When Dan Phillips was a child, he saw his parents suffer through the Great Depression years and he quickly learned to value what he had. When he was 14 years old he built a bicycle completely out of scrap materials collected at a nearby dumpsite. And after that first bike, he never looked back.
To build these wonderful and enchanting homes — often made up of 75+% of recycled materials — Mr. Phillips and his builders use what is available to them locally. This ranges from scrap wood leftovers, mismatched bricks and tiles, bottle tops and corks, and even bones he’s collected from a nearby cattle yard. In fact, one of Huntsville’s houses, the Bone House, has a complete range of furniture made from cattle bones, like this customized quirky table and chairs that come with a spine.
One of the most playful homes in the area has to be The Story Book House. Inspired by children’s stories that Mr. Phillips used to read as a kid, this Normandy-style home has a unique striped rooftop. The wooden door is decorated with colored bottle ends, acting as stained glass and welcoming visitors with a classy recycled style.
When the Plant Environment needed an extra shelter, owner Clyde Lavelle commissioned Mr. Phillips to help him make a structure with recycled aluminum soft drink cans that were flattened and folded, making a recyclable and decorative façade.
The roof of the License Plate House is entirely made from discarded plates collected from the Texas tax office, which like mirrors, reflect the sun’s radiant energy back into space, helping cool the house throughout the hot, arid summers. Inside the house a floor covered with hundreds of different colored bottle tops make use of creative reuse exposing a cute illustration of an animal.
The first house built by Mr. Phillips is also probably the most gorgeous one. The Tree House is located thirty-five feet above the ground on top of a Bois d’arc tree and consists of a complete main house, a working art studio and a large patio area. The house also features a cork floor and is mainly built from scrap wood and tree branches. One of the most striking features of the Tree House, however, is the arty recycled frame ceiling salvaged from a shop that was getting rid of its old frame samples. In addition to amazing views to the lush treetops, the house features a shiny wall decoration made from broken mirrors that reflect the light coming in from the many circular windows of the house.
Even though Phoenix Commotion is not a nonprofit, the building business gives Mr. Phillips enough money to live from what he enjoys doing. The houses are taking less time to build than before and Phillips plans to replicate the idea of recycling materials to make unique sustainable affordable houses. But his biggest reward is to give the less fortunate a home of their own.
Photo © Phoenix Commotion