By M.S. Birt
I live half a block away from St.Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville. With its rustic red door, textured white stone and crenellations that give the structure the appearance of a medieval castle, I would designate it as one of my favorite structures in all of the city and its surrounding areas. It has a small courtyard that has begun to stand out to me as a great place to take a book and read when the weather is nice. A handful of years ago when a new church was erected just outside the city, I was given one of countless opportunities to stop and consider how we will be judged by our posterity. Constructed with corrugated metal and lacking any sort of aesthetic charm, it looks like the kind of place that won’t be standing in 100 years; it is as much an eyesore as the Episcopal Church is a city treasure. I understand the economic realities that drive the decision to build a corrugated metal church, but such an understanding doesn’t mitigate the fact that modern American society erects a lot of unsightly buildings.
I think about this quite often and I always come to the same conclusion: 100 years from now, the best hope we can have for a lot of our modern structures is that the materials used to build them can be salvaged, repurposed and combined with various other materials to build something better and more aesthetically pleasing.
Take that concept and apply it to the decaying structures still standing that were built by those who came 200 years before us, and you’ll understand the idea behind Brad Kittel’s Tiny Texas Houses.
Kittel has applied his knowledge of building and design, and his keen nose for salvage to create an operation whose purpose is to awaken “the responsibilities we have to live with, not destroy the planet that we share.” His vision for awakening that sense in people is to practice a philosophy he calls “99% Pure Salvage.” Instead of tearing down old “eyesores” and throwing their materials in the landfill, Kittel is harvesting them and using them to build new homes for people to live in. Instead of heading to Lowe’s to purchase “Chinese imports, speed grown wood, vinyl, plastics, glues, sheetrock, carpeting or other ‘modern, big box store’ material,” Kittel proposes treating old structures as salvage projects and using “everything from the doors, floors, windows, lumber, porch posts, glass, door hardware, and even the siding…to create houses that we hope will last for a century or more.”
Tiny Texas Houses will build a custom salvaged home for anywhere from $35,000 to upwards of $90,000. Once built, the house can be shipped nearly anywhere in the country. People who feel that price tag is too steep could choose to attend a workshop in Luling, Texas for a very affordable price and even stay for free at Kittel’s Pure Life Living Retreat down the road in Gonzalez. An experienced builder or a person who absorbed enough knowledge about salvage and repurposing from Kittel or others working in this field could certainly build a similar small home on a much lower budget.
Perhaps most people couldn’t imagine living in the small environs typical of most of Tiny Texas Houses’ structures. For me, however, perching one of these bad-boys on an isolated patch of land and giving minimalistic living a try seems like perhaps the closest thing I could get to heaven. Living amidst objects that those who came before me found beautiful —and those in the distant future may also find beautiful— is simply a bonus.