Whatever happened to: 'Extreme Makeover' family
Northwestern Wisconsin winter nights have put the new Huber family home to work.
The "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" house built on Swamp Road in South Range this summer was built to strict energy-efficiency and environmental standards.
"Now that it's actually cold out ... we can really see what this house can do," said Howie Huber, a Superior firefighter. "It's so cozy and warm and so different from our old place. It's awesome in the wintertime."
The Huber family -- including mom, Jessie, a nursing student; Henry, 6; and Rosie, 4 -- has finally settled in. Since the show aired in late September, drive-by viewings and requests for tours have slowed, and the Hubers' belongings have been mixed in and organized with the designer décor.
"At first when we moved in, it just kind of felt like we were museum-keepers," Jessie Huber said. "People were going to come over and see the house, and we had to keep it tidy."
The family also has spent a lot of time volunteering the past few months, including bell-ringing, working for food, clothing and toy drives, and serving Thanksgiving dinner at a church in Two Harbors. The show's donated toys went to Toys for Tots instead of to Henry and Rosie -- a decision they helped make. But volunteering burnout led the family to slow down a bit and find a balance.
"At first we went overboard," Howie Huber said. "But we got some really good advice; it's not a sprint."
The Hubers haven't had much time to change anything in the house -- not that they want to, they said -- because they were busy harvesting their gardens, canning and getting the chickens ready for winter. Builders Commonwealth of Duluth, which was in charge of the build, has fixed odds and ends. Most recently, it replaced the 150 can lights needed for filming with lights that are more efficient. The wind turbine is finicky, working in warmer weather but seizing up in the bitter cold. That's because it was erected so quickly in the rain, allowing moisture to seep through, Jessie Huber said. That's to be fixed soon.
"We really like it the way it is. ... It feels like a home," Jessie Huber said. "The kids are taking care of their rooms; now they have so much freedom and space. At the old house, they had one bedroom and were crammed in like sardines. Henry has a play date tomorrow. That was something that was missing from his life before."
The Hubers hosted Christmas for 50 people for the first time on Swamp Road: a big deal for the family, which didn't have many visitors over to the old house because of safety concerns. There was room for everybody, Jessie Huber said, and the family roasted marshmallows around the backyard firepit as snow fell.
"It was the best Christmas I've had in my adult life," Howie Huber said. "We had something to celebrate."
Huber, a Bloomington, Minn., native, said the build and all involved have given him a sense of belonging to the area.
"It's like everyone we look at -- think of your Joe Everyman on the street -- as being someone who helped. That totally changes the way I think about everything."
The family had a mix of pleasant and unpleasant experiences with visitors shortly after the build, but the craziness has mostly subsided.
"I think our 15 minutes are pretty much over," Howie Huber said. "It's just like before, except without any of the worries."