INHABITAT: What organizations are out there leading the charge in building affordable and sustainable homes?
Jessica Kellner: The Building Materials Reuse Association is a fabulous group that is encouraging the smart deconstruction (as opposed to demolition) of homes and hoping to institute a program of collecting and cataloguing valuable building materials for reuse. The more organized groups in my book, The Phoenix Commotion and Builders of Hope, have both created replicable models that help provide affordable housing to many people. Of course Habitat for Humanity ReStores collect and sell salvaged building materials, and the organization builds low-income housing, as well. There are also lots of architects and builders having fun exploring the notion of how to house our world’s ever-growing population in small, affordable, well-designed units. We feature a lot of them in Natural Home & Garden in our “tiny house” series. Michael Katz’s L41 house is one that comes to mind.
INHABITAT: What was one of your favorite projects you featured in your book and why?
Jessica Kellner: This sounds like a cop-out answer, but there are only six projects featured in my book, and they are all absolutely fascinating and inspiring in different ways. The Baker family in Alabama inspired me with the way their entire family—two parents and three teenage sons—came together and put their hearts and souls into this home. All the sons talk about the project so fondly despite the fact that they weren’t necessarily thrilled to spend all their weekends as 16-year-olds working on a building project in the woods. They say it brought them closer as a family and made all three of them into confident young men. The Powers’ house in Idaho is amazing because they included all these super clever space-saving techniques such as a sunken Japanese soaking tub under the shower floor and a formal dining table under removable planks in the living room floor, and they had a team of friends and family camp out for various lengths of time in a village of tents, trailers and tipis over the summer they built the place. The Colorado home I featured was built by a couple and more than 100 volunteers, and the homeowners incorporated their own personal artistry into it to make it a truly unique, artistic vision rather than just a house. And the organizations in the book are fantastic, too. The Phoenix Commotion’s houses look more like something out of a fairy tale than a subdivision; Builders of Hope brings safety and community to families who thought they couldn’t ever have it; and HabeRae has transformed whole areas of their city of Reno, Nevada, simply by updating one dilapidated structure in a rundown part of town. They’re all just so amazing, and the people behind them are some of the funniest, smartest and most independent-minded people you could hope to talk to. Interviewing all of them was a joy.
Thanks for you time and the great book Jessica. We’re huge fans of Natural Home & Garden Magazine and always look forward to the beautiful homes you feature.
Images Courtesy of Jessica Kellner