Metal Sculptures, Dumpsters And Castles: The Capital City Homes That ‘Keep Austin Weird’

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but for this Texas couple it uncovered Austin’s most unique and exquisite homes.

By Laura RiceFebruary 28, 2018 7:15 am

A new book makes the case that Austin continues to prevail as Texas’s weirdest city. Weird Home Tours founders David and Chelle Neff highlight Austin’s strangest homes and homeowners in their new book “Weird Homes: The People and Places That Keep Austin Strangely Wonderful.” The book, filled to the brim with colorful photos, takes you into the homes you thought only existed in dreams.

Inspiration for the book comes from the weird home tours operated by the Neffs. The idea for the tours came from Chelle Neff as the couple came across a house that looked like the Alamo while walking around their neighborhood. David Neff quickly took to the internet to find a weird homes tour, only to come up empty.

In 2014, the couple started Weird Home Tours, based on their love for chicken coop tours and, as Chelle Neff puts it, pure “nosiness.”   

When including homes in tours and in the book, David Neff’s experience in journalism gives him the confidence to knock on doors. Many of the homeowners double as artists, making it easy for them to show off their work.

“They love showcasing kind of the most private art you can imagine, which is what’s inside their homes,” David Neff says.

One featured home in Austin known as the “Chronister Manor” is owned by world-renowned architect Elliot Johnson. As David Neff says, the home is a combination earth-friendly and Scottish castle.

The home’s gem is a fireplace, “Earth Man,” a visual representation of the God of yesteryear. Lit up green, David Neff says the fireplace is “very norse mythology.”

The close relationship David and Chelle Neff form with homeowners offer a new lens into the struggle of maintaining these exquisite homes.

“We get to know these homeowners very privately,” Chelle Neff says. “And a lot of it is their struggle just to make ends meet since a lot of them are artists and they’re living on their art and their home is their art.”

Through seeing the struggle of these homeowners, the Neffs have become advocates for creating change and making homes more affordable. This inspired the Neffs to put 10 percent of proceeds toward charity and nonprofits that tackle these issues.

The work to find these homes is investigative at best. David Neff says their white whale is a Darth Vader home in Houston that has been impossible to reach, despite several knocks on the door, countless flyers and searches on Craigslist.

However, finding these homes is a collaborative effort.

“We’re really just building a community of these people who all know each other, all the artists, all the real estate agents who drive around constantly.”

Written by Elizabeth Ucles.