Bruce Lindert's Recycled Home

A Plymouth resident’s journey to constructing his own ‘man cave’ with a green mindset and some pieces of historic charm.
Plymouth's Bruce Lindert used 50 percent recycled materials in his "man cave" home addition.

From Dumpster diving (with permission!) to Craigslist perusing to warehouse pining, Bruce Lindert has gone to great depths in an effort to make his self-proclaimed “man cave” an abode filled with character. At half the cost to what a housing addition might normally tally, Lindert has turned this 450-square-foot space into a spot destined for creativity.

Lindert, a native of Minneapolis and current Plymouth resident, has spent the past 34 years in the art and framing business (29 years as the owner of his business Gallery Service) and previously was an art teacher. With his great respect for art, he started this project in August 2009, with a goal of crafting a place where he could focus on his most-cherished art form: writing. “It’s sort of like a guy going to the garage or whatever his hideaway is. I have wanted a studio for years and a place to do my writing,” he says.

Walking into this addition feels more like walking into a chalet in Switzerland than a Plymouth home addition. A gas stove spans one wall, while the ceiling bears beautiful barn beams made of recycled 100-year-old pine. Copper crops windows, and more accents of copper bowls are strewn seemingly randomly about the room. An ornate bar occupies one corner, a relic of Lindert’s framing business as the custom bookshelf used to sit in the entryway. The floor is slate, and more touches of slate adorn the walls.


Artistic Inspiration

The spark that ignited such creative design and use of materials came from a ski trip to Montana with his youngest daughter Brooke back in January 2009.

“We went up in the mountains, and I was really inspired by the architecture of the place we stayed. It inspired the style,” he says.

Taking a nod from television shows, Lindert found himself influenced greatly by House, a true story by Tracy Kidder detailing the triumphs and pitfalls of home construction. Lindert brings a background in construction to the table, the result of building a home and remodeling two others.

Another strong influence? Lindert’s father. “My dad was a do-it-yourselfer, and I think of my dad all the time when I’m working on this place,” he says.


Let’s Talk Green

Rather than packing up his truck with brand-new lumber from Menards or faux marble from Home Depot, Lindert was determined to make a space with the smallest carbon footprint possible. “I love to watch This Old House, and everything that you see on shows in the past few years talks about using recycled or green materials,” he says. “It’s really the influence from the times.”

Lindert chose to center his design and materials around three elements: wood, metal and stone. “It’s about using materials with integrity, feeling the spiritual connection making something that you know will last,” he says with some pride.

The rafters from this “man cave room” are reclaimed timbers from a 100-year-old barn, found by a warehouse called Bigwood. The 75-year-old pine beams that provided the framework for the mantle above the fireplace were also their discovery. The floor underlay is made of 100 percent recycled Oriented Strand Board (OSB), a plywood-like material made out of chips and discarded wood—even the plywood is green. An antique-looking fan hangs from the ceiling, one which Lindert admits is a former floor model he once saw while shopping. He opted for a gas stove rather than a wood-burning one (that would have consumed more energy and caused more pollutants than a gas stove); it doubles for an extra heating source for the Lindert family. Following a tip from a friend, Lindert dug out the slate he used for the floor and walls from a trash Dumpster; it cost just 50 cents a square foot. The walls and ceiling also are lined with recycled insulation. “Craigslist!” Lindert exclaims, adding that’s where he’s gotten most of his stealth values for the room. The only materials not recycled are the new windows and sheet rock on the walls.

“Not only is reusing good for the environment, but by recycling you naturally save money,” Lindert says. “I do work for a living and can’t write a check for just anything; why not be smart about it?”


Bumps (and Bruises) in the Road

With so much passion and will to work, Lindert was seemingly destined for success. One shattered finger, one broken leg, two sore knees and an aching back later, Lindert was still at it in fall 2010. He put up a roof the weekend after he shattered his finger, which slowed his healing even more. Still Lindert battled on and constructed the bar with solely his left hand. He took a fall after slipping on scaffolding, leaving him with the broken leg.  The project was originally slated to take one year starting with a lumber delivery in August 2009. Though his injuries set him back, Lindert has kept a positive outlook throughout, his proudest accomplishment being fact that he did most of the work himself.

“Even when I hurt myself I took a certain amount of pride in doing a good job and being a craftsman,” he says. “And when I hurt my finger it sort of felt like maybe my craftsmanship took a notch down, for making such a rookie mistake. I told this to a city inspector, who then showed me his scar. I realized you don’t become a carpenter until you cut yourself,” Lindert says, laughing.

Though Lindert has set substantial goals for himself, he’s realized it’s not always about how fast you complete a job. “If you’re goal-oriented, you lose the pleasure of the building and the experience,” he says. “When I think of my days out here, a huge part was just enjoying it.”

The finished product is now a place for Lindert to host Christmas dinner, to cut out the cold and to churn creative thinking. Without the cookie-cutter essence of many structures built today that conjure the feeling of being “glazed over, painted and homogenous,” Lindert’s own description of much manufactured design, this room is in a league of its own. “I wanted to make it feel more like it was made by hand rather than manufactured by a machine,” he says.



How’d He Do That?

Thinking about starting a green project yourself? Here are some places Bruce Lindert started:

  • Recycled lumber (rafters, cross-ties, beams and dimensional lumber): Big Wood Timber Frames from Saint Paul/Brainerd
  • Insulation: Craigslist
  • Slate floor: Rubber Tile (tent sale for .50 cents per tile)
  • New materials: Home Depot (shingles, cement footings, siding and trim, sheetrock, partial cabinets, flooring lumber, partial dimensional lumber and stove)

“Although the recycled parts of the project represent only 16 percent of the cost, they are almost 50 percent of the materials,” Lindert says. “That is a long way from the 90 percent that I had hoped for when I started, but I am okay with the compromises that I needed to make along the way and very pleased with the results.”

Lindert’s “new but green" materials included all the OSB sheathing and floor boards, energy efficient windows and doors, and a special "green carpet."