Last week, the Internet went collectively gaga over a four-cabin compound perched above the Llano River in the dusty ‘n’ desolate wilds of Texas Hill Country.
The gushing originated with "Welcome to 'Bestie Row': Lifelong Friends Build Row of Tiny Houses in the Middle of Nowhere" on Lighter Side of a Real Estate, and soon, the story of "Bestie Row" was everywhere — even making the morning show rounds.
The no-less-interesting story is that Llano Exit Strategy — that's what the owners call their tiny house compound — is really a vacation getaway shared by four couples who also happen to be good friends.
Abiding by an ever-evolving master schedule (one would assume), the quartet of Austin-residing couples take up residence at Llano Exit Strategy at different times, sometimes overlapping, sometimes not. A couple of times a year, usually for big holidays, they’re all present and accounted for. More often, a single couple and their extended families/guests will get the full run of the place. As Jodi Zipp, who comprises one of the couples alongside her husband, Fred, points out: “If all four couples lived out there together full-time, we’d drive each other crazy!”
A shared weekend property divided up by longtime friends is, of course, a lot less quirky/novel/unique than the rural co-housing arrangement that Llano Exit Strategy has been made out to be by the viral web. When you think about it, it’s not that special — couples, sometimes multiple couples, go in together on vacation properties all the time.
What is special, however — and a more design-driven 2014 article from Garden & Gun zeros in on this — is the set-up of the property.
Instead of one big riverside spread complete with four master bedrooms and en-suite baths, the Zipps and Co., working alongside Austin-based architect Matt Garcia, opted for multiple living quarters separated by the great outdoors.
Just think of it as a camp-style arrangement: four corrugated steel-clad sleeping cabins with full bathrooms situated around a 1,500-square-foot common building — “basically one big room” as Zipp describes it — that's outfitted with a large kitchen, dining area, porch, additional bathroom and attached bunkhouse for “overflow sleeping.” Essentially, the building serves as the grown-up version of a summer camp mess hall but with a 60-inch TV and high-end kitchen appliances.
Completed in late 2011, the pared-down cabins — at roughly 350-square-feet each, they’re a bit roomier than your typical tiny house project — came first, followed by the communal structure. The 10-acre parcel itself was discovered by the couples the year prior.
“The criteria were: within two hours of Austin, near water, have a view and be affordable for all of us. We discovered this piece of land in late 2010 and decided it fit the bill,” explains Zipp. “We love having a place that is comfortable and beautiful to invite all our children and their significant others to come visit.”
As Garden & Gun details, sustainability played heavily into the compound’s design. Each of the butterfly roof-topped cabins is equipped with rainwater catchment systems that help to irrigate the drought-sensitive property. Lacking fussy ornamentation, the concrete-floored, plywood-walled shelters sport a rough-hewn yet inviting aesthetic that “splits the difference between industrial chic and down-to-earth” and are appropriately buttoned-up (plenty of the aforementioned spray foam insulation and low-e glass windows) to help keep things cool — or cozy — during Central Texas’ trademark ungodly hot summers and bitter winters without racking up Texas-sized energy bills.
Not surprisingly, life at Llano Exit Strategy largely centers around the great outdoors: birding, boating and, at night, gathering around one of the property's camp fires (burn ban pending) under the great big Central Texas sky.
Social media sensationalism aside, Llano Exit Strategy remains a lovely Hill Country getaway, both primitive and modern, that manages to balance solitude and communal living. Garcia, who also designed the Zipps' primary residence, really did a beautiful job in creating an escape that reflects — and respects — the surrounding landscape.
And now that it's clear that the encampment isn’t the full-time home of eight attached-at-the-hip Texans, it’s worth mentioning that it can also be yours: Capable of sleeping a maximum of 16 people, Llano Exit Strategy is available for rent as an Airbnb property that's “perfect for family reunions or corporate retreats" and, of course, an assemblage of besties.
Via [Garden & Gun]
Related on MNN:
- ViVood: A pared-down pop-up vacation shack that's perfect for semi-roughing it
- In Sonoma, shunning the 'big house' for a trio of tiny retreats
- From Texas, the cautionary tale of a tiny house stolen and then found