Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tiny Texas Dream

So WAY back in October, I was in Texas for a friend's wedding and made my way over to Luling to interview Brad Kittel. I would love to post some excerpts from the hour-long interview I did with him, but the truth is, I haven't even listened to it. Chances are that I won't get around to it for a while yet. But since I've finally gotten around to editing a lot of these, here are some of the photos of the Tiny Texas Houses and the man himself.

The thing that sets Tiny Texas Houses apart from a lot of other small houses is their use of almost exclusively reclaimed materials. Brad Kittel has worked in architectural salvage for many years and has people calling him from all over the country with leads on buildings which are soon to be destroyed.

In 2006, Kittel began building little houses with these materials he'd spent years and years gathering together. I have friends and family who had visited his Discovery Architectural Antiques in Gonzales long before Tiny Texas Houses was born.

When I interviewed him, Kittel said that essentially he has a short attention span. He gets going on something and gives it his all until he is able to turn it over to other people. In a very short amount of time, he has been able to put together one of the biggest tiny house companies around.

The project that Kittel has his sights on now is a tiny-house village. He wants to give workshops where people come out to an area right by the warehouse and learn to build a tiny house from the ground up. The houses would stay on site and eventually be sold to residents to live in on site. Chapels, stores, a post office, etc. would follow. When enough people were living there (I believe the magic number was 40), then the residents could vote to be declared their own township. If this went through, then the town's residents could vote on which building codes they wanted to follow, thereby releasing tiny-house building in that area from the myriad restrictions that new homes have to follow almost anywhere else.

Kittel comes across in many ways as a mad Texas scientist. His Stetson hat, round wire-rimmed glasses, tan skin and gaunt figure combine to make a really interesting man that you wouldn't expect to be building houses.

He has grand plans about how the small house movement will play out, and he mostly hopes to be a catalyst who enables the momentum to grow. Ideally, he'd like to have warehouses in every state that gather salvage material so that nearby residents have the ability to find and drop off reclaimed materials for building. Kittel uses dirty words like "barter" when talking about the ideal scenario for enabling others to build by donating time and energy to gain materials and knowledge.

Many people would be surprised to learn that Kittel doesn't live in a big, or even small, house with the money he's made on these houses. He tries to reinvest as he goes back in the business. In fact, Kittel lives in a small apartment in the warehouse for Tiny Texas Houses.

If you're not paying close enough attention, Brad Kittel can definitely come off a bit like a snake-oil salesman, until you realize that the main thing he's getting out of it is the knowledge that he's opened someone else's eyes to what is tiny, and possible.


unm00red said...

Amanda, those are some fantastic photos! And I love that he dreams of creating a tiny township.

Rowdy said...

The photos you took are amazing! I really like the design of these tiny homes and that "reclaimed materials" are used in the building process.

Brad has some really cool ideas - I love the portion of your post that talks about his ideal tiny house town. :)

Great stuff!


shayna said...

what beautiful details! i especially love the shower....thanks for sharing!

Ann said...

as much as i like jay shafer's work and the original one who got me interested lester walker - i love brad's use of reclaimed materials. i have even contacted him to see what our house would cost. if i had the money today he'd be the one i'd go to, even moving to texas just to live out my dream. thanks for the nice article!

Mokihana and Pete said...

Finally had time and internet connection to read your blog. I love this Tiny Texan approach. The reclaimed material is wonderful though for us with chemical injury the process goes through a lot of treaking to make it less freakin' if you know chemical sensitivity.

Bartering to learn knowledge is right on and sure makes this gypsy pirate heart of mine. The photos are great and I get the feel for this long and lean Texan. From the Ledge it feels like kin to me.

Aloha, Mokihana

Meow Blah III said...

He'd fit right in here in rural mad-scientist Oregon!

Anonymous said...

Living in Houston, I've been thinking of building a home like this is my m-i-l's back garden (for visits). I'm very impressed with what I read here, and Luling is a part of TX I like to camp around, so would be interested to see more when the weather cools down in a couple of months and I am camping again. I'm really interested, but alas like most people these days on limited funds. Although a holiday home like this would definitely appeal to my wife and I, since we camp all over Texas and love the outdoors. If we could find a cheap place to plank a small home like this down, as a holiday home, with minimal bills, we'd do it. I want to be part of this.

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Heartof said...

I really like the design of these tiny homes and that "reclaimed materials" are used in the building process.

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