Elizabeth “Neko” Richardson is a licensed counselor in the State of Texas, a veteran, and holds a degree in Environmental Science. She currently lives in Hunstville, Texas, where she is building and designing her own home and studio using reclaimed and salvaged materials on a budget of $16,000 or less. She also works as a carpenter’s apprentice under the mentorship of Dan Phillips. Follow her building progress living experiment in design on her blog, Salvaged Homes.
My name is Elizabeth Richardson (I go by Neko), and I have been lucky enough to get an apprenticeship with Dan Phillips at the Phoenix Commotion in Huntsville, Texas. Dan Phillips is a innovator in small housing design made from reclaimed and salvaged materials. (See him and the ridiculously creative homes he has built of reclaimed materials here.)
The Tree House, by Dan Phillips
My goal is to build a small, artful home made from salvaged materials on a budget of $16,000. I have the property, have begun building, and will write weekly updates on my progress and pitfalls as a novice builder. Teaching others how to build this type of home—so that we can create new a new niche in the housing market of owner-builders, who use creativity, human scale design, sustainability and economic freedom as core values—is also part of my agenda. Showing how human creativity can alchemically transfer what we think of as "junk" into beauty, and featuring the "flaw" will be central to my work. Small buildings, made from reclaimed materials, with original design, full of human gesture and that are inexpensive and easy to build, will be my focus.
My intention for building and writing about this process is to show that other means of living and housing are available to us, and that anyone can build one of these homes if they have a sincere desire. Instead of just making a down payment on a home someone has built for us, we can build our own homes and own them outright. With reclaimed housing, everyone can have the dignity of their own space.
These houses will enable cultural creatives, artists, activists, farmers, craftspeople and dreamers of all types to create a new frontier in America. These salvaged homes will allow us to create new communities populated by people who are doing what they love to do, and can afford to do it with small homes that have no mortgage, using minimal amounts of the Earth’s resources.
We will no longer have to choose between following our dreams and economic stability. These homes will allow us to do both. We will remember that our value is not the square footage of our houses, but the quality of our lives, the quality of our relationships, and the quality of the land we leave to our children.
I’ll be writing again soon.