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August 23, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Some might call it a music studio or a simple practice space. A musician might call it a dream house. For recording engineer Brandon Collins and singer and songwriter Andy Tellman, there’s one word to describe their A-frame building: home.
Brandon and Andy live in the basement of the house on Creasy Springs Road. They moved in last year after two former student musicians moved out. “On the outside it looks like a house, but on the inside, it’s a playground,” Andy says.
The middle floor is used mainly as a practice space and an area to give music lessons to promising Columbia musicians. Walking up the narrow spiral staircase brings you to the top floor where the recording gear is always ready to go. Almost every room in the house is a constant reminder that there’s work to be done and music to be made, Andy says. The arrangement has benefits, but it can also be a burden, the roommates say. “There’s no escaping it,” Andy says of all the music equipment.
“There’s a lot of creativity that flows throughout the house,” Brandon says. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more comfortable place to make music.”
Loyd Warden discovered the A-frame was for sale almost five years ago, when he was teaching music lessons in his home. In a house shared with his wife, two boys and tons of musical equipment, he was struggling with space. He found what he was looking for hidden down a slope, between hundreds of trees and perched on a cliff.
The red triangular house is just down the street from Loyd’s home. The first floor holds a table, adjacent kitchen and plenty of music equipment, but it’s the details of the house that make it special. One whole side of the house is a slanted wood-paneled wall with a narrow spiral staircase that connects the three floors. Loyd’s favorite feature is a triangular balcony that sits at the back of each level, overlooking the cliff. An architectural bonus in the recording studio on the top floor is the lack of right angles, which Loyd says helps produce a better sound.
Loyd wanted to give musicians the opportunity to live with a recording studio upstairs from their bedrooms. “To have this equipment and it only be for myself, it doesn’t make any sense,” he says.
For professional musicians, the overwhelming amount of time it takes to record an album can make it seem as if they are living in the recording studio. Brandon says the comforts of home make it easier to be there for late work nights, instead of spending hours and hours in a recording studio.
The location is great, too. The A-frame is far enough away from other houses that they don’t disturb the neighborhood with their jams.
The structure of the home, however, can sometimes create a challenge. Brandon says hot air gets trapped in the top level of the house where the recording is done. “There’s no adapting to that vocal booth when it gets over 100 degrees,” Andy says.
There’s also a lack of wall space, and Brandon has hit his head a couple of times on beams. “The room that I sleep in, there are only two positions I can have for the bed,” he says. “The other side of my room is an angled wall. It can be a challenge.”
For Loyd, however, there aren’t any real drawbacks to the architecture. This tucked-away triangular house would fit right in on a Colorado mountainside. It has the peace and quiet Loyd was looking for, along with wildlife roaming in the expansive, and steep, backyard. “There’s nothing like walking up here with a couple of feet of snow on the ground, or when the leaves change and all the colors are right outside the windows of the studio,” Loyd says.
Since the A-frame is just down the street from his home, Loyd also savors the convenience of not having to drive to work and being able to go home for lunch to see his kids. The house has the space to teach, the woodland seclusion and the cool factor that first caught his eye many years ago.
For Andy, the A-frame serves as a catalyst for songwriting because he is able to get his ideas written and recorded quickly while they are fresh in his mind. He recently released a single called “You Are Loved,” which Brandon produced.
“You can’t beat living in a facility like this,” Brandon says, as Andy agrees. “I’ve tried over and over again to think of a better scenario, but it’s all right here.”
The house has many names: The A-Frame, The Music House and The Studio. It’s the place where Loyd works and where Andy and Brandon live. Perhaps most of all, it’s exactly what each of them wanted. It’s a place to create music. For Brandon and Andy, it’s also a place to call home.
+ R.M + D.H.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Tao Weilundemo hauled gallons of gasoline from where he was living in Austin, Texas, to his family in Jackson, Miss. When he arrived, he saw lines of people waiting at the gas stations, and in their eyes he noticed bewilderment over having lost power to their homes, something they had long taken for granted.
“You could just feel it in the air,” Tao says. “Our society is so fragile, that that’s all it took.”
Tao’s experience moved him to act on a vision he held for many years. He wanted to adopt a sustainable lifestyle and return to the wooded land just outside Calwood Township in Callaway County, where he was born.
In the years after Katrina, Tao traveled to El Salvador with the Peace Corps and stayed there on his own accord. When the financial crisis hit the U.S. in 2008, he decided to return to Calwood and start building a home base called Maya Creek. He read books about sustainable building techniques for inspiration.
“Originally, I was just going to build a wooden cabin like Thoreau or something,” Tao says. “But then I kind of got led to cob and then straw bale, and it led me to permaculture and all these different things.”
Tao’s father owned and lived on the land in a commune during the ’70s. When the group disbanded, he slowly bought out the other owners. Since April 2009, Tao has lived on the land.
He is one of three permanent residents at Maya Creek and lives in a teepee. It’s set up in the garden to keep animals out at night.
“It’s a magical place,” he says of the nature that surrounds his home.
Also nestled between the trees is a conglomeration of four tents, two campers and two earth brown structures. The largest of the structures is a common house.
Framed with straw bales and coated with earthen plaster called cob, the building houses the living room and an outdoor kitchen. It will someday include a bathroom. Plant fiber and a small portion of scrap alpaca wool insulate the ceiling, and the roof is made of galvanized steel. A homemade wood-burning stove and used furniture rest on the earthen floors inside.
The benefits of the common house transcend its sustainable building materials. The group at Maya Creek also aims to cut down on waste. The structure houses communal amenities so “everybody doesn’t have to have their own coffee maker,” Tao says. “Everybody doesn’t have to have their own fill-in-the-blank. We share. There’s a lot less consumerism in that way.”
Although he says he misses luxuries such as running water, which is in the plans for Maya Creek, Tao has gotten used to the Spartan lifestyle. He didn’t have air conditioning, TV or a refrigerator in El Salvador, so the leap to a sustainable habitat was a small one. “You just get kind of used to it after a while,” he says. “I quit missing a lot of things. They just weren’t important anymore. It makes you appreciate the things you do have a lot more.”
As Tao’s project becomes better known, he has been able to share his experience. Visitors often come to Maya Creek in the spring and summer to learn how to build sustainably. In exchange for their work,
the community provides them with a place to stay — usually a tent or small cabin — and food.
Tao says visitors come because they want the experience of living sustainably.
Jesse Mayes shared that view when he started looking into building an environmentally friendly home in 2008
and found Tao’s project online. He moved to Maya Creek in 2011 as a permanent resident and lives in a camper. “I believe as humans we can live a healthy, self-sustaining life while still being comfortable,” Jesse
says. “I want to live a slower, simpler, but happy life.”
Every evening before bedtime, Alex Folck flips about two dozen light switches and locks six front doors. He brushes his teeth a floor above a holy water stoup and calls it a night.
His work commute in the morning consists of an elevator ride and a 15-foot jaunt down a hallway marked with crucifixes. The lounge where he does his job is often full of MU students ready to be mentored.
Alex, a 21-year-old MU student, lives behind an unmarked door in the Saint Thomas More Newman Center.
On June 1, he accepted a position as a student campus minister and moved to an apartment that used to serve as a rectory. The space has limited rooms: a narrow kitchen with countertops framing both sides and a tiny bedroom with a connecting bathroom.
The apartment enters into a rhombus-shaped kitchen furnished with his dining table and a set of four chairs, three matching and one oddball. A two-step to the left brings you into a bedroom with a well-loved, overstuffed chair, towering speaker systems, a 32-inch flat-screen TV and a twin-sized bed in the far corner.
“As far as space is concerned, this is probably the smallest place I’ve ever lived,” Alex says. “There’s no living room, so I gave away most of my couches and moved most of the things that would be in there into my bedroom.”
For what the place lacks in legroom, Alex says it makes up for in purpose. His residence allows him to reach people in a different way than other counselors.
“Since I live here, I get to interact with people all the time,” he says. “The students that are involved in programs we do at Newman are constituents of the biggest parts of my job. I minister to those people.”
Living and working in the same building, however, has its shortcomings. Alex’s traditional routine of waking at a decent hour and dressing in work-appropriate attire has been more of a challenge than he first imagined.
“When you live where you work, a lot of things really fade away,” he says. “When the lines start to blur, you have to remind yourself that you do have a job and you have to treat it like one. It’s not just your living room that you’re living in. It’s also your office.”
Alex’s office is connected to the student lounge on Newman’s main floor, a story below where he sets his table and studies the Bible before bed.
The campus ministry internship runs for a full year. Every spring, one intern is chosen to fill the role, which includes specific duties such as advising students who are interested in programs at the Newman Center, putting together student programs and completing secretarial work.
For Alex and many of his friends, it’s a challenge to decipher the line between business and play. He says in order to live and work at Newman, it’s important to understand and embrace the public-private differentiation.
“I have to consider the integrity of the position itself,” Alex says. “Not just for my sake but for those who will hold the position next year and in the years after.” Alex says if it were up to him, he would leave his door unlocked all the time. Several nights a week, Alex opens his home to fellow students for dinners or movies. But after business hours, he doesn’t have the authority to let in students who forgot their backpacks.
“Some students do treat me a little like a resident assistant because I have the keys to the building,” he says. “I can’t unlock doors after hours, because this is a private residence after we close. We have to establish that this building is a professional building.”
Public, private or a combination of the two, Alex’s short-term home has been an appropriate coincidence in his life. Even after living in the apartment for only a few months, the campus minister thinks of the place as just another characteristic of his personality.
“When I say to people, ‘Oh I live in a church,’ they will laugh or think that it’s bizarre that I live here, or that I’m making a joke,” he says. “But I think the perception is just another part of my quirkiness and my enablement to minister.”
Although the past few months have been interesting, and as Alex has dubbed, a “special” transition in living, he is looking forward to the coming year in his new place and in his influential role.
“The reason I got involved with the church in the first place was because of the Newman Center and its incredible sense of community and acceptance,” he says. “Now, I just want to give back.”