Many of the do-it-yourselfers I have had the pleasure of knowing have been some of the most skilled, imaginative people I know. Some of these creative individuals take their work a step further, only using recycled materials to create their unique pieces. The Wustenberg family of four is one example of this type of recycled DIYer – only, they re-did their entire home…and then some.When you first enter the Wustenberg’s property in Farmington, Minnesota, nothing immediately strikes you as unique. But as you make your way up the drive, you spy a barn house covered in red, blue, yellow-ish, green and black panels, and you get the feeling that this property has its own special charm about it.
Bill and Wendy Wustenberg bought their six acre Windswept Hill Farm home and property twenty-five years ago. Several years later, they purchased the home next door, which also included an additional six acres of land. Both of the homes were originally considered to be low-cost “kit homes”, built with very basic structures and layouts, but not necessarily suited for family life. The properties were very bare, with little vegetation or recreation space. With Wendy’s sharp eye for what “could be”, the family set to making the farm an oasis from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
To tackle the numerous projects before them, the family needed several resources for supplies, tools and materials. They were also dedicated to having both of their children graduate college without student loans, which meant they needed to be smart – and creative – when it came to their renovation budget. Enter the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Wendy first stepped foot into the ReStore at its previous location off of Broadway Ave in Minneapolis. There, she worked with Grant Carlson, and several other former staffers, to begin purchasing materials for her family’s numerous projects.
“I simply began acquiring things for the possibilities,” Wendy explained with a smile.
After hunting down bargains at the ReStore and several other local shops, the family worked on honing their woodworking and carpentry skills, and completed entire projects with their four-person team. But Wendy is quick to point out that they didn’t complete the massive transformation alone. The family consulted with professionals and outsourced some of the projects for the farm. “Find the people with the talent and expertise. They are what made the design and building of this place possible!”
Wendy cautioned that using re-purposed materials isn’t for those on a tight timeline. Reviving older pieces is often more time-consuming than using new, as they require a little extra fix-up and TLC. She also admitted that she found herself purchasing many of the items from reuse centers without a clear idea of what she was going to do with them.
“I’ve found that if you have a relaxed idea of what you want, more often than not you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how it turns out,” Wendy said.
Almost every single piece on the Wustenberg’s farm seemed to have its own story – whether it was how the materials were acquired, or the interesting way that the item was repurposed (like using old doors for the walls of a chicken coop). But if the Wustenberg’s farm is what comes from a little extra time, creativity, and connecting with the right people – the results are so worth it. Everywhere you look on Windswept Hill, you'll come across materials from the ReStore - from the windows used in the stunning butler’s pantry, to the lumber for the walls and ceilings in the Grandma’s kitchen, the insulation of the “MondriBarn”, and many additions in the completely re-done house next door – you’ll find a beautiful piece, with an even more incredible story. And like me, you’ll have a hard time believing that just about every project is made with reused materials.
In the end, one home was completely renovated using recycled materials, and both homes were updated, for energy efficiency, easy hosting of guests, food preservation and cooking, added storage and hobbies and home offices. The once-sparse backyard is now full of life, and includes a pool with deck and gazebo, a large garden, a playground, and a large path of pavers to take you from one addition to the next.
After completing a tour, it’s difficult to decide which project I loved most (although I must admit, I was in awe when I saw daughter Lauren’s fairy-garden-inspired room!). I think what inspired me most, were the people behind the projects. This amazing, warm, welcoming, humble family of four came together with neighbors and professionals they now call friends, to create something truly incredible. What’s more, after years of accumulating materials, they decided to make a large, generous donation back to the ReStore of left over and unused items from their various projects. In total, the donation has an estimated value of over $5,000.
Created with flickr slideshow.
“The Wustenberg’s are more than just a great example of DIYers,”said Marilyn Paulos, Donations Coordinator, “They are a perfect example of ReStore shoppers who are committed to reusing what is already here. It would have been so easy to purchase all new building materials for Windswept Hill Farm, but this family chose to shop locally and support Twin Cities Habitat, while creating a beautiful place to call home.”
The family would also like to thank the team of specialists that were willing to work with repurposed items to help renew Windswept Hill Farm: Jamie Elvestad of JC Elvestad Construction, Pete Elvestad Construction, Paul Henry, Franke Tile & Stone, Peine Plumbing, AGI Electric, Rich West Remodeling, Jim Oberg of Jim's Equipment Service, Inc.
Feeling inspired? Take a look at other DIY projects completed using materials from the ReStore, or submit photos of your own!