Home, sweet (tiny) home


In a world beginning to feel the growing pains of urban crowding and expensive housing, many are turning to alternative residences.

Architecture graduate student Davis Richardson responded to Austin’s expensive rent prices by designing and building his own sustainable home, located in the outskirts of Austin. His mobile tiny home, sized around 240 square feet, is a culmination of his interior design training, construction background and nine weeks of intensive work. The DIY Network recently featured the house during an episode of “Tiny House, Big Living.” 

“It was six or seven days a week of 12 to 14 hour days … and I knew I had to (work those hours) because I was on such a tight timeline,” Richardson said. “I had nine weeks to build a house over the summer before coming to school or else I would’ve been homeless, which was pretty good motivation.”

Richardson said he found the sustainability aspect of the tiny house as attractive as its affordability. He incorporated many environmentally friendly aspects, such as a compostable toilet and smart window units, which eliminated the need for heating and cooling.

“There’s a smaller footprint, and that’s really me practicing what I preach,” Richardson explained. “If I’m going to tell clients one day to downsize and live in a tiny house, I better know what I’m asking them to do. I can now tell them that I know what it’s like to live in a tiny house and that it’s totally doable.”

Richardson came up with the idea while studying interior design at Harding University, when his friend brought up the idea of building a tiny house after watching a video online.

“(My friend) saw a tiny house of someone’s, and we joked around that if that guy can do it, we can do it too. But then the joke turned into reality,” Richardson said. “I started drawing it out and I realized that this is doable and took it from there.” 

The friend, Tanner Johnston, a social work sophomore at Harding University, said he thought Richardson wasn’t serious at first, but ended up being Richardson’s right-hand man in the project.

“Before we knew it, we were knee-deep,” Johnston said. “It was a bit overwhelming but also super exciting.”

Amy Cox, art and design assistant professor and director of the interior design program at Harding University, said it was “very Davis” of Richardson to undertake the project, as it exemplified his passion and work ethic.

“He started sketching right away. There’s never a time he doesn’t have his sketchbook. Once he starts on something like that, he just dives right in,” Cox said.

Richardson said he was intrigued by the idea of mobile living. He said the idea of the kinetohaus, otherwise known as a moving house, was his main inspiration.

“The design process was centered around the idea of what a house that moves should look like,” Richardson said. “It’s angled and forward, which makes it aerodynamic and symbolic of movement.”

Richardson spent last summer building the house in his parent’s driveway back home in Georgia with the help of friends and family, and drove it out to Austin at the beginning of the school year.

“There are times where I just lay in bed at night after having a long day, and I just sit back and look around and think, ‘we built this,’” Richardson said.