The next time you’re driving through Huntsville, Texas, don’t be surprised if you come across a few houses that look like they’re out of a country-western fairy tale. These humble abodes, which include a cowboy boot and a livable tree house, are the the brainchild of architect Dan Phillips. Phillips has made it his mission to build homes using recycled and salvaged materials. And he does it all in his own style.
Phillips is the co-owner of The Phoenix Commotion, a local building initiative dedicated to reducing construction waste and providing low-income housing. His use of secondhand materials is not only cost-effective, but also sparks serious creativity. Case in point: the infamous cowboy boot house. And there’s way more where that came from.
The Texans Who Lived in a Boot
If you’ve ever looked longingly at a brand new pair of Lucchese boots, just imagine a 35-foot-tall designer boot you can sleep in. Thanks to the Phoenix Commotion, it’s a reality. But the boot house is far from Phillips’ only quirky living quarters.
Phillips launched the Phoenix Commotion with his wife in 1997. Since then, the skilled builders have created over a dozen homes in Huntsville. There’s The Sign House, adorned with discarded highway signs. There’s The Cork House, a 935-square-foot house with floors fashioned from wine cork and a fence that incorporates old wine bottles. Then there’s the Bone House, a three-bedroom, three-bath artist compound that utilizes real animal bone throughout the property.
While the Phoenix Commotion houses turn heads for their outside-the-box construction, what’s most special is that the houses are affordable for those who need them most. In fact, making homes affordable for low-income folks is at the forefront of everything Phillips does. He uses apprentice labor, which keeps costs down while teaching useful skills to aspiring builders. The Phoenix Commotion also insists that future buyers be part of the building process, ensuring that the new owner will be able to tackle any necessary future repairs.
The houses also reflect the “waste not, want not” thriftiness of our current cultural climate. Even before hipsters were crafting their wardrobe from thrift store bins, Phillips was building recycled houses. Eighty percent of Phoenix Commotion’s housing materials are scraps that have been salvaged from dump sites or rescued from the side of the road.
The video below gives an inside look into how The Phoenix Commotion operates.
Phillips’ next project? Naturally, it’s a cowboy hat house going up right next door to the boot house. The house is currently in progress, but you can view photos of its evolution on The Phoenix Commotion’s Instagram.
In his 2013 TED talk, Phillips discussed how taking risks and trying new things leads to an overall better quality of life.
“What we need to do is reconnect with who we really are and that’s thrilling indeed,” Phillips said.
So what’s the next Texas fairy tale-worthy house that The Phoenix Commotion will dream up? A giant armadillo? A saddle and spurs? Whatever it is, we can’t wait to see what Phillips and his crew create next.
For more information on The Phoenix Commotion or to book Dan Phillips to speak at an event, visit here.