The Fleet House Is the Only Home Built in an Aircraft Factory in the Entire World

published Jun 21, 2018
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The home was built in 1947 by Henry Dreyfuss and Edward Larrabee Barnes, intended to be one of many homes for people transitioning from wartime to peacetime, built entirely by airplane materials manufactured at the local Vultee Aircraft Factory. (Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Name: Chuck Jones
Location: South Pasadena, California
Size: 900 square feet
Years Lived In: 3 years, renting

Covered in stucco and overgrown vegetation, this pre-fab piece of history sat unknown to locals and lost to time until purchased in 2006 by Sergio Santino. Since uncovering this mid-century marvel—built by renowned industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss and architect Edward Larrabee Barnes—Sergio’s childhood friend Chuck Jones has resided here. Chuck, of local Pasadena mainstay Jones Coffee Roasters, has filled the space with Guatemalan treasures and given it his own mid-century eclectic flair.

The pre-fab structure was intended to be one of many homes for people transitioning from wartime to peacetime, and help the decline in aircraft manufacturing after WWII. Dreyfuss and Barnes were commissioned to build the home, which was constructed in 1947 at the local Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Factory. It was thought these homes would provide work for employees at the post-war factory and be used as affordable single-family homes. But the people of the 1940s just weren’t ready for the idea of pre-fabricated homes and these factory assembled homes never took off; only two prototypes were ever made.

Because the location, condition, and existence of the second prototype is no longer known, The Fleet House (as it is sometimes referred to) is the only home in the world that was designed, built, and pre-assembled in an aircraft factory. But it’s not just where it was assembled that makes it one-of-a-kind; its construction and materials are unique, too. The walls are made from lightweight aluminum panels, surrounding a cardboard honeycomb core. The panels were constructed to be configured in a variety of ways to allow for adjoining rooms and new structures.

If you live in Pasadena (and likely elsewhere), you’re probably familiar with Jones Coffee Roasters. Founded in 1994, the company is known for its inclusive community and farm-to-cup mentality. Jones’s family roots are in Guatemala, where his family coffee growing business began in the mid-1870s. Perhaps its his visits to Guatemala that make him so drawn to what he describes as, “indoor/outdoor” living. Equipped with a high ratio of windows to walls, Chuck has chosen to ditch window treatments for views of the lush plant life outside (which works out, being that he can’t put nails in his metal walls).

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Inspiration: Traveling with my dad as an Army brat and to coffee producing countries for work.

Favorite Element: Metal walls and tiny-home living.

Biggest Challenge: No nails in the walls and limited space.

What Friends Say: “Do you really live in a metal house?”

Biggest Embarrassment: Only one bathroom.

Biggest Indulgence: Whistle Pig

Best Advice: More is more.

Dream Sources: Guatemala, Morocco, Greece, India, Grateful Dead

Thanks, Chuck!

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