Florida Hangar Home

Schweiss Doors

Those who believe there are limits to the imagination—especially when it comes to housing both airplanes and people in the same structure—should meet Daniel Shaw. A resident of Geneva, Florida, the 62-year-old plumbing contractor has taken the “hangar home” concept to a whole new level.

Shaw’s metal-clad hangar home is 50’ wide x 60’ deep x 30’ tall. Its most noticeable feature initially is the comfortable looking porch that wraps the front and two sides of the building. A closer look, however, reveals that a large section of the porch is actually built into the façade of the home’s 45’-wide x 15’-high Schweiss Doors hydraulic hangar door. When the door goes up the entire patio deck—floor, roof, decorative railing and even the table and chairs—goes right up with it. So does the stylish front door.

“It started with the idea that I wanted a hangar home that didn’t look like a hangar,” said Shaw as he reflected on his ‘one of a kind’ structure. “Hangars are basically ugly. We wanted to jazz ours up just a bit. When you drive up it and push the remote button people are absolutely amazed!”

And with good reason. The interior of the home replicates a quaint European street scene complete with hotel entrance and 2nd floor walk-out balcony. To the left, a working tavern with bar stools, and a false-front ice cream store. To the right, a laundry room, office and fake ‘yarn barn’. Upstairs is a master suite with 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 related that when he told the Schweiss Doors people that he wanted a 4’ metal truss across the front of the door, they questioned and were skeptical. Traditionally Schweiss designs an 18-inch reinforcing truss for their hydraulic doors. The Schweiss team wasn’t initially aware of Shaw’s full-width veranda porch being built into his 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 which thrives on the business theme that the customer drives the deal.

“We wanted to make certain that our door helped bring Dan Shaw’s dream alive,” said Mike Schweiss, CEO of Schweiss Doors. So they juggled computer-driven templates and welding dynamics (including a larger hydraulic system for the heavier door) to better facilitate the unique ideas incorporated into his remarkable hangar home. To put it mildly, the place glitters with his decorating schemes.

“I call it Danville,” chuckled Shaw, “And I’m the Mayor.” Indeed. Danville sports its own community bar with fashion-smart bar stools. A working Lp gas fireplace adds comfort to the tavern. Plus there’s a 14’x 15’ downstairs library/guest bedroom. “It’s been a tremendous amount of fun putting this together,” said the Mayor.

His huge living room with 30’ ceiling even includes a 26’-tall palm tree; also an oak wood stairway to the 2nd level master suite area (an elevator also provides lift service to the 2nd floor) which has a 15’ x 21’master bedroom; 8’x 10’ closet and a sizeable 10’ x 15’ bathroom.

His ‘finish and trim’ carpenter was a young man who coincidentally 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 a very 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 his hangar home. Flying is his hobby and he views Mother Earth either from the cockpit of his 1946 Piper J3 (upgraded last year ago with an 85-hp engine), or his 1980 Cessna 172 with 180 hp engine and STOL wing. Travels include the big Oshkosh, WI Experimental Aircraft show where he and his traveling buddy camped in a tent under the wing of that 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. 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’ 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 your building.” His movie screen was sourced from a discarded white vinyl billboard. The projector is mounted beneath the hotel balcony.

Danville hosted its first neighborhood party in early May 2009 to celebrate the 45-acre airstrip’s annual association picnic. Located almost next door to the Kennedy Space Center, the airstrip 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 hangar shell was insulated with the type of vinyl/fiberglass insulation typically used on metal buildings. However, the wood-frame house inside also has 6 inches of insulation. The entire structure is air-conditioned, with a 5-ton unit serving the main hangar area. Lp gas provides energy for furnace heat as needed. Engineering specs called for a 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,” said 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,” related Shaw, who functioned as the ‘contractor/technical director’ of 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.” He endorsed the design strength of the Schweiss doors saying the extra-weight of the ‘wrap-around porch’ posed no problem for the powerful hydraulic system.

Summed up Shaw, “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.”

About Schweiss Doors

Schweiss-logoBased in Fairfax, MN, Schweiss Doors is a leading manufacturer of bifold and hydraulic one-piece doors, and is an established leader in the design and manufacture of designer and custom doors for all types and sizes of buildings. No door is too small or too big for Schweiss Doors. The company has more than three decades of experience and has sold its doors worldwide. Key markets for the company’s doors are aviation, agriculture, commercial and industrial, but its products have been used in theaters, major league ballparks, homes, exclusive hotels and buildings of all types. To learn more, visit www.bifold.com or www.schweisshydraulicdoors.com.

And to learn about Schweiss' new Build Your Own Door Kit, which gives customers the plans and essential components to build their own Schweiss Doors, visit www.bifold.com/build-your-own-door.php.

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