I think Chelle and I are both very philanthropic and have been involved in many nonprofits. And we’ve been in Austin for - I’ve been here 18 years, you’ve been here 20 plus. So we’ve seen a huge change in the affordable housing market here.
A lot of them are homeowners who’ve been in their homes since the 1970’s, and their homes are paid off, however now they’re struggling to only pay their property taxes. That was a part of the tour, being involved with these artists, that we didn’t realize we’d come to see. So it gave us an “AHa” moment of how do we help support people who struggle with affordable housing in this city.
Affordable housing is a huge problem in Austin, Portland, Houston, New Orleans, Detroit and all our cities. And so for us, not only is it a problem affecting our city that we live in, and our home owners, it’s affecting all these other cities. Like Chelle said, these homeowners have paid off their house, but they can’t afford to pay their property taxes, so where are they gonna go? And Austin claims to be the live music capital of the world, supporting all these creative causes, but we’re not making room for these folks to actually afford to live here. And also we invest in affordable housing nonprofits because it’s a complicated problem. There’s nonprofits that just do policy. Others that just do housing, and others help the homeless. It’s a big, complex issue, so we do what we can around it. In fact we made a short film about it.
As you expand to additional cities, what do you look for?
I would say as we expand to additional cities, we look for a vibrant art community, cities that have art car parades, a history of interesting outsider artists. And really we look for places that just exude creativity. Which is why you think of LA, Houston, Austin, New Orleans - these cities all have this creative vibe to them. In fact, someone was telling me on Monday that we should go to Taos, because they have an “Earth Ship” community of people who’ve built UFOs and live in them. So we hear this from friends, fans, social media followers.
What are some common reactions from tour goers?
It’s very "Alice through the Looking Glass." What’s going on here? Where am I? Is this a real place, where someone lives? Lots of design inspiration. We want people to be shocked and awed when they come on these tours. We want people to be inspired to go home and do something different with their house. When you go to the house that’s in a funeral parlor where everything is purple, you go home and you say “That one purple chair I always wanted isn’t that crazy!”
I think a lot of people are very surprised because the outside of these homes don’t look weird at all. It could be your neighbor next door to you that you never knew had a collection of 1,000 ouija boards.
How long did it take you to write your book about the Weird Homes Tour?
It took us about six months of interviewing homeowners, assembling and curating photos, and then we released the book and working with an amazing editor, Luann. It was an Amazon bestseller in the architecture category, which was great, and now we are working on other books and other cities as we expand. We get all our amazing photos from Thanin Variyaki. You can see the book here.
What are some of your favorite weird homes?
The Bloom house that looks like a Mushroom. It’s in West Austin, and it was built by a commune of hippies in the 1970s. There are no hard edges in the entire home, inside or out. Everything is curved. It took them five years to build. It almost looks like something a hobbit would live in.
I love the Airplane Home in Portland. There’s an airplane in the middle of rural Oregon, outside of Portland, and it’s a 737 the owner got as part of this worldwide community that rehabilitates old planes and turns them into homes. They believe in this grand vision of all of us living in recycled planes. You can’t make it up!
We love Lois Goodman’s home, the “under the sea” house - we just interviewed her on our podcast. Although Lois claims she’s not an artist, the attention for detail is absolutely fantastic.
There’s a lady in Detroit, Shanise Tucker, and her house is just amazing - every room is a collection of something, and each room is unique and different. She makes all of her own furniture and all of her own clothes. It’s a collection of collections. Shanise’s day job is working at Ford. She’s not a full time artist. But she expresses so much creativity.
There’s another home in Portland that’s stuck in 1948 modern - everything is stuck in time. “Maritime home” They have a vintage working 1950’s tv. Everything is retro and in period.
Speaking of podcasts: you have a brand-new podcast. What inspired you to get it started?
Victoria Taylor constantly harassing me that we should do a podcast! But she did poke us in the side enough that we thought this would be a good idea. Her husband graciously edited the first version. And then we used that and we went to the Austin American Statesman, the local newspaper, and they said “This is a great idea. We are trying out new media.” And they’re producing a pilot of 6 episodes where we interview some of our wildest and craziest homeowners in Austin.
You’ve built the tours up to have a strong fanbase. What are some of your goals for the future?
Our future goals are more books, more podcasts, and a reality show.
We are actively seeking producers for a reality show! So please contact us. We plan to add a New York City homes tour, which will be run by Victoria and her husband (hahaha!) But probably international expansion. I could see a London Weird Homes in the future, we just have to figure out what that looks like. And lastly, more partnerships with other home tours and tours.
How can we best stay up to date with you?