It was a small handmade journal business, a blog and a do-it-yourself home built in an airplane hangar that landed a Butte native on the HGTV series "You Live In What?"
The show, which is about people who convert all manner of buildings into homes, was aired by Great American Country, an HGTV channel.
Katie Richardson Clemons, who grew up in Butte and graduated from Butte High School in 2001, is featured in an episode with her husband, Martin Clemons, in their converted airplane hangar home, which is also 720-square feet.
Katie had documented the process of turning a pilot training room and cluttered storage area into a bright and inviting home on her blog. Apparently an HGTV scout had been following along and contacted the Clemonses about being featured on the show.
“The reason (we invited) HGTV to our home is to share our unique story and our values,” Katie said. “Sharing story is our passion, coupled with aviation and environmental stewardship.”
The Clemonses wanted to build an environmentally friendly living space and support local businesses. They used sustainable bamboo for flooring, eco varnish, recycled glass insulation, 1950s maple flooring repurposed into cabinets and local recycled glass and fly ash made into countertops. The hangar is heated and cooled with a geothermal system Martin designed and built.
And for Katie and Martin, building their home inside an airplane hangar was the most affordable option.
“We didn’t have the money to build a home, but we could find a way by rolling up our sleeves,” she said. “We could afford to make our home inside the hangar if we did a lot of the work ourselves.”
Just as Martin built the heating and cooling system, the couple framed walls, built cabinets, laid the wood floor, painted and tiled.
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the first time the pair had been contacted by a TV show. Martin is German and the couple has a small apartment in Berlin they renovated a few years ago. International House Hunters contacted them shortly after. Before building their hangar home, the couple lived in a rented “Earthship,” a house built of recycled tires, and both the Nate Berkus Show and an MTV scout contacted them about featuring their living arrangements on a TV segment.
The couple turned those offers down.
“You feel that sense of fear that you’re giving them your story and they can edit and crop however they want,” Katie said of the offers.
Instead, Katie and Martin focused on their mutual love of flying – they are both private pilots – their infant son Niklas and building Katie’s journal business, Gadanke. They figured a better-suited offer would come along at some point.
“This is our story. We love what we’re doing. If we can inspire people to love what they’re doing, that’s what matters,” Katie said. “You’re opening a very intimate piece of you by inviting national TV into your home. The idea of sharing stories to me is really a way to connect with each other, inspire and encourage each other.”
The Clemonses ended up in the Paradise Valley because of their connection to flying. They were able to purchase Paradise Flying, a private airport and airplane repair business, a few years ago. Martin, now an electrical engineer, had been a commercial pilot while Katie, with a business administration degree from the University of Montana and an English degree from Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. in hand, was starting her journal prompt business.
That journal business has grown from a one-woman operation to a four-time winner of the Montana governor’s Ecostar green business award with two full-time and two part-time employees.
It was all born of a love of telling and hearing stories built into the fiber of Katie’s being from a childhood spent in Butte.
“Growing up in Butte, you hear a lot of stories about back in the day,” she said. “I was always hearing about Columbia Gardens, seeing the gallows frames and the Berkeley Pit. I think that the stories I was hearing about life in Butte always very nostalgic and remembering the great things. But there is the harder side of Butte history, when the mines closed, there were strikes, there were fires. There’s the good stories and the hard stories in Butte. I feel like I was lucky to grow up in a community where both of those are presented on the surface. Butte has a spirit I’ve never seen anywhere else.”
So when “You Live in What?” came along, it seemed like a better fit for the couple who makes a living helping other people tell their stories.”
“The theme was essentially, I think, how do we inspire people to think outside of the box,” Katie said of the TV show. The episode that features her hangar home also shows homes built into a former bank, Soviet radio factory and a chapel. “Most of us live in a traditional home. (The show is a) look at how people have altered that concept.”
To see more pictures of the Clemons’ hangar or apartment remodels or to learn more about Gadanke journals, visit gadanke.com.