Best friends of 20 years buy plot of land and build tiny town so they can vacation and retire together

Looking for an “exit strategy” from their hectic city lives, a group of four couples built a community of tiny vacation homes to live out their huge dreams in retirement.

The environmentally smart micro-housing retreat was custom built for each of the couples, allowing them to retreat to a community populated by their besties.
Nearing retirement, four Texas couples, who have been best friends for more than 20 years, were looking for a quiet escape from their homes in Austin, where they could reconnect with nature and recharge.

When they found a ribbon of land near Llano River, a nature lover’s paradise about an hour from Austin, they knew the plot – that needed some work – would be perfect.

“When we first looked at it, it was not really that inviting,” Fred Zipp, a former editor at the Austin-American Stateman, told Garden and Gun magazine. Zipp and his wife Jodi are one of the four couples involved in the environmentally conscious project where they can all minimize their carbon footprints.

“This is a magical place, but it’s arid,” Zipp said, adding that herds of wild buffalo can be seen charging across the rough terrain. “We’re doing what we can to reserve as much water as possible for the native trees and grasses. Fortunately, they’re beautiful.”

First intending on building a shared house, the couples then learned about the exploding tiny house movement and decided that smaller, individual houses, with one communal building would be more suitable.

And once San Antonio architect Matt Garcia drafted plans for the project, everything came together.

Working within a $40,000 budget per home, Garcia – using the tiny house movement as inspiration – designed four private 350-square-foot cabins, each including a double bed, kitchenette and bathroom.

“Basically we wanted a place where we could spend a ton of time together – eating and drinking and hanging out – but still have privacy and separation when people needed to get away from the gang,” said Jodi Zipp.

Taking it a step further, the roofs of the buildings collect rainwater for later use, honoring the landowner’s requirements for water conservation.

To keep the indoor space cool from the scorching Texas heat, the tiny houses are insulated with spray foam and have large roof overhangs to reduce heat gain during the day.

The houses need to look warm, not be warm.

Garcia balanced out the cold metal exterior with a warm cozy design on the inside that’s lined with grained plywood.

“We just wanted something warm feeling that would offset the coolness of the metal on the outside,” Garcia said, adding that the floors are poured concrete, left a natural-looking gray. “It’s a high-design finish that doesn’t cost a lot of money.”

Adding to the interior warmth is the open plan layout, featuring large windows that draw natural light, also allowing the occupants unobstructed views of the river.

Garcia then created a 1,500-square-foot communal cabin, a great gathering space that features a guest bedroom, a living space, and a large kitchen for cooking, dining and group activities. The building also has a pool!

“If anything good came out of the recession, it was people hitting reset and realizing they don’t need so much space and stuff to be happy,” Garcia said. “I love it. And I feel proud to be working with clients who have had that realization, that less is more.”

Though the eight best friends aren’t ready yet for full-time retirement, their tiny community – aptly called “Llano Exit Strategy,” or “Bestie Row” – is a great getaway. And when they’re not using the cabins, they earn extra income by renting the space to tiny house-curious vacations goers.

“It’s like a Disney movie out here. We have hare, bobcat, deer and all kinds of birds. As we spend more and more time here, we find more and more.”

The online community had lots to say about the story shared on Facebook about “Bestie’s Row”

One writes, “Fab idea we always said it would be a great a great idea if friends build in a close and help each other as you age even share the same carers.” A second shares, “What a way to leave the with force! I’m sure they are all just beautiful.”

While some praised the couple’s commitment to their friendships, others suggested it’s a risky move.

“There goes the friendship,” while another writes, “They will stop being friends in 3 months flat.”

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