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Tiny Texas Houses’ "Willy Wonka" on doing magic reusing wood

Brad “Darby” Kittel came to Texas living on a converted school bus. He had planned to write the Great American Novel, but he ended up buying up boarded-up homes and fixing them up using materials he salvaged from other old houses, barns and buildings.

From salvage mining to salvaged construction

After a couple decades refining his salvage mining techniques (and starting the architectural salvage store Discovery Architectural Antiques), he began using his collection to build “new” tiny portable homes from salvage.

The prefab homes, measuring 64 square feet and up, are built from 99% salvaged materials. The other 1% is for things like electrical parts, plumbing, nails, screws, and some insulation materials.

A “truly organic home”

Since he builds with natural materials (mostly wood) or materials that have already off-gassed, he calls his homes “organic” (he makes clear he doesn’t use plastics, formaldehyde, sheetrock, VOC paints, latex paint, carpet or toxic glues and minimal vinyl or PVC).

Kittel has gone beyond simply building recycled homes for his Tiny Texas Houses prefab company. He leads salvage mining expeditions showing people how to dismantle dilapidated houses and barns (he offers a dvd explaining how to obtain salvage rights and to deconstruct, load and transport materials). He also offers salvage building seminars to show people how to build several small homes from one they’ve salvaged.

Pure Salvage village

Kittel has started a tiny home community on his land in Luling, Texas to embracing what he calls Pure Salvage Living. Right now he offers the homes as rentals so people can experience a “truly organic house” (To avoid taxes, the guests are technically participating in a survey). Some of the homes are being lived in longer term by employees and interns and the compound has a community kitchen and bath house.

Kittel describes his own home, “Temple Tantra”, as a very large “gypsy caravan”. It’s off-grid and the test site for the experiments in self-sufficiency he hopes to adopt by his village(s). There’s a buried shipping container under his backyard where he’s planning to grow vegetables year-round.

Underground fish farming and cave living

He’s also dug “four million years” beneath his home in search of fresh water and living space. He’s supported this huge underground world with salvaged railroad ties. At the bottom of main cave lies a pool of water where Kittel hopes to practice fish farming and access drinking water if necessary.

There are also caves down here that could be used as living spaces. Kittel has already occupied one (directly beneath his home) using an old RV (it was craned in before his home was built). He can access it through a trap door beneath his home and currently he uses it for solitude, but he sees its potential for underground living.

Lean urbanism

Kittel also hopes his village, or villages, will become completely independent from zoning and regulations by voting to become independent towns (something he says it fairly simple in Texas).