Don't be fooled by the non-descript appearance of the white building on 3036 Chene St. What you're actually looking at is the new home of Building Hugger, one of Detroit's fastest-growing and coolest restoration companies.
It's also known as the Hug Factory.
On a recent Saturday in January, nearly 100 people navigated the warehouse, its walls echoing with lively chatter as people hung sticky notes with suggestions of things they hoped Amy Swift, founder of Building Hugger (BH), and her team would bring to the space in the months to come.
Metal window restorations. Paint stripping classes. Reglazing techniques. Just to name a few.
Also scattered throughout the workspace were windows and doors in varying conditions and sizes, set out on tables and filed away on shelves. Currently, 90% of Swift's work focuses on restoring old wood windows. Many of them come from historic neighborhoods such as Brush Park, Indian Village, and Boston Edison, where preserving the old character of homes is imperative.
"Is the restoration for preservation only, or is there an economic purpose as well?" a guest asks a BH team member.
"Both," comes the answer. Many of these historic windows, restored with scraps of discarded wood — from heritage lumber such as Douglas Fir, for example — can last over a hundred years. When secured with storm windows and properly weather-stripped (which can prevent up to 40% of air leakage), their lifetime efficiency far exceeds that of standard vinyl windows.
"Old windows are meant to be repaired. New ones are meant to fail," Swift explains to the crowd. She is passionate not only about the preservation process, but about encouraging Detroiters to realize the economic value of investing in their communities through restoration.
One young couple came to learn how they could restore their recently-purchased property, a 1920 home in the University District with "lots of windows." They were especially interested in Swift's future class offerings. "We're engineers. We figured it could be something we could do ourselves."
Not everyone, however, was interested in hands-on training. One woman, an owner of a 1947 bungalow, came as a result of frustrating experiences dealing with contractors. "You’d be surprised how many contractors, even artisans, came to me not knowing the basics about repairing old homes. I want to be more informed when I get repairs done in the future," she said.
Founded in 2012, Building Hugger has grown to a team of nine employees. Although most of their work is focused on construction window repairs, they are looking to expand their service offerings.
One way is through a low-cost renovation consulting services for homeowners, DIY Assist, which is designed to help people tackle their own rehab projects with a little help from an expert.
Brick + Beam Detroit was thrilled to help Building Hugger warm up the new space! Be sure to check out Building Hugger's website and Facebook page for more information on their upcoming events and classes. Or better yet, stop by their new space to see for yourself what Amy and her team can help you do for your home! You might even get a hug while you're at it.
A native of the South, Sarah Mostafa currently works in Detroit as a consultant for residential energy efficiency programs. She loves learning and writing about the great things restoration can do for people's homes and communities. Feel free to hit her up with comments or questions!
Ask a question in our Q&A forum. Experts are standing by.Ask now