Saturday, September 26, 2009

One Man’s Trash ...

Dan Phillips and his construction company Phoenix Commotion were featured in the New York Times a few weeks ago. The article, written by Kate Murphy, included beautiful images of Dan's work, photographed by Michael Stravato. For more videos and photographs, see my previous post, Recycled Houses, and the Houston House & Home article, From Garbage to Glorious.

About 12 years ago, Dan Phillips started Phoenix Commotion, a construction business in his hometown, Huntsville, Texas, where he builds low-income housing out of salvaged items.

So far, he has built 14 homes on lots either purchased or received as a donation. A self-taught carpenter, electrician and plumber, Mr. Phillips said 80 percent of the materials are salvaged from other construction projects, hauled out of trash heaps or just picked up from the side of the road.

Salvaged wine corks, which are easy to come by, provide an inexpensive form of cork flooring. "We have some heavy drinkers in town," Mr. Phillips said.

The bases of wine bottles function like stained glass on the top of a Dutch door.

Mr. Phillips created a counter out of slices of osage orange wood, a ubiquitous material in East Texas that many builders find difficult to use.

The osage orange wood is used as railing.

Mr. Phillips's houses use scrap wood for siding. City officials worked closely with him to set up a recycled building materials warehouse where builders, demolition crews and building product manufacturers can drop off items rather than throwing them in a landfill.

Thousands of picture frame corners were used to create the ceiling at left. Mr. Phillips said, "A frame shop was getting rid of old samples and I was there waiting."

A wood-burning stove from an old ship found a new home in Mr. Phillips's "tree house."

Kristie Stevens rents one of Mr. Phillips's houses. She is working with him on building a house of her own nearby, since Mr. Phillips requires the eventual owner of a house to help with its construction.

"If the walls are wonky, it will be my fault but also my pride," she said.

A chair's back is fashioned out of cattle bones.

Cattle bones are also used to form address numbers.

Mr. Phillips oversees employees building a house. "I think mobile homes are a blight on the planet," he said. "Attractive, affordable housing is possible and I'm out to prove it."

One worker, Tom McKinney, applies mirror shards to a wall.

Broken tiles are brought together to make up a bathroom floor.

Mr. Phillips used old shingles, arranged by color, to build the roof of what he calls "the storybook house."

"You can't defy the laws of physics or building codes," Mr. Phillips said, "but beyond that, the possibilities are endless."

Other materials used in Mr. Phillips's houses include bull vertebra for decoration.

For the windows on the house, Mr. Phillips used crystal platters and lids of Pyrex bowls, creating a series of playful porthole-like accents.

. . .


  1. ***** F*A*S*C*I*N*A*T*I*N*G!!! HUUUUGE KUDOS to the man!!!!

    Linda in AZ *

  2. what an inspiration mr. phillips is.........if only there were more of him.

    thank you for sharing!

    ps; love your blog, adding you to my list of favorites on mine

  3. This is so cool. I love the tile floor in the bathroom and the pyrex portholes to let in extra light. I love a house with character and reusing is amazing. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Wow what an imagination Mr Phillips has!! Thanks for sharing this!

  5. wow--really cool stuff. I have heard of people doing similar things...but I like how organized this is!

  6. Love the pyrex bowls...I might have to add them to a playhouse we plan on building.

  7. Wicked cool. I want to do this.

  8. How wonderful is Mr. Phillps? I love your blog and cant wait to check it all out. As an owner of an old home I love the care and thought put into old home renovations. I feel like we have a responsibility to enhance the homes, not destroy them.

  9. That really is the true way to be green, reusing materials! What unique houses, they are probably a blast to live in.

  10. I absolutely LOVE this!! I am so into finding creative ways to reuse items, and this was just inspiring!

  11. I LOVE the "wonky" walls and homemade-ness of it!

  12. Mr. Phillips will probably annoy some of the big gun contractors who threw away stuff because they just didn't have the eye for it.
    His living is certainly not in vain.


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