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.
Can I really build my own home?
The short answer is yes. You can build your own home, studio, live-work space, guest house, retreat, greenhouse, shop, storage shed, granny flats, or a place for any family member you want to keep close but allow to have the dignity of their own space.
Yes, you can build it. Yes, it will be beautiful. Yes, you will make mistakes and you might even feature those as beautiful, too.
Human beings have always built their own shelters and are fully capable of designing beautiful spaces. There is a deep desire in all of us to create and build our own shelter with our own two hands. The desire is innate and so strong that most of us have felt it at some point, if not constantly.
After people are assured that they can build their own buildings the next question they have is how much it will cost. I am using reclaimed and salvaged materials, so the answer is "not much" if you are willing to do the leg work, and "more" if you are not.
The budget for my home and studio is $16,000, so I am doing quite a bit of legwork—but I find this to be half the fun. I enjoy seeking out the next item that washes up on the shore to see how it will change my design or give me a new idea and a burst of inspiration. I enjoy taking things apart and finding uses for things that many people think of as junk. So much of scrounging depends on your attitude about it. My attitude about scrounging is bolstered when I remember that when my home is built I will never make another payment for shelter. I will never have to write another check to a bank for basic shelter. And that is so inspiring to me, it's well and worth a little leg work.
What is also inspiring is what happens when you begin to give yourself over to the process of building your own home with your own hands. You begin to care about every detail, and every choice has meaning. You yourself are creating the space where you will live, and you begin to watch what washes up on the metaphorical shoreline of reclaimed materials. What will pop into my life today? Stones? Brick? Metal? Wood? A deconstruction project?
You begin to see the materials as a painter’s pallet and your home design as your canvas. You get to choose what your home looks and feels like. Would you like a quiet corner with the light just right for a big chair to read? Or perhaps just a nook to play chess? You get to decide what it is that you value most in life, and construct your home with those values in mind.
You will touch and transform with human creativity every piece that your home is made of. You get to decide what every decision will be, not just the color, not just the roof type. The value in creating a home made of reclaimed materials certainly transforms the materials but what we don’t expect is that is also transforms us.
Your home will be where you spend most of your time on this Earth, and it will give back to you what you have given to it. These homes will allow you to not only live in beauty but also in freedom - both of which you created with your own hands.