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Woman Renovates Father’s SteelMaster Workshop from the 80s

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Teresa R. recalls spending a lot of time with her father in his Quonset hut workshop growing up. 

“It was always just the shop. I spent a lot of time here making stuff. I made jewelry with brass welding rods using needle nose pliers and sold them for five bucks at school.” 

Her father, a brass and metal refinisher, rented and eventually purchased a property that had an already assembled SteelMaster workshop. Teresa believes the building was built around 1984, just two years after SteelMaster became incorporated.

“[The workshop] had only been built for a couple of years but my dad immediately fell in love with it because he’s such an intellectual guy,” Teresa said. “He took one look at the building and thought, ‘Wow look at this thing.’”

Bringing an Old Project to Life

In February 2020, Teresa bought her sister out of the other half of the property and decided to do a complete renovation of the workshop.

“Then in 2020 the pandemic hit. I’m a massage therapist so that just kind of stopped. In April 2020 I caught a plane and came to Asheville to begin the process of going through everything in the building,” she said. 

Teresa spent weeks digging through old documents and boxes. While sifting through papers, she found the building’s original construction manual. 

“Inside of [the construction manual], there is a picture of [the building] when it was brand new with the land plot information,” she said. “In this guide, there’s a bunch of different correspondences and ideas, and drawings/ideas of how [my dad] would build a greenhouse next door to the building.”

Reinventing the Space

Teresa has big plans for her Quonset hut, including turning it into a massage studio and Airbnb. 

“I want it to be an open space that’s warm and different from the way my dad had it. It was great working with metal here, but I’m not following in those footsteps exactly. The vibe of this place now is to be a nice, spacious place to be.”

One of the things Teresa loves the most about her Quonset hut is that it’s made of what she calls “honest materials.”

“I like to see how something is put together and I’m not trying to hide anything about how it’s made. With this building, you see everything–the way the corrugated parts are put together with bolts. You get this super-strong structure that doesn’t need any maintenance for many years.” 

Teresa also plans to use the building as a studio for her landscape design business, Ecology By Design. 

“I do landscape design with pencil and paper, so I just need a place to do it where I can pace and think about things and have books and resources. Just a comfortable place to go to and work until the house gets built.”

Benefits of Adding Insulation

One of the first steps of her renovation was adding insulation to the arches.

“I heard about spray foam insulation, but I wasn’t attracted to the idea. I talked to [Assistant Customer Service Manager] Ryan, he was super nice and told me how to install the insulation. He knew everything about the building so we didn’t have to do any guesswork. It’s customized exactly to the size you need.”

After doing some additional research, Teresa decided the SteelMaster insulation kit was the right choice for her needs. 

“I could do a lot more work and save a couple hundred bucks, in other words, not worth it. I called Ryan back and bought it. They sent the perfect amount.”

Teresa loves the aesthetic and warmth it adds to her building. 

“The sound quality is better, it’s beautiful. The arches themselves were beautiful but [the insulation] is beautiful. It’s brighter because it’s white and reflects light. It’s cool–soft, yet industrial–it’s great.”

Plans for the Future

Inspired by the modular nature of the Quonset hut, she also plans to build a home next to the workshop made entirely of precast concrete walls from a company called Superior Walls of North Carolina. 

“The other day I was fishing through my dad’s files on this building and I found a drawing he did of how he would design a house to go along with the Quonset hut. It makes me cry–it’s so amazing–they’re almost the same as the house plans I dreamed up with the architect.”

It’s clear that the project is much more than just a renovation to Teresa–it’s a way of incorporating her father’s vision into her dream building.

“My dad has dementia now. It is pretty special that this is happening because he was never able to fulfill these dreams, so I’m kind of doing it for him. It’s a really nice experience that he’ll be able to share during the last go in his life. It’s definitely my dream, but it’s so in line with what he wanted that it’s a special connection to have with this. I’m grateful to be able to do this before he’s gone.”