Woman's 'Wing House' takes flight in Malibu

MALIBU, CA Rehwald will be the only person on her block living inside a house built from the recycled parts of a Boeing 747 airliner.

After more than a year of delays, Rehwald's dream finally began to take off Thursday as a large helicopter passed overhead with half of one of her future house's wings dangling from a wire beneath its belly.

"Woo-hoo! It's coming," an exultant Rehwald shouted as she jumped up and down and raised her hands over her head, to the applause of about three dozen family members and friends.

"A dream come true. A dream come true. Really!" said Rehwald, grinning from ear to ear. A baseball cap with the embroidered words "Wing House" held her tousled blond hair in place as she stood atop a section of her 55 acres of brush-covered hills and narrow canyons.

It turns out you have to dream big if you want to live in a house built out of a recycled jumbo jet that once ferried more than 500 people.

"There's been a big buildup to this moment that's involved getting approval from 17 government agencies and closing five freeways just to transport the pieces," architect David Hertz said.

Although Hertz and his firm, Studio of Environmental Architecture, are well known in the industry for building "green" houses out of recycled and natural materials, this is the first house he ever put together from a gigantic junked aircraft whose wings alone measure about 5,500 square feet.

"I finally found a client crazy enough and willing enough to do it," he joked last year, not long after the old 747 he and Rehwald found in an airplane junkyard in the Mojave Desert had been cut up and trucked more than 100 miles to Camarillo, near Malibu. The pieces sat at the Camarillo Airport while grading and the laying of the foundation for Rehwald's future home was completed.

The rest of the plane's parts will be trucked up to Rehwald's property. A helicopter, costing $10,000 per hour, was the only way to get the 125-foot-long wing segments through the twisting turns of the canyons above Malibu.

The airplane, about $200 million new, was a bargain from the junkyard at $40,000.

The completed structure will include a 4,000-square-foot home and several other buildings, including guest houses, a caretaker's residence and a barn.

There will be an art studio made from a piece of fuselage, and part of the tail will become a viewing platform where visitors can gaze languidly across the hills toward the Pacific Ocean. The nose cone will be a meditation pavilion, and one of the guest houses is the first-class lounge.

The wings will provide the roof.

The goal is to use every piece of the plane, which is in keeping with Rehwald's sensibilities, both as an environmentalist and an admirer of art.

"I love to recycle, I love green houses and contemporary architecture, and I especially love nature and the natural environment," said Rehwald, whose family owns Mercedes-Benz dealerships in California and who laughs when asked her age.

Her family and friends say they weren't all that surprised when she told them what she had planned.

"I thought it was a little crazy but in line with my mom. She's quite a character," Rehwald's daughter, Minka Marcom-Rehwald said, laughing.

"My mom's definitely a hippie at heart. So living in the mountains of Malibu, in an all-sustainable house, that's perfect."

Rehwald's home site has a history of eccentric structures. The area was previously owned by Tony Duquette, a designer of sets and costumes for films who filled what was once known locally as the Duquette Ranch with eccentric structures he built himself out of scrap materials from his movie sets.

Most of the structures were destroyed by a brush fire in the mid-1990s, but several spires and pagodas, constructed out of things like old oil barrels and sheet metal, survive.

Rehwald is keeping them and the large, decorative front gates that Duquette, who died in 1999, put in place.

But if she ever moves, she has already decided what her next house will be made out of.

"I'd like to use a ship," she said.

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