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Iain and Annie Harris’ open-plan kitchen and living area were designed in muted colors to reflect the orange and yellow patina of the World War II Quonset hut they converted into their Oceanside home. To offset costs, they added a casita and an additional two-bedroom suite.
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In 2014, Ian Harris had more than a vision of how to transform a 1942 Quonset hut into a home filled with squatters and the industrial remains of an old glass factory.
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He had feelings for changes that would include an attached cottage, accessory unit or ADU and a patio in the Oceanside area.
“This was before Oceanside was cool. (That neighborhood) had a lot of hookers and drugs,” he said.
The exterior of the Quonset hut before conversion shows a well-worn tin roof and weathered windows.
“Inside, it felt like post-Apocalypse,” he said, standing in the large, two-bedroom, two-bath outdoor quonset where he lives with his wife, Annie, and their 2-year-old daughter. (Quonset huts are prefabricated structures with corrugated iron roofs and were widely used during World War II.)
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After construction, the yard near the Quonset hut served as a gathering place for the Harris family. The casita (lower left) and additional two-bedroom suite (upper left) provide rental income. The dog house (right) is constructed of the same materials used on the exterior of both buildings.
“It had this weird, lost, forgotten feeling, but it had a beautiful artistic light, this raft. It faces northwest, so it never gets direct sunlight. As soon as he opened the front door, the wind felt that way. And he had all these other things. There was a distinct feeling of looking at things.
“My favorite part of the Harris project is how Ian had a vision of what the finished project should look like, and we helped him achieve it,” said contractor Katherine Graber of Elysian Contractors, who worked on the first of the two phases. The project
The transformation began with the conversion of a Quonset hut completed in 2015. Then Harris, acting as owner-builder, oversaw the just-completed building and patio that began two years ago.
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The open beams of the main living room depart from the high space, helping to emphasize the vertical space within the building.
It took some time for Harris to find Graber, whom he called the “Quonset Hut Queen” for her work converting Quonset huts, including the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. The first five contractors he contacted wanted to demolish the Quonset hut. His response was quick: “This is a unique Quonset hut of unique design. If you take it away, what good is it?”
He also consulted with architect Stephen Dalton to develop a plan for the entire project. It included a 1,400 square meter Quonset hut; An adjacent building consisting of two units: a 350 square meter cottage with kitchen and bathroom and a 900 square meter ADU with two bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second floor; and a two-car garage and a detached one-car garage for ADUs.
“I told him, ‘I have a vision of what I want the space to be. And I want to know what rules I can’t break and what rules I can break in terms of design and layout,'” Harris said.
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To translate his vision into designs, Harris — who has a background in advertising, marketing and filmmaking — translated his ideas about wall placement, materials and colors into aerial photographs.
Harris and Graeber admit that removing the screen and trash from empty bottles to grinders was a big challenge.
“I did all the work on the show using a lot of unskilled labor,” Harris said. “We filled four 40-yard containers from the inside alone.”
Pointing to the corrugated iron roof of his house, Harris said, “After we removed all the insulation, this incredible 80-year-old patina and found corrugated iron rib on the old tin roof. It was an incredible creation that you couldn’t create or recreate, so it all came down to him.
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Owner Ian Harris had to remove tons of trash and equipment, including the stove, inside the Quonset hut he saw earlier. After seeing the patina and corrugated iron rib of the old roof, he knew it had to be a centerpiece.
“Oh, every time people come, they ask, oh, so you can hear the rain, right? Or seeing holes and rust in the panels and asking ‘is this water resistant?’ In the process of putting together a plan that the city put together, we had to bring all of this up to code, so we have a foot and a half of insulation on top of the old roof and a new tin roof on top.
The cabin’s open living plan is ideal for hosting large groups of guests and allows for tall Christmas trees. The roof is beautiful and up to building code, owner Ian Harris assures guests. Insulation was added and a new roof over the old roof.
Galvanized steel makes a different sound. “When it heats up, or when there’s a big change in temperature, the metal expands and contracts, cracking,” Harris said.
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“Orange and yellow shades set the palette and texture,” Harris said. “We didn’t add a lot of color; if anything, we kept it muted. No gray, white, black, stainless or brushed nickel, so it’s the focal point.”
All the cabinets and closets are from Ikea, and the countertops are white quartzite from Caesarstone, creating a clean design combined with the industrial feel of the original Quonset hut. They used teak in the bathroom and reclaimed wood from Reclaimed Wood San Diego along the wall above the kitchen cabinets and in the hallway leading to the master bathroom on the east side of the cabin.
The floor is real concrete and the kids can ride bikes to the patio through the great room that opens into the house through two large sliding doors.
The home’s second room includes a conversation piece: a fan from an original Belly Up Quonset hut mounted on the wall.
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As for raising a baby in a shack, “it’s indestructible as far as damage goes,” Annie said. “You don’t have to worry about the carpet.”
As part of the second phase of construction, they added a second bedroom on the west side of the cabin for their daughter and guests. “Before we got a cabin, I cut bamboo and built a 14-foot tent that my mom stayed in for three weeks,” Harris said.
The original hut has an unusual structure that allows the roof to slope from a height of 8 feet on the outer walls to a height of 14 feet at the top. “What makes this Quonset unique is that it has a 30-inch log wall. So it’s made of concrete that goes up 30 inches, where they took the ribs (for the arched roof). In most Quonset huts, (the tin arch).
Annie admires the height of the cabin. “It allows for openness, but also fun things, like we can put a 14-foot Christmas tree in here.”
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The cabin and patio host large groups, from bachelorette parties to Thanksgiving dinners for 50 people.
At one time in its past, the cabin housed a candle factory and a vat of melted wax; They were able to use it for pipes. Electrical cables etc. are attached to a tube that runs like a vein through the ceiling.
Some lights come out of this vein. “The lights are Hue lights,” Harris said of the smart bulbs that can be controlled wirelessly. “So at night my daughter likes it.”
Some colorful light streams out into the street through a large fan in front of the building that was a gift from Graeber and came from what is now Belly Up.
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They weren’t able to recover much from the original Quonset hut, but they were able to reuse a metal cooling tray used to hold a paper-stacked glass and metal mesh tool cabinet from the wagon.
The 350-square-foot casita (left) has 15-foot ceilings and opens to the patio with a bifold garage door; The space could be converted into a pool house in the future.
In the yard, old fence posts were made and overturned for support
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