the Realtor to act on their behalf.

“We rushed to see the house as soon as we got home,” says Dottie. “It was perfect. Just exactly the kind of retreat we wanted.”

For the record, the Giordanos also bought their Moorestown home, a classic brick Georgian with sloping lawns and formal elegance, on the first day they saw it. One visit, one look at the grounds, and they made an on-the-spot offer that was accepted.

Back in Medford Lakes, the cabin begins to reveal itself as you travel down a small, almost hidden lane. An American flag blows in the breeze, and wonderful lawn chairs that are a throwback to earlier times welcome visitors to a little taste of paradise – log-cabin style.

While the couple admittedly made renovations, and in one case, completed a total restoration of a garage in need of a rescue, the basics were there from the start.

The vintage pool table dates back to 1910 and was used in the Philadelphia Union League

The vintage pool table dates back to 1910 and was used in the Philadelphia Union League

In the garage renovation, they got a bonus: the second floor was transformed into a charming poolroom, complete with a vintage 1910 pool table, its roots from the Philadelphia Union League.

The cabin itself is a remarkable blend of what seems a design oxymoron, but in this case isn’t: elegant rusticity.

“For us, it was a second chance at creating a home we love. This time, we weren’t newlyweds but grandparents. We really enjoyed the process,” says Dottie, who saw to every design detail with lots of input from Frank.

The private dock is a perfect relaxation spot for the Giordanos

The private dock is a perfect relaxation spot for the Giordanos

The couple fell in love with a setting that includes breathtaking views of Aetna Lake. Two decks, a dock and a lakefront patio area compliment the outdoors.

All in all, the landscape feels like a well-preserved yet still natural campsite.

The logs, and their chinking, make jaws drop. The home dates back more than 100 years to the era when wealthy Philadelphian industrialists often summered in Medford Lakes’ log cabins.

Step inside the home and the emphasis is on comfort and casual living. The Giordanos chose to keep the color palette of the entire cabin in variations of browns and greens, merging the grounds and shrubs with the omnipresent wood. A renovated kitchen stretches across the back of the cabin, with striking ceiling beams.

The spacious kitchen

The spacious kitchen

Frank and Dottie, who often entertain at their Moorestown home, seek a different kind of lifestyle in this nearby sanctuary. There are wonderful family times with their Manhattan daughter, son-in-law and two little granddaughters. Son Frank and his wife may have their own digs in Cherry Hill, but they love to spend downtime a few miles away. And their youngest son can come and go as he pleases, since there are two guest rooms plus an upstairs master suite with expansive views of the lake.

By reconfiguring some of the second-floor master suite, the Giordanos have created a retreat dominated by a spectacular brass bed found on the Internet. A modernized bath, complete with magnificently tiled walls and a new hallway closet make for country life – with benefits.

Dottie enjoys scouring antique stores and accessory shops for the home’s rustic – and sometimes more formal – touches. She’s created a unique mix of formal charm.

Coexisting with log beams and even a classic moose head is an elegant gilded mirror that instantly brings lake views into the living area of the home. A handsome free-standing Victorian table seems at home in its spot near the kitchen’s cozy family nook.

Both Frank and Dottie love the contrasts in their home. Why not mix an elegant porcelain bowl with a kick-back leather sofa? And who says you can’t lay Ralph Lauren floral bedspreads next to rugged, bent-wood rocking chairs?

Dottie Giordano found the master suite’s brass bed online

Dottie Giordano found the master suite’s brass bed online

The cabin’s staircase and fireplace are show-stoppers in a home full of them. The staircase makes its own design statement –handsome and rugged. The huge fireplace almost demands dreaming by a roaring fire on cold winter nights.

Lest it become a focal point in the expansive living room and fireplace area, the TV is encased in a wood cabinet and well hidden from view. Push a button, and the screen rises.

“This is a great place for just talking and dreaming,” Dottie says. “Life just feels freer here.”

In summer, swimming is as close as the cabin’s back door, and the family is prepared with canoes and rafts.

But both Frank and Dottie agree that so far, it’s the winterscape that has truly stolen their hearts. If snow is forecast, the Giordanos may hop into their car and ride out the storm in a log cabin with a fire blazing in the fireplace.

Despite the demands of active lives – the Giordanos are sometimes out every night of the week – this log cabin nestled in the woods of Medford Lakes beckons often.

“In 30 minutes, we’re in another world,” says Frank, a man who has learned there’s nothing quite like sitting a spell on the porch of a log cabin and being reminded that sometimes, it’s fine to stop the world and get off.

July 2015
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