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Two St. Louisans have big plans for a tiny house and an urban farm

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Dwayne Tiggs, 41, visualizes the tiny home he and his partner, Rikki, are building on Monday in Benton Park West.

A 7,000-square-foot parcel of land in the Benton Park West neighborhood will get a fresh look and new purpose after years of vacancy and neglect. The plans for this new development include a tiny house of 420 square feet and an urban farm — all done with volunteer labor and recycled materials.

Dwayne Tiggs and Rikki Watts combined their passions and expertise in architecture, agriculture and environmental sustainability to build their own home for themselves and their two children. Where many would see a desolate plot of overgrown weeds and litter, Tiggs and Watts saw opportunities. From there the Benton Park West Tiny House Project has grown and will continue to grow.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
The lot where Dwayne Tiggs and Rikki Watts plan to build a 420-square-foot tiny home out of salvaged materials and urban farm on Monday in Benton Park West.
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Miya Norfleet
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St. Louis Public Radio
Dwayne Tiggs and Rikki Watts of Benton Park West Tiny House Project

“I think it came down to … taking a step back and looking at the base of it and what [the land] was going to support. Not just a house, but a community,” Tiggs said on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, “to integrate it into an environment that will help sustain it as well as be really regenerative.” Tiggs and Watts’ plans include using passive energy like the heat from the sun to warm and cool their home and a garden to grow native plants, elderberries and figs.

The health of the planet is important to Tiggs and Watts, but so is their mental health. “COVID shows very quickly that when you get locked down, a little bit of green space really gives you a little sanity … reserving the context of our natural environment while living symbiotically with it,” Tiggs said.

“The plan has always been a tiny house and a permaculture garden,” Watts said. “It’s one of the largest green spaces in Benton Park West, and we’re building the smallest house in Benton Park West on it. There’s a lot of opportunities for us to do fun stuff.”

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
A bottle and sand planter on Monday on the property where Dwayne Tiggs and Rikki Watts are looking to build a 420-square-foot tiny home and urban garden in Benton Park West.

Tiggs and Watts hope that building their tiny house and green space will encourage others to think differently about what a home is and can be. They plan on hosting workshops on upcycling materials by “utilizing it in a constructive way.”

“Say, ‘Well, I don’t have any tile, but I have a bunch of toilets.’ And all of a sudden you can break up these toilets, and I got 100 tiles. [We want] to approach design solutions in unconventional ways and give people that confidence by which to go after it and do it themselves.”

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Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Mosaic details from a bathroom being built by Dwayne Tiggs in a renovated shipping container on Monday in Benton Park West..

To follow the Benton Park West Tiny House Project’s progress and get updates on upcoming workshops, follow them on Instagram.

For more on what’s to come during Dwayne Tiggs and Rikki Watts’ spring construction, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

Dwayne Tiggs and Rikki Watts share details of their tiny house and garden on St. Louis on the Air

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Miya is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."

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