Jeff Wilson, an environmental science professor at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, TX, spent a year downsizing his life to fit into a 33 sq ft dumpster – earning him the nickname “Professor Dumpster.” Now, he is an advocate for micro housing.
His experience of living in the modified container inspired Wilson to start Kasita, a micro housing company with one aim: to reinvent the home. The first prototype was unveiled during South by Southwest Festival 2017 in a vacant lot adjacent to the Historic Scoot Inn in East Austin.
It’s striking to see from the street, and when the auto-tint glass windows aren’t faded out, those walking by can take a peek at the minimally designed interior and the clean and simple design of the furnishings.
Once inside, the unit feels welcoming and surprisingly spacious. The large windows put the dwelling in touch with its environment – while maintaining a strong sense of privacy and autonomy.
Unlike traditional ready-made homes, Kasita is outfitted to feel less like a blank slate and more like a lifestyle brand aimed at creative young professionals. “Every other type of housing is designed by architects,” Wilson points out.
“What we wanted to do is take a product approach to housing. Let’s design it like a product, using product tools.”
Large feel, small footprint
To tackle the challenge, Wilson tapped Remy Labesque, a former principal industrial designer at Frog Design, to reimagine the concept of the tiny home.
The result is something that has more in common with a sleek piece of hardware than traditional architecture.
The steel and glass exterior frames a 352 sq ft living space that feels much larger – thanks to 10 ft tall ceilings, a terraced floor plan, and plenty of natural light.
A queen-sized mattress slides out from the couch, keeping the main living area open enough to comfortably host a small dinner party.
The reading nook along the main window is spacious enough to practice yoga. And the eco-friendly appliances nest into the cabinetry, shrinking the footprint of the fridge and laundry machine.
It also features the very latest in home assistant technology accessible: A proprietary app responds to commands like ”Turn On Morning” by fading up light fixtures and turning on NPR in the shower.
Engage the “Date Night” mode to dim the lights and blast Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” through the stereo system. “It’s essentially a billionaire’s home on a baller’s budget,” jokes Wilson.
Affordable, modular and mobile
A streamlined manufacturing process helps keep Kasita inside the price range of a mid-career creative who’d otherwise never afford to own a home in a tech hub like San Francisco, or even an up-and-coming city like Austin, where the average house price hovers around $400K.
Prospective buyers are enticed with an almost too good to be true reservation payment of just $1,000, which goes towards the $139K price point, a number they plan to trim down to $99K by 2019.
The modular nature of Kasita’s prefab homes means they can be dropped almost anywhere, from inner cities to tech commuter campuses.
Previous mock-ups envisioned a rack-like bay that the homes slid into, but the final plan is leaner and simply entails stacking the units on top of each other.
And unlike a traditional house, a Kasita can be easily relocated to a new city if the owner needs to move, giving it not only the advanced features of today’s tech products, but also the mobility.
“We’ve designed this fully immersive user experience. Instead of having a flip phone, you’ve got a fully integrated system,” says Wilson. “You’re not only living in a space, you’re living with it.”