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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Silo of Serenity

Brent and Shawn Wiggins’ rural Kentucky home is a testament to resourcefulness and patience

What would you build if you could design your own home? Maybe you seek open space with the latest comforts. Perhaps simple, rustic living is your style. Or maybe, you crave a home that artfully merges every phase of life under one unique roof.

That’s just what Brent and Shawn Wiggins did.

Both are Kentucky natives who have made their lives in the Bluegrass State. Brent, a contractor who owns Wiggins Construction, hails from Sebree, while Shawn, a native of Sacramento, is a respiratory therapist in Western Kentucky and Southwestern Indiana. The duo met in nursing school in Madisonville, Kentucky, and married in 1993.

The couple used to own a pretty yellow Victorian in Sebree. And while they loved their historic house in town, their heart often pulled them toward the rolling hills and unencumbered space of the country.

In 2013, they purchased three acres south of Sebree that were owned by the parents of Brent’s sister-in-law.

“They had a garden out here, and the prettiest sunsets I’d ever seen,” Brent says.

The Wigginses were itching to build a homestead entirely their own. Nearly a decade working in construction — and having a father with a lifetime of education — gave Brent plenty of inspiration to create something new. But even those familiar with his ingenuity were surprised by his plan to stitch together a home from grain silos.

“I hate building the same thing over and over,” Brent says. “This was a totally unique idea.”

He set out collecting materials. One silo — capable of holding 18,000 bushels of grain — was procured in Iowa for free, but Brent had to dismantle and transport it himself. The other three were bought for $800 a piece as scrap metal in Beech Grove, Kentucky. Again, breaking it down and hauling it were left up to Brent and his crew.

The south-most silo houses the primary suite; the north holds a mud room, pantry, half bath, and loft bedroom and guest bath. The other pair were placed on their sides to construct an open concept living, dining, and kitchen space, as well as the garage. Brent describes blending the middle roof between the two sides as the project’s most challenging part.

Eight thousand bolts were driven into each bin, giving it a grand total of 32,000. The exterior wood was stained with one quart Rust-Oleum silver mixed with one gallon of Rust-Oleum black and four gallons of diesel fuel.

The project was a fierce undertaking, with construction lying in Brent’s hands. He labored on it mostly on weekends, with help from his own company’s crew. Toward the end of construction, he paid employees Klint Boggess, Lonnie Terrell, and Dustin Terrell to work on the house full time.

“It took 14 months to build after 10 years of accumulating materials,” Brent says.

Those materials predominantly came from scraps Brent accessed through his work as a contractor. A driveway culvert suspends the dome above the loft bedroom and is topped with a streetlight lens. The kitchen table is made of wood from railroad car floors. The pine logs in the garage are traced back to scrap wood from the December 2021 tornado that cut through Webster County and Western Kentucky. Various metal bits used to be Duke Energy street poles in New Castle, Indiana.

Several materials are the result of Brent’s extensive network of friends in the construction industry. The steel spiral staircase linking the kitchen to the guest bedroom came from a home in Detroit, Michigan, that his cousin bought to flip.

Others offer a dash of sentimentality in addition to resourcefulness. One of the home’s most unique features is the use of hospital operating room cabinets in the kitchen. The glass-fronted, stainless-steel set from the now-Deaconess Henderson Hospital stands out from the wooden interior, but for Brent, they remind him of his 12 years working as a nurse at the same hospital. The OR cabinets also help explain the locker in the mud room, which was Brent’s exact locker. While working on renovations at the hospital, he wrote it into his contract that he received ownership of all scrap materials, with the specific plan to put those relics tied to his nursing career in his home.

“He likes to save things,” Shawn says, pointing to the property’s 140-year-old barn that has been repurposed into storage and work space.

Lest anyone think the Wigginses let materials go to waste, know this: A red oak beam measuring 24 inches tall, 18 inches wide, and 40 feet long supplied all of the interior wood, and its remnant acts as the rugged exposed beam running through the home’s core. (Two steel I-beams support the interior, so no wood beam is actually needed.)

The house plot, including a manmade lake, occupies five acres. When construction was finished in 2022, the only part subcontracted was the HVAC.

There is no space that escaped the Wigginses’ attention to detail. Everywhere they could, they have added simple, unique touches. The medallion embedded in the mud room’s penny floor includes a belt buckle that belonged to Brent’s father. The “W” hanging on their bedroom door is signed by Jimmy Don Holmes, a recurring craftsman featured on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” The fireplace uses the same metal as the rack for the kitchen pans.

Several features sport Brent’s personal craftsmanship. He hand built the bedroom furniture used in his and Shawn’s primary suite from one tree when he was 14 years old. (Also perched in their bedroom is an expertly carved wooden crib Brent fashioned around the same age.) Brent even was patient enough to bow the wood for the master bath panels.

Indeed, the entire construction project was a 10-year lesson in patience. Now, the Wigginses sit back and enjoy their custom homestead.

“What we built is a durable house,” Shawn says.

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Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti joined Tucker Publishing Group in September 2022 as a staff writer. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2020 with a bachelors degree in English. A Connecticut native, Maggie has ridden horses for 15 years and has hunt seat competition experience on the East Coast.

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