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The Norman Rockwell Effect

By Tom Heatherington

In case you haven’t noticed, “the world is going to hell in a handbasket“. No one knows where that phrase comes from or what it means exactly, but the implication is understood by anyone who hears it – that things seem to be out of control. If you watch the evening news, read today’s headlines, or listen to the radio then you know what I am talking about. The world is going to hell in a handbasket. So what does the planet’s demise have to do with the title of this article? That’s easy, in a world out of control, there’s just something miraculous about logs that creates peace and tranquility in my life.

If that sounds a little bizarre to you, permit me to explain. Your house may be of a contemporary design, or a Mediterranean style bungalow, or perhaps you make your home in a French chateaux, but for me there is no warmer, or more peaceful environment than a log home richly decorated with rustic and log furniture. I call it my “Norman Rockwell effect”.

The late Mr. Rockwell had a distinctive painting style and his prints portrayed an optimistic depiction of everyday life in America. Even while the world was at war and our nation was climbing out of the great depression, Rockwell had an uncanny knack of reinforcing what was really important to ordinary Americans. The imagery his pictures produced inspired us to be decent people and live a good life. They evoked a feeling of calming and harmony. I experience that “Norman Rockwell effect” every time I walk into my cabin in the woods.

There is this undefined something about a log home and log furniture that literally transfixes me in an extraordinary way. How best can I describe this to the uninitiated? When I look at a wall constructed of logs, I get a sense that it vibrates at a different intensity than the rest of its surroundings. No, I am not some new-age metaphysical tree-hugger, I’m a guy who appreciates natural beauty and I connect with things created from logs.

Consider if you will that a pine log and a 2×4 (or 2×10, etc.) are both wooden building products of the same matter and used for the same purposes. However, if one were to erect a wall using both materials, there is no similarity in the visual experience, the character or any aspect of the two walls. The logs with irregular lines, bold grain, conspicuous knots and uneven coloring produce a visual rendering that Mr. Rockwell strove to achieve with every brush stroke. To me, logs exude a sensation of warmth, of strength, a sense that all is right with the world – and that is a lot to expect from a dead tree.

Norman Rockwell, Homecoming GI, Post cover, May 26, 1945So what is it about logs that give me this near spiritual experience? I think it is an implicit appreciation of a sense of perpetuity, of history, strength and permanence. America was built from logs. The first structures erected across this land were more often than not constructed of logs. For hundreds of years, people carved their homes, shops and churches from the wilderness using the most plentiful resource available, trees in their natural form. In addition, we Americans like to be noted for being individualists, and at a time when most of the population live in city apartments or suburbs with cookie-cutter houses, a log home sets one apart from the crowd. In that same rationale, log furniture is not generally available at ordinary furniture stores. One must venture out to the wilderness (or at least exit the shopping mall) to find quality log and rustic furniture.

Okay, I must admit to having several plastered walls in our home and yes, we even have some furniture pieces that one might label as “conventional”, but visitors to our home invariably remark about our log furniture and log accents. To date, no one has yet to compliment us on our marvelously plastered bathroom.

I began this dissertation with a cliché about our world “going to hell in a handbasket”, and how that related to my love and appreciation for all things log. I am confident that my opinion on both matters is sound. We inhabit a turbulent and chaotic planet, but I live in a log home with hand-made log and rustic furniture. For that reason, all is right with my world. Now don’t anyone turn on that darn TV while I’m perusing my old issues of the Saturday Evening Post.

About The Author

Tom Heatherington is the founder and editor of the Log Furniture Directory and the Log Cabin Directory, “human edited” directories of log homes and rustic furniture and related information for the United States and Canada.

Photo courtesy of: The Saturday Evening Post – Norman Rockwell, Homecoming GI, Post cover, May 26, 1945