Reclaimed Artistry: The Homes of Dan Phillips

Artistry is not usually a word you think of when it comes to sustainability. Maybe the Toyota Prius, solar panels, or granola. But for Dan Phillips of Huntsville, Texas, artistry is the keystone that brings together his one-of-a-kind homes. This past weekend, I headed out to tour a few of Dan's creations which feature a myriad of materials and methods that came together in ways you would never expect.

"I'd always wanted to be a builder," Dan said, "and I had a hunch that an entire house could be built from discarded materials."

So in 1999, after an eclectic career in military intelligence, dancing, and antique restoration, Dan set out to pursue that very dream. Except he didn't aspire to be just an ordinary builder. With each project Dan took on the challenge of sourcing his materials from the waste streams of our industrial society. Wine corks became flowing floors, shattered mirrors became skylights, and warped boards became serpentine siding.

Skylight from broken mirrors: bad luck or just good lighting?

Create your own flowing design with a comfortable and quiet wine cork floor.

Create your own flowing design with a comfortable and quiet wine cork floor.

Repurposed wine bottles and rebar create an artistic boundary to this outdoor space.

On this house Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion used warped boards to create a serpentine siding pattern.

Dan says, "If you have two or more of anything, you can create a pattern."

Broken tile or creative opportunity?

The

The "Tree House," a one-of-a-kind creation made from discarded materials.

Repurposed picture frame samples turn this art studio ceiling into a myriad of colors (Treehouse and studio by Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion).

Repurposed picture frame samples turn this art studio ceiling into a myriad of colors.

The Storybook House by Dan Phillips makes use of leftover shingles by mixing small batches of several colors.

The Storybook House makes use of leftover shingles by mixing small batches of several colors.

At first glance, you might think Dan's methods would be frowned upon by the established building industry. After all, his houses don't follow the stark straight lines that we've all come to expect in our homes. But Dan is no rogue builder (well, maybe that depends on who you ask). I was surprised to hear of his adept navigation of the mortgage industry, building codes, and the occasional engineer. Dan has his limits though.

"Don't mess with the Home Owners Associations unless you're ready for a nasty, nasty battle," he sagely warned.

With a disdain for HOA's and long commutes, Dan plies his trade (along with a waiting-list-manned crew) in inner city neighborhoods ripe for revitalization. At this point, Dan's work has become so in-demand that he is invited to work in places as far away as Australia and India. Even the Fortune 500 company Waste Management recently commissioned him to build a new Recycling Education Center.

To see more great projects and hear more about why Dan builds this way, click here to watch his entertaining talk from TEDx Houston. Click here to learn more about Dan and his company The Phoenix Commotion.

Which of these photos was your favorite? Would you consider using reclaimed materials in a home project? Let me know in the comments!

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