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Austin values eccentricity and nurtures the spirit of free expression. From the Broken Spoke to the Cathedral of Junk, and even Eeyore’s Birthday, there is plenty of proof that in Austin, people like to march to the beat of their own drum. But when it comes to proudly flying the freak flag, there may be no better example than the city’s architecture. From modern marvels with chicken coops in the backyard to purple-painted, aqua-sided suburban oases, there is almost nothing that isn’t acceptable in a city whose motto is “Keep Austin Weird.”
Austinites David and Chelle Neff decided to give themselves and their friends an official reason to enter some of the “non-cookie cutter homes” in the city. “We really quickly realized that no one had ever done that,” explained David Neff to Culture Trip. “No one had ever celebrated that eclectic weird side of Austin.” To remedy that situation, the couple founded The Weird Homes Tour the wackiest, most outlandish abodes that live up to its motto. “Strange. Kooky. Magical. Peculiar. Funky. Eccentric. Weird. Whatever you call it, it’s what we love to celebrate in Austin,” reads the group’s website.
The tour consists of a self-paced, self-driven excursion across the city, with 10 percent of all proceeds donated to local nonprofits that invest in affordable housing. According to Neff, the tour had donated close to $15,000 by its fifth year and he expects that figure to continue to grow. Plus, because the goal is to include everyone and encourage affordability, tickets are only $35.
While the tour started in Austin, it has now expanded to six additional cities, including Los Angeles (new in 2019), Houston, Detroit, Portland, San Francisco and New Orleans. In Austin, Neff explained that the tour will continue to be capped at 10 homes, most of which will rotate annually.
For privacy reasons, tour sponsors only provide specific addresses to ticket holders each year, but you can find details on past locations in this guide to the weirdest, most whimsical and wonderful homes of Austin.
In an area of East Austin known as Upper Boggy Creek, you will find the home of artist and collector Barbara Irwin. Her home, “Barbara’s Bird Cage,” showcases castaway items transformed into unique works of art, from doll heads to bird cages and other quirky collectibles. After decades of creating from castoffs, Barbara’s home has become a unique museum in its own right. With impeccably arranged collections of what most would consider trash, she somehow creates a beautiful new perspective for those who wander through her corridors.
Valerie Chaussonnet, the owner of this home, is a French artist with a background in Slavic studies, so it’s no surprise that the work she produces and the home in which she displays it is an intriguing melange of cultures. Metal sculptures adorn every room of this Barton Hills home, but a particular highlight is the metal portrait of famous Russian witch Baba Yaga, which guards the library. The interior is always evolving: between sky-painted ceilings, cat doors, closet bookshelves and bookshelf closets, the home – like Austin – is ever-changing.
The exterior of Michael Torres’s Travis Heights house seems like any other modern home, but once you step inside, you’ll find a series of rooms incorporating Feng Shui, chakra colors, and shaman shrines. Each room projects a particular energy, with an element of mystery that inspires creativity. Also because the creativity of this home is all-encompassing when you visit make sure to look up and down as often as you look around.
From the tiny home movement to designers seeking more sustainable and environmentally-friendly building material alternatives, it’s not uncommon to see old shipping containers being repurposed. However, architect and designer Michael De Ovando, who has been repurposing shipping containers into living spaces for over 35 years, has more experience than most. As such, one of his designs located in an industrial area of South Austin elegantly displays his mastery of the medium with a modern but cozy aesthetic. His company, Container Living Solutions, aims to create a superior product for modular living and workspaces that can be shipped anywhere around the globe.
Austin’s rapid growth has had significant consequences for local wildlife, which local artist Barbara Attwell Ritter seeks to counterbalance in her Cuernavaca neighborhood home, called Ebba Springs. The house and grounds incorporate wildlife habitats that attract bats, squirrels, and multiple species of birds – including birds of prey – and the interior features several of Barbara’s animal paintings and ecologically themed sculptures.
In far East Austin, the local painter and acro-yogini Randi Southard has transformed her home into a space that takes many shapes and forms. It’s part visual and performing arts studio; part collaborative creative space for aerial artists, costume designers, painters, and musicians; and part healing center for bodyworkers, holistic energy consultants, and other health-loving yogis. Originally conceived as a low-cost studio space for entertainers of all kinds, the 4,000-square-foot space was driven by those who care for the progress of the collective good. Whether or not you visit for the homes tour, you will always find a comfy space and an unquenchable flood of inspiration every time you visit this space.
Consisting of not one, but five connected concrete domes, each illuminated by windows and skylight panels, Austin musicians constructed the Art Dome in the 1970s. Also in the Cuernavaca neighborhood, the home’s current owners attribute the cozy, comfortable vibe to the curved walls and handwritten notes left behind by the original groovy tenants.
After its first life as the home of Tim Riggins in the hit series Friday Night Lights, this University Hills house resurfaced as the aptly named Cabinet of Curiosities. Located northeast of downtown near US Highway 290, the eclectic collection ranges from antique gynecological devices, 1930s dental chairs, and a pink 1950s salon hair dryer. Check out this interactive, virtual tour of all the oddities.
The main attraction in this home is the owner herself, Florence, who founded Florence’s Comfort House to fill her neighborhood with love and acceptance. She has owned this colorful Montopolis abode for 25 years, decorating its interior with art and showering her community with a life of service. Since she spends her days serving the children of the community, Flo’s house is always open and she welcomes donations to her cause which can be sent either in person or through Amazon.
Located in one of Austin’s weirdest zones, the 78704, this house lives up to its surroundings and then some. At least 23 different colors are exhibited throughout the exterior and interior, including a bathroom lit with 109 dichroic glass tiles. The whole house is a work of art, including the garden’s mesmerizing underwater mural. Once you’ve worked your way through the weird parts of the city, there are lots of other great things to do in Austin to keep you busy.