La Monte family turns Quonset hut into home
The combine got replaced by the living room couch. The tractor was sent on its way to make room for the master bathroom. What once provided protection from the weather for farm equipment and hay now is the dream home for a La Monte family.
Scotty and Cindy Birdwell, members of Central Missouri Electric, transformed a 19-foot-tall Quonset hut on their rural Pettis County property into a two-story, 3,500-square-foot home.
Quonset huts are semicircle-shaped steel buildings designed like the originals invented during World War II.
Cindy grew up just down the road from where they now live. She and Scotty had built a home there 30 years ago, where they raised their family. “Our son and daughter-in-law wanted to purchase the house, so we said sure,” Cindy says. “Then we were like, ‘Well where do we want to live?’ We didn’t know and had to figure something out.”
Scotty and his son put up the Quonset hut 18 years ago. Cindy didn’t want to move too far away. As Cindy looked out of her house at the hut across Thomas Road, she got an idea. The hut was an existing structure on land they already had.
She enlisted contractor Mark Walje to see if her plan was even a possibility. Mark saw the vision for the building and took on what he says is the most unique house he’s worked on. “I asked her how she was going to do the ceiling with this structure and she said ‘You figure it out and whatever you think’s best,’ ” Mark says. “I thought it would be a good challenge. I’ve been building for almost 50 years and it’s just something I’ve never done. I knew that if we did it right and it was decorated well it was really going to be a showplace.”
Cindy and Mark went through a series of plans on how to best utilize the hut, which is 50-by-50-feet. They were trying to figure out how to square off parts of the house but not lose any square footage. They made storage tunnels along the sides of the house allowing them to fit a square peg into a round hole. They gained an extra 1,000 feet by adding an upstairs and in total only ended up with 24 square feet of unusable space.
Mark, who owns West Central Construction, installed extra insulation to help with noise during storms. He built the ceiling to be the top sides of a hexadecagon (16 sides) giving the house its unique curvature. Mark finished the renovation this summer.
The Quonset hut now features a living room, kitchen and dining room as you enter, along with a butler’s kitchen, a trio of bedrooms and a loft. “I’m very, very happy with the house and I really wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Cindy says. “This is home.”
Cindy says she met a few people who doubted the ability to turn the semicircle hut into a home. Mark’s wife documented the process on West Central Construction’s Facebook page. Once moved in, Cindy hosted an open house for all the inquiring minds.
“We had about 100 people come by,” Cindy says. “And what usually happens is they walk in the front door and step back and they take in a panoramic look. They can’t believe we took the old hut and turned it into home.”
The Birdwells will be showing off their home decorated for the holidays. Cindy is a business teacher at Otterville High School and her club is hosting the FBLA Holiday Homes Tours and Celebration. The hut-turned-home will be one of four homes on the Dec. 10 tour.
Cindy says the unique structure has been the perfect place for her family. “I never feel like I’m in a dome,” Cindy says. “We have lots of light and I love that I can stand in my kitchen and can look at the windmill across the road and watch my grandkids run around.”
The Dec. 10 home tours run from 1-5 p.m. and cost $20 per person. For more information, contact Cindy at email@example.com or 660-233-3374.