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Barbara Mandrell: Inside Her Million-Dollar Log Cabin (1994)

Originally published in the Aug. 23, 1994 issue of Country Weekly magazine. 

When Barbara Mandrell took Country Weekly on a tour of her multi-million-dollar log cabin home, we expected to see a fairy-tale existence. We didn’t expect the Three Bears.

Yet there they were—a wooden sculpture of the cuddly creatures climbing by a fountain opposite the front door. Another group of them in the living room. Three more caught clambering in the family room. “When we built this house, everything we did was with the children in mind,” Barbara said. “Throughout the house you’ll see three bear cubs that represent our three children.”

The ever-present bears watch over a Nashville-area home that’s not too fancy, not too spare, but just right. It’s much like Barbara herself, the performing dynamo who, when she’s not thrilling crowds in Branson, Mo., and around the world, is joined by her husband Ken Dudney in raising their children, Matthew, 24, Jaime, 18, and Nathan, 8.

“Our architect did research on the history of log homes. They used to build log homes with one main area and if they wanted to add onto it, they would build another log home with an enclosed hall between them. So we have what we call the family side and the social side, with our indoor pool area, shooting range and exercise room between them,” Barbara said.

Moving from one room to the next, the design can change from elegant to funky. Barbara’s favorite is the dining room. “It’s just so beautiful,” she said. “We added up our friends and had a table for 18 made. We entertain a few times a year here. It’s stunning when the whole table is set, with candles and flowers. But that takes over an hour to do.”

The crystal chandelier was designed specifically for this room. The children, of course, are represented, this time by portraits.

The polar opposite of elegant are the bathrooms by the indoor pool. “I wanted a locker room look,” Barbara explains, and she got it. “I want to put graffiti in here, but it’s very hard to find clean graffiti,” she said in all seriousness.

A stone fireplace near the pool provides a perfect spot to grill hot dogs and burgers. A huge cast-iron kettle rests inside the fireplace. “It’s 200 years old,” Barbara said. “And I cook beans in it.”

The eclectic design was done by the owner herself, with help from one friend. “We furnished this house in three days,” she boasted. “Three days in High Point, North Carolina.” Armed with a blueprint of every room, Barbara and pal picked out furniture, fabrics and accessories.

The best touches are personal—mementos of special friendships or moments in the family’s life. A bookshelf in the living room holds

hundreds of autographed books, many of them gifts to Barbara from the authors. Her most treasured is from Katharine Hepburn, who almost never gives autographs.

Along the walls are pictures of Barbara with various presidents. Photos chronicling the petite singer’s glorious career fill a hallway wall, along with newspaper clippings and awards. 

The billiards room upstairs includes a full-sized soda fountain. On the wall behind are cute neon signs advertising such family fare as Ken’s Krazy Karamel Krunch, Barbara’s Big Bad Banana Boat, Nathan’s Nasty Nachos, Jaime’s Jungle Ginger Ale and Matt’s Macho Milkshake. A jukebox nearby has recently been altered to play CDs instead of vinyl records. Barbara’s assistant, Jill Rowan confided, “Nobody knows how it works, though.”

In the family room there’s a mounted rainbow trout, 9.6 pounds, caught by older son Matthew in New Zealand.

A full tiger skin graces the living room wall, but the magnificent animal is no safari souvenir. “Gunther Gebel-Williams [the famed animal trainer] is a good friend. He would come to our house and he saw how we are about animals,” said Barbara, whose household includes two dogs, four cats, two doves, one cockatoo and an iguana. “In all his years, Gunther had never destroyed his cats—when they died he had a taxidermist preserve them. He never gave one away until Sibra, this one. I had a bronze plaque made so that this would be a memorial to Sibra, rather than the way a hunter would display a catch.”

Of all the rooms, Barbara spends the most time in what she calls her office.

“It’s my bathroom,” she said. “It’s the only time I get to make my calls—while I’m putting on my make-up or taking a bath or doing my hair. I have to make all my time count.”

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