(All images © 2012 by Beverly Garland)
The photo of a beautiful rustic cabin traveling across my news feed on Facebook caught my eye and my imagination last Saturday morning. I was extra pleased when I saw “Tiny Texas Houses” in the caption. I first learned of this homegrown company in Luling, TX probably six or seven years ago from an article in a magazine for members of the Pedernales Electric Coop, and was completely enchanted with the structures, some of which were installed as artists’ studios. Since that time, I’ve seen the whole tiny house lifestyle movement explode in popularity, or at least explode into the purview of myself and many people in my social sphere. There are numerous sites now, like Tinyhouseblog, Tumbleweed, and Tiny House Listings, promoting this lifestyle to folks fantasizing about sustainability and simplicity. Having fantasized about living in a tree house since a dozen years ago, my own fascination with the movement has intensified over the last two years as I’ve faced the prospect of having to leave my 1920s country cottage with the underwater mortgage.
The photo that morning, which you can see here at Tinyhouseblog, inspired me to finally make the hour trip out Luling to see the Tiny Texas House tour, which is offered several times every Saturday for $10 a person, and can be scheduled online in advance. I hoped it would be the inspiration I needed; to feel there was something out there that I could love as much as the home I would say goodbye to soon. I made a reservation for that afternoon.
After arriving a bit late due to being pulled over by a couple of Luling police officers for a brake light being out, I joined up with a young married couple who drove four hours from Ft. Worth, our tour guide Dale, and the owner of Texas Tiny Houses, Brad Kittel. After proper introductions to a cantankerous black pug, a Border collie, a tiny dachshund and a schnauzer who inhabited the grounds, Dale led us around to what could be called the “showroom” houses. We then toured multiple structures in various stages of construction, including a soon-to-be pontoon fishing cabin with salt-to-freshwater converter (the customer’s addition).
Main impressions: 1) These houses have soul in every detail, and they’re beautiful. 2) Construction is super-tight. 3) And very importantly (for Texas in summer), they felt comfortable inside with only the natural ventilation.
These houses are made 99% from materials salvaged from older homes, barns and commercial buildings. Many of these older structures would otherwise sit decaying, to no benefit. Materials from one old house can go into multiple new structures with super-sturdy construction, high insulation values, and low energy consumption. These new houses are also portable, so can skirt many tax laws, get passed around to other generations (these things will last 150 years or more) and stay with you no matter where you move.
This is the best of both worlds—beautifully patina’d hardware, old-growth lumber, and stained glass assembled in brand new construction that’s energy efficient, and won’t off-gas harmful stuff into the tiny concentrated space.
Brad started collecting antique door hardware in his twenties, and since he’s gotten into the tiny homes business, has accumulated acres of warehoused windows, doors, lumber and other reclaimed building supplies. He’s even collected a few items that were never used, and still have remnants of 100-year-old paper wrapping from the manufacturer.
Most home purchasers pick out windows and doors first, and Brad has collected lots of distinctive vintage designs. Then they set Tiny Texas Houses loose to construct the rest of the home around those features. Although there are standard floor plans, each home is influenced by the unique features and needs of the customer as well as by the character of the specific materials, which sometime retain patches of the original paint after sanding. You can expect to see Victorian tin roof shingles lining a shower stall, or five-paneled doors used for wainscoting or a loft railing.
In addition to creating these works of art, Brad Kittel has a great idea going here. Tiny Texas Houses may have the highest sustainability quotient any company in the tiny house movement could have. Almost no new resources are consumed, no new materials will ever off-gas formaldehyde into your tiny tightly-insulated space, and the reclamation process provides jobs. Although many of his customers are well-to-do and purchase their structures for recreation, his deep desire is to get these homes into the hands of homesteaders and others who want a full time low-impact living situation, especially in cooperative communities. In addition, he wants to teach as many people as possible how to replicate what he’s doing and to promote the development of a new job/business market in salvage and construction, and to link that to the economies of intentional communities made of tiny houses. He’s quite passionate about spreading the word about a socio-ecological revival he calls Pure Salvage Living, which you can learn more about in the video below.
Because of my work with the Avatar® Course, which directly relates to increasing personal responsibility, recovering our natural altruistic behaviors, and recognizing that we need to work cooperatively if our children are going to have an inhabitable planet to inherit, Brad and I enjoyed exchanging ideas for awhile after the other guests had to leave. The Tiny Texas House tour is advertised as an hour to an hour-and-half, but Brad was willing to talk much longer about his vision and answer questions.
I am grateful to Brad and Tiny Texas Houses for the inspiration that day– not just for ideas about what kind of home design or lifestyle someone could have, but for further inspiration about what kind of world we could all live in.
See more pics below the video.
All images © 2012 by Beverly Garland / Avatar® is a registered trademark of Star’s Edge International. All rights reserved.