Best Friends Build Own Private Neighborhood to Be Together Forever

For many groups of faithful friends, adulthood means accepting that logistics are often the biggest obstacle to maintaining relationships. As hard as it is to get the gang together for dinner when everyone lives in the same city, it becomes a Herculean (or Sisyphean) task once the winds of change have scattered everyone to lands afar. Rather than succumb to the inevitable growing apart, four close-knit couples in Texas came up with a clever way to live together while maintaining their independence. They've built themselves four tiny houses all in a row, each within a stone’s throw of the next.

Because nothing says friends forever like signing a deed together, eight great pals living in the Austin area purchased ten acres of land outside the city limits, near the Llano River, for what they dubbed the “Llano Exit Strategy.” With a plot of earth to collectively call their own, the environmentally minded landowners enlisted the services of architect Matt Garcia to design four identical residential structures, one for each of the families. In keeping with the pragmatic minimalism of the “tiny house” movement, the homes comprise a mere 350 square feet apiece, with one bedroom, one bathroom, and one living room.

Where the friends’ extremely private community breaks from tiny house tradition is the existence of a fifth building: a big 1500-square-foot cabin with a full kitchen and additional social space for the neighbor-friends to come together as they please—think of it as a ground-level tree house, or a college residence hall lounge with nicer furniture. There are two dishwashers, presumably to avoid fighting over anyone leaving their silverware out too long, a porch, picnic tables, and even six bunk beds to accommodate lucky guests.

It’s not hard to see why the couples chose the Llano River as the site of their ideal idyll. They “had been hunting for a quiet escape from the ever-growing buzz of Austin, a place to ride their bikes, reconnect with nature and recharge,” and the riverfront location checks all those boxes. They’ve made sure to respect their natural surroundings by working with the arid local climate, rather than against it: the homes’ sloped butterfly-style roofs catch rainwater for reuse around the compound, while metal siding and good insulation both reduce heat from the glaring summer sun while preserving indoor warmth during cooler months.

The couples haven’t yet moved to their shared property full-time, escaping their busy city lives mostly on holidays and long weekends, but they do plan to retire there. What a way to grow old together.

What People In the '50s and '60s Thought Houses Would Look Like in 1986

The Monsanto House of the Future was an attraction at Disneyland's Tomorrowland 1957 to 1967.
The Monsanto House of the Future was an attraction at Disneyland's Tomorrowland 1957 to 1967.
Photo courtesy Orange County Archives/Wikimedia Commons

In 1957, Monsanto demonstrated its vision for future housing, emphasizing one word: plastics. Its House of the Future was displayed at Disneyland from 1957 through 1967, and it envisioned a future home from the then-distant future of 1986. The house featured lavish conveniences including a microwave oven, ultrasonic dishwasher (for plastic dishes, of course), "cold zones" to replace refrigerators and freezers (with a special zone for irradiated foods), and dimmable ceiling lights—and that's just the kitchen.

While the House of the Future was a little silly around its plastic edges, a lot of its vision was actually correct. We do indeed use microwaves, we have lots of plasticware and even plastic furniture (hello IKEA), and Monsanto's vision of easy cleanup flooring is very realistic (though plastic may not be the most common material, Monsanto's heart was in the right place). Some details like electric toothbrushes and intercom/security systems ring true. The exterior architecture of the house was slightly Jetsons, but frankly, I've seen condos with very similar design cues. The Danish Modern living room looks thoroughly modern-retro to me (although it lacks art on the walls). Check out these videos and see what 1957 thought 1986 would look like. How'd they do?

One big mistake in its vision that stands out to me is the use of height adjustment on virtually everything (right down the children's sink)—everything in the house uses tracks to hide when not in use. While we have a little of that today, it isn't exactly pervasive; it just looks cool in a demo. The other major difference is Monsanto's attempt to sell plastic as a classy material for everything. On the whole, people of the future (meaning us) don't see plastic as classy, and indeed have gone retro on what we think denotes quality—we're looking for steel, wood, and even materials like cork that had no place in the House of the Future. On the flip side, we seem just fine with buying plastic stuff (even pretty stylish plastic) if it's a bargain (again, IKEA and even Target come to mind here).

In a little side-trivia, the House of the Future was very hard to demolish. Apparently a wrecking ball bounced right off the shell (plastics!) so the house had to be ripped to pieces with saws, taking weeks. 

Susan B. Anthony’s Childhood Home in Upstate New York Is Getting a $700,000 Renovation

George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress // No Known Restrictions on Publication
George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress // No Known Restrictions on Publication

In 1833, a 13-year-old Susan B. Anthony moved with her family to a two-story brick house in Battenville, New York, where her father managed a cotton mill. Though Anthony only lived there a few years before financial troubles caused her family to relocate once again, it was in that house that she first became aware of the deplorable state of women’s rights—setting her on a path to change the course of history.

According to The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Anthony’s father started homeschooling her after a local teacher refused to teach Anthony long division on the grounds that women didn’t need the skill. Then, a temporary stint at her father’s mill revealed that the wages of many female employees went directly to their husbands or fathers, and Anthony learned about the gender pay gap firsthand when she was hired as a schoolteacher for a much lower salary than her male predecessor.

Right now, there are only two small indicators of Anthony’s history in the Battenville house—a placard on a nearby stone retaining wall and a sign on a post in the front yard—and the house itself is riddled with black mold and moisture damage.

But that’ll change soon: House Beautiful reports that New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which purchased the foreclosed property for just $1 back in 2006, is now planning a $700,000 renovation that includes general repairs, drainage improvements, and mold abatement. A considerable portion of those funds was collected by Senator Betty Little and Assembly member Carrie Woerner.

Whether the house will eventually become a museum remains to be seen. It’s located on a perilous curve on Route 29, and there’s very limited surrounding land or space for parking. Having said that, locals are committed to finding a worthy purpose for it after the restoration is complete. Debi Craig, former president of the Washington County Historical Society, told the Times Union that she thinks there’s potential for an international research center or library on women’s rights.

Regardless of what the Battenville house’s second life ends up looking like, the focus on this particular historic site is perfectly timed—not only does 2020 mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, it’s also Susan B. Anthony’s 200th birthday.

Learn more about the trailblazing suffragette here.

[h/t House Beautiful]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER