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Aircrafts and Cottages: Artist blends architectural philosophies in family home

If you ask architect Adam Kalkin to describe his incredible New Jersey home in just a few words, he’ll say “it’s just a big shed with openings in it.”

But as he told Kirsten Dirksen, of FairCompanies.com, “It withholds a lot from the outside. It doesn’t come at you with a story. You need to discover it from the inside.”

A video tour of the home Kalkin created for himself and his family illustrates just how unique the space is, all while demonstrating the creator’s philosophies on modern architecture and life.

Located in Bernardsville, New Jersey, Kalkin’s home, dubbed “Bunny Lane,” was built on his family’s property by “encasing an 1880s farmhouse in a cavernous prefab aircraft hangar,” Dirksen wrote.

From the outside, Kalkin explained, a viewer only gets a glimpse of what’s inside. While the cottage was modified over the years, Kalkin decided to put the aircraft hangar over it after purchasing the property, where he’s lived for the past 15 years — “it gets better with age,” he joked.

“It’s got a little bit of a ship in the bottle feeling to it,” he said. “Architecture can be so many things, and yet it tends to be about so few things. But there’s nothing that actually restricts the range of reference of architecture.”

While there’s a definite artistic purpose behind Kalkin’s decision to build an aircraft hangar on top of an old cottage, he said the family also needed more space.

“There are an unlimited number of ways to accomplish that, and this is one of them,” he said.

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Inside, Kalkin has created a new world of sorts — on one end is the cottage, which the family treats as an historical oddity, “as if it’s preserved in amber.” On another end of the hangar, he treats a jungle gym-styled structure like an office building that serves as a simple way to make space for bedrooms, bathrooms, and an office.

Outside a sliding hangar door, which Kalkin says is often open, the family can peer into the woods and see deer and fox passing by; “the kids love that kind of stuff,” he said. The viewing area serves as a piazza, which rests in the center of the hangar.

As for the essentials, the waxed concrete floors have radiant heating, and the wiring has been integrated through hollow cinder block, including pipes, insulation, wires, and air conditioning.

The inspiration for his home — as well as his company, Industrial Zombie, which specializes in converting shipping containers into shelters — derives from an internship he had when he was 16.

“I rebuilt a Japanese teahouse when I was 16. That was really fascinating. That’s when I learned about Japanese gardens, the whole philosophy of the framing, the uniting and the structuring of views,” he said. “I think good artists always make decisions: ‘I want you to see this from such and such a way,’ or ‘There’s a real point of view, a literal point of view.’”

Kalkin’s respect for “old things” has transformed into a want to incorporate them into a dialogue of present, future, and past.

“And to me, architecture is a great philosophical medium,” he said. “For me, it’s the most appropriate way to deal with the most fundamental issues of being.”