‘Sky’s the limit’ hangar home

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There are no limits to imagination, especially when it comes to housing both airplanes and people in the same structure. Just ask Daniel Shaw, 62, a plumbing contractor in Geneva, Fla.,  who has given the term “hangar home”  a totally new definition.

Start with first impressions. For most hangars, that’s not too impressive.  But wait…
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Shaw’s structure is a 50- by 60-foot  metal structure that’s 30-feet high. So far, that’s not unusual. However, a 45- by 15-foot Schweiss hydraulic door sports a wrap-around porch with decorator railing, table and chairs. That does grab one’s attention. Further, a walk-through door with stylish window and metal roof really rate a longer look.

And then this big door opens and the entire porch deck lifts with the hangar door.

“It started with the idea that I wanted a hangar home that didn’t look like a hangar,” said Shaw of his one-of-a-kind creation.

“Hangars are basically ugly,” he explains. “We wanted to jazz ours up just a bit. When you drive up to it and push the remote button, people are absolutely amazed!”

Flights of fancy

The interior represents a quaint European street scene complete with hotel entrance and second floor walk-out balcony. To the left, there’s a working tavern and bar stools to sit on, along with a false-front ice cream parlor. To the right, notice the laundry room, office and faux “yarn barn.” Upstairs, find a master suite consisting of bedroom, closet and bathroom.

The black-painted interior ceiling features both star lights and mood lighting, excellent for movie viewing when that big hydraulic hangar door is shut.

Shaw explains that, when he told the Schweiss door people that he wanted a four-foot metal truss across the front of the door, they were skeptical.

Traditionally Schweiss designs an 18-inch reinforcing truss for the company’s hydraulic doors. The Schweiss team initially wasn’t aware of Shaw’s plans for the full-width veranda porch that was to be part of the hangar door. But they got excited about this unique challenge.

“If you think it, we can build it,” has become the working mantra of this Minnesota-based firm whose philosophy is “the customer drives the deal.” “We wanted to make certain that our door helped bring Dan Shaw’s dream alive,” said Mike Schweiss, CEO.

 So they juggled computer-driven templates and welding dynamics, including a larger hydraulic system for the heavier door, to better facilitate the ideas incorporated into the hangar home plan. The place glitters with Shaw’s decorating schemes.

Hizzoner the mayor

“I call it Danville,” chuckles Shaw, “And I’m the mayor.”

Danville sports its own community bar with fashion-smart bar stools. A working gas fireplace adds comfort to the tavern. There’s a 14-by-15-foot library/guest bedroom.

“It’s been a tremendous amount of fun putting this together,” says the mayor.

The spacious living room rises to a  30-foot ceiling and is graced with a 26-foot palm tree. An oak stairway climbs to the second level master suite area.  Or, take an elevator to the second floor, where you find the 15- x 21-foot master bedroom, 8- x 10-foot closet and a sizeable 10- x 15-foot  bathroom.

Shaw hired a “finish and trim” carpenter, a young man who was in his son’s Cub Scout troop 17 years ago.  This master wood finisher did the classic crown moldings and other special trim features that give Danville its detailed look.
Even the California style master closet upstairs has built-in shelves and dresser.  And perhaps because Shaw is a plumbing contractor, his hangar home has three bathrooms.

Actually Danville is Shaw’s guesthouse.  His own home sits directly across the airport runway from the hangar home.
Flying is his hobby and he views Mother Earth either from the cockpit of his 1946 Piper J3 (upgraded last year  with an 85 hp engine), or his 1980 Cessna 172 with 180 hp engine and STOL wing. Travels include the big Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) show held each July in Oshkosh, Wis. There Shaw and his traveling buddy tent camp under the wing of the 172.

Shaw urges other pilots to get creative with their hangars.

“I have a perfectly comfortable living quarters behind the hangar door, and out front its just fun,” he says.

“To depict a community feeling, we had a variety of storefronts painted on the interior walls and hangar door plus we fastened a 15- x 20-foot movie screen into the middle of the door. So our hangar home is our own indoor theater for showing movies, or projecting scenes from some of my aerial travels around America. I’ve found that a movie screen on the back of our hangar door is the perfect venue for an added dimension to the building.”  The movie screen was sourced from a discarded white vinyl billboard. The projector is mounted beneath the hotel balcony.

A place to entertain

Danville hosted its first neighborhood party in May to celebrate the annual association picnic of this 45-acre airstrip located “almost next door” to the Kennedy Space Center. It includes eight building lots on Lake Harney (St. John’s river basin) near Orlando. The event also got dubbed as a “survivors’ party” for many of Shaw’s neighbors who got flooded out when Tropical Storm Faye made an uninvited appearance last fall.

Both to provide comfort from summer heat and the cooler winter season, the outer building was insulated with a vinyl/fiberglass insulation typically used on metal buildings. However the wood frame “inside house” also has six inches of insulation.

The entire structure is air-conditioned and includes a five-ton unit for the main hangar area.  LP gas provides energy for furnace heat when it’s needed.  Engineering specs called for 120 mph wind endurance criteria. Conventional property insurance worked for this facility.

Shaw estimated Danville cost him about $225,000, “…but that was because my neighbor Joe Pires, who also built a hangar home, worked closely with me on the design and actual construction. 

“To keep the cost of Danville low, I didn’t enter the concept with a fixed material list.  You have to build with the flow of what you can find.  And I must admit, I’m pretty good at scrounging, plus Joe searched Craig’s List for some super buys,” says Shaw.

Pires, a financial planner who also flies gyrocopters, bought one of the lots from Shaw but didn’t have any construction background. “I pitched the idea of a special hangar home to Joe but he didn’t feel he was capable of building his own hangar home. I said, ‘Sure you are.’ So his responsibility for both projects was to be Internet active, to secure all the subcontractors and find the best prices for materials,” relates Shaw, who functioned as the contractor/technical director for the two projects.

People buying lots on this private airstrip are required to build a house before they can build a hangar. 
“But if you build a hangar house prior to building your home, you have housing for your airplane plus a place to live while building the house. And when it’s all done you have a very unique guest house,” says Shaw.

He endorses the design strength of the Schweiss doors, adding the extra-weight of the wrap-around porch poses no problem for the powerful hydraulic system.

Shaw sums it up this way. “If you have a dream about a special building, run it by the Schweiss team.  They do great stuff with doors and they’re easy to work with.”

Dick Hagen is an occasional contributor to Rural Builder.
For a video demonstration of the door,  Google  Dan Shaw Hangar Home

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