Hangar Loft Remodel

This is a story of big dreams and heavy lifting. It is the story of Making This Home.

In June 2011, Martin and I started to dream big. We started wondering, “What on earth could we turn this old hangar into?”

We wanted to build a home in the back. We were “tired” of renting a house made out of tires (ha!) after living abroad in a small but awesome home in Berlin, Germany (that we also remodeled). We spent the entire summer decluttering and cleaning until November, 2012 when the upstairs of hangar became this:

european lighting

We’re still not finished. (To do list includes things like cabinet doors, a couch, and a bathroom sink.) Nonetheless, this is our story of sweat and bravery…

Decluttering the place was a really overwhelming time. Everywhere we turned (the guest roomthe pilot training room, the lofts, the work floor…), outdated stuff crammed the walls. Years of grime had accumulated on top of everything.

In September, we started seeing the hangar for what it could be, not just what it was. We tore down everything upstairs.

Martin started installing the geothermal heating system he’d been designing for months.

We designed our dream windows between the structural beams of the hangar.

It was a race against Mother Nature (who fortunately stalled winter a bit this year!). The ground would be frozen any day. But we got our well drilled and geothermal pipes buried in November.

Luckily, a frozen ground wouldn’t influence our window installation project. Frozen fingers, now that’s a whole other story.

In January, we extended the floor of our future bathroom, bringing the home up to 720 square feet (67 square meters).

How do you build a home inside of a steel building? Walls like this:

And ceilings with drywall lifts like this:

We were so lucky to find a local carpenter to help!

Martin and I are passionate about preserving the earth, so it’s no surprise: we make green building a priority with a slew of methods including:

  • repurposing all the lumber we pulled out of the old pilot training room
  • purchasing green building materials (including insulation made of recycled glass)
  • buying American-made materials when we can find them
  • shopping at local small businesses
  • getting supplies delivered when local shops make their delivery runs so we’re not driving back and forth (yes – being green can be lazy sometimes!)

By April, we were finally ready to drywall. We hired a local family to help us out.

I painted the entire place white.

In May, we installed radiant floor heating in the entire home. (It’ll tap into the geothermal heating system, which also heats the rest of the hangar at a much lower temperature.)

The bedroom and living room/kitchen got some beautiful, sustainable bamboo flooring.

We sure didn’t want to scratch that up, so I immediately covered it until we’re done.

Then my biggest dream for our little house came true. We put tile above the future sink and stovetop and – best of all! – wallpaper all along one wall of the main living space!

Taping into the traditional style of Martin’s native Germany, we put white tile on our bathroom walls with a chocolate brown floor we fell in love with.

I made the opposite bathroom wall blue to tie into our wallpaper.

We carried up a bathtub. (That was my other huge wish item.)

As we creeped toward July, our first cabinet went in with a fridge, microwave, and oven.

Doors and trim went up. This door is to our bedroom. Using the wallpaper as a guide, you can kind of orient yourself to see that the bedroom is opposite the kitchen and bathroom.

I used an eco-friendly varnish for all our doors and cabinetry. The floor trim also has an eco-friendly stain to give it the dark, chocolatey color that matches our floors.

We’ll keep using that chocolatey color throughout the living space with beautiful bamboo. But first, a sidetrack.

Gadanke, the journal shop, needed a studio before the holiday season kicked in. Lucky for us, we found just the spot – right under the house!

But like everything in the hangar, this space was filled to the brim. Believe it or not, we’d already hauled out a dozen boxes of stuff by the time I remembered to snap a photo.

Throw in a lot of elbow grease, and we closed off two superfluous doors. We knocked out a wall between the old office and “galley” (a kitchen/table sort of room). We added bamboo flooring, a German heater, an air exchanger, and some fun paint that matched our home.

blue and white office

Gadanke moved into its new home in September, 2012.

etsy shop studio

Then we rolled up our sleeves and headed upstairs to build our cabinets from 1950s maple flooring. (Well maybe that’s not quite accurate. I mean, we never quite got around to unrolling our sleeves!)

Here’s Martin using the maple flooring as trim on a cabinet after we ran each piece of wood through the planer and table saw about 12 times. We didn’t actually use particle board; we found an eco company that created “wheat board”, a board made of byproducts of the wheat industry.

This shot of me sanding shows the beautiful way we were able to use the maple flooring.

finishing cabinet construction

I sanded and varnished everything with a clear eco varnish until the cabinets felt like creamy butter beneath my fingers. And then we were here!

home construction

Some friends help us bring in our countertops. They’re locally made from glass from our recycling center and fly ash from the local power plant. (Here‘s how we found the company and why we chose local.)

recycled countertop

On November 1, 2012, we were finally ready to move in. It was one of the greatest days ever.

We’re still getting settled. We still have a to do list that’s a mile long. (No we don’t have a couch, cabinet doors, or a bathroom sink.) But we have a home. That’s the greatest victory of all, and we’re deeply grateful.

Here are some peeks:

european lighting

Our light fixtures are from Barn Light Electric, a company that focuses on American made and vintage lighting.

We actually keep my childhood dresser in the bathroom, full of linens, toilet paper, and toiletries.

All in all, it’s heaven. Regardless of outstanding projects! We’re still pinching ourselves.

hangar house

Hard to believe our kitchen was once this, huh?

I’m using this minibook to document our journey. Martin keeps asking me, “Are you journaling about how we feel and how our progress is?!” We’ve had some powerful moments, exhausting moments, and really moving moments.

We’ve learned so much through this process. But there’s one lesson that’s more powerful than anything else:

No one will build your dreams for you.