HUBER HOUSE: EXTREME MAKEOVER Northwestern Wisconsin winter nights have put the Howie and Jessie Huber family home to work.
The “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” house built on Swamp Road in South Range last summer was built to strict energy-efficiency and environmental standards.
“Now that it’s actually cold out … we can really see what this house can do,” said Howie Huber, a Superior firefighter. “It’s so cozy and warm and so different from our old place. It’s awesome in the wintertime.”
The Huber family – including mom Jessie, a nursing student; Henry, 6; and Rosie, 4 – has finally settled in. Since the show aired in late September, drive-by viewings and requests for tours have slowed, and the Hubers’ belongings have been mixed in and organized with the designer décor.
“We really like it the way it is. … It feels like a home,” Jessie Huber said. “The kids are taking care of their rooms; now they have so much freedom and space. At the old house, they had one bedroom and were crammed in like sardines.”
An entire country had the chance to see a contemporary apple-green house in South Range Sunday night when the season premiere of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” aired on ABC.
The Huber home on Swamp Road, which took more than 1,400 volunteers to build in a handful of days, is amazing, Howie Huber said.
Here are some of the new structure’s most interesting features:
Painted in greens with a massive stone surround framing a tiny red woodstove, the two-story great room showcases a wall of trees — a blown-up photo of trees from the across the road. Two chairs are made with old fire hose from the Superior Fire Department. A wide, lime-green coffee table is an old crate; but climbing children have had ankles slip between the slats, so that might have to go, Jessie Huber said.
The kitchen opens into the dining area, which holds a 7-foot table made with 50,000-year-old Kauri wood from a company called Ancientwood in La Pointe, Wis. The wood comes from the North Island in New Zealand.
The open kitchen features stainless-steel Kenmore appliances and a giant solid-surface-topped island with plenty of storage. Jessie Huber is fond of the double-decker silverware drawers and the modern stove. Her old one, with skittish knobs, almost caused a fire once. She would like to hang pots above the island, something they can change now that the show has aired. Changes aren’t allowed to be made before that in case anything needs to be reshot. Howie Huber, trained as a chef (the couple met working together at the New Scenic Café), is happy to cook and eat food from a clean, modern kitchen.
“It’s nice not to have Sheetrock dust in your food,” he said.
This light and airy room houses craft and kids’ project supplies and toys in big white cupboards, along with Jessie Huber’s canning storage area. Producers of the show heard she liked to throw clay, and installed a kiln.
The bed frame is made of driftwood that was milled into dimensional lumber. Laid inside the frame are trees from the property that were cut down from the footprint of the house, Howie Huber said. The master bath has a large white tub placed next to a picture window that overlooks a backyard field.
It’s a blue and purple room filled with flower-like decorations, a whimsical ladybug duvet cover on a round bed, a bench with seat covers and giant yellow daffodils suspended from the ceiling. “They like spending time in their own space,” Howie Huber said. “The rooms are such a good expression of their interests.”
The outdoors-themed room has a tent-like bed with a loft and a mountain-climbing stairway to the top. A canoe was split in half and made into shelves.
The house’s heat source is an off-peak electric boiler. The home has in-floor heating. The house also has passive solar heat. The electricity bills are shaping up to be half what they used to be with twice the space. The $27,000 wind turbine will generate energy when it gets fixed. It hasn’t been working properly yet.
The home also has a $100,000 technology package, with 11 cameras scoping the property and activity recorded 24 hours a day. The windows have glass-break sensors.
“A lot of people have the opportunity to case your home,” Howie Huber said. “It comes standard with the show.”
A treehouse, playground set and angular patio area are out back, with a fire pit surrounded by three large rocks. A chicken coop was built by a local 4-H club. Gardens are everywhere, filled with tomatoes, Swiss chard, potatoes, broccoli, parsnips, pumpkins and cabbage. Jessie Huber is planning for dairy goats and bees. The gardens were moved from their original spots during the building project and are faring well.
“We love being outside,” she said. “We grow our own food. It’s good for the soul.”
Builders Commonwealth is a design/build firm, with in-house architecture and a large custom cabinet facility. Our general construction work includes commercial and residential buildings. Recent commercial projects include the new Whole Foods Coop in Grand Marais, Minn and the renovation of the Duluth Whole Foods Coop. Our residential work includes both renovation/restoration projects, as well as new construction. We encourage our customers to incorporate energy conservation and solar options. In 1981 we received one of five national awards to build a passive solar demonstration project. Recently, we constructed an Extreme Makeover residence in South Range, Wisconsin that incorporated energy conservation, active solar and green building practices.