Design for Life: Tiny Texas Houses

(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.

TTH Interior Kitchen Bath Loft

Ladder to the sleeping loft above the kitchenette and full bath (there’s no door yet for the bathroom).

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).

TTH Construction Area

Custom tiny houses under construction at Tiny Texas Houses.

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.

TTH Etched Glass Door

Etched glass door featuring a portrait of a woman by a stream, chosen by clients. The cost of vintage details very much drives the price of a finished home.

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.

Box of vintage doorknobs

Tiny Texas Houses has a huge selection of vintage hardware. Some of these rare and highly collectable doorknobs are worth $250 and up.

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.

Loft Railings

Looking from one loft to the opposite sleeping loft with an old paneled door divider for visual privacy.

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.

Front porch of red painted tiny house

Front entrance to the first prototype at Tiny Texas Houses. Sign on door reads “Welcome to my Porch.”

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.

Clawfoot tub

Bathrooms in Tiny Texas Houses can range from tiny RV-style lavatories to this full bath with a tiny porcelain sink just out of sight in the right-hand the corner.

Screened in sleeping porch

One of my favorite houses under construction featured a full-length sleeping porch (or “cat porch” as it would be called if it were mine).

Etched back door

Etched glass on door to screened porch, with kitchen counter top extension to the right.

Large old-style kitchen sink

Depending on client specifications and chosen fixtures, kitchens can be practically non-existent, or nearly full-sized like this one. (This was taken just to the right of the last photo. Kitchen window looks out into the screened porch).

Colored window in loft

Looking across from sleeping loft (above kitchen in last photo) to opposite loft (above living area).

TTH Under construction

Side view of a half-sized Homesteader, which will feature a walkable balcony (left side) accessible by the upstairs loft window, and a screened porch underneath it. The balcony will contain boxes for kitchen garden, out of reach of deer and rabbits.

House with sleeping porch under construction

Outside view of the above house that has the two lofts, etched glass doors and sleeping porch. Note the upstairs window that vents warm air away.

TTH Tiny Chapel Exterior

Exterior of the tiny chapel for sale.

TTH Chapel pulpit

Pulpit of tiny chapel. Note wainscoting made of reclaimed paneled doors.

TTH Tiny Chapel Entrance

Entrance to tiny chapel interior.

TTH Tiny Bathroom

Shower stall/tub fashioned from an old water barrel. Copper plumbing pipes make up the shower curtain rod.

TTH Little Red House

Side elevation of one of the prototype Tiny Texas Houses.

TTH Deluxe Homesteader

The Deluxe Homesteader is designed for full time living in a small space. One family having this made for them has kids over 6′ tall!

Stairs to loft

Stairs to the loft of the Deluxe Homesteader double as shelves.

TTH Cozy Living Space

Tiny Texas Houses plans to open a store to provide the antique furnishings that go beautifully with the older materials.

TTH Cozy Space II

Another cozy living space with a little piece of the sleeping loft visible above.

All images © 2012 by Beverly Garland  /  Avatar® is a registered trademark of Star’s Edge International. All rights reserved.


One thought on “Design for Life: Tiny Texas Houses

  1. This makes me want to tear my house down and turn it into a couple of these little gems. What terrific creativity and ingenuity!

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