Dan Phillips believes in building homes with recycled and local materials, but he goes far beyond scrap wood. He’s used bottle tops and corks for floors, broken mirrors and dvds for wall-covering and license plates and gas station signs for roofing. His homes often reach 80% recycled elements, but arguably his most unique material is cattle bones.
In one of his homes in Eastern Texas, he- and his team from The Phoenix Commotion– have used bones for countertops, floor tiles, door handles and even patio furniture. The Bone House is a one-of-a-kind place, but Phillips doesn’t see it as odd to use animal parts in building. “Back when I was restoring art and antiques, finding ivory was very difficult because it’s illegal and the only difference between bone and ivory is that bone is free and not illegal.”
Given his location in Huntsville, Texas (70 miles north of Houston), cattle bones are also a very local resource. “Every rancher in Texas has a bone yard. I’ll say, ‘Can I raid your bone yard’ and they’ll say, ‘Help yourself’”.
Phillips began his company 15 years ago with the goal of building low-income housing out of trash. He and his team of apprentices have now built 14 homes- including a “Budweiser house” and a treehouse. Phillips tries to provide affordable housing for low-income folks, single mothers and artists (for more, see the soon-to-be-released book Resurrecting Trash: Dan Phillips and the Phoenix Commotion).
One of his apprentices, Elizabeth “Neko” Richardson- who is a first-time builder currently constructing her own home – filmed for us this tour of the Bone House and interview with Dan Phillips.