Their first project was transforming an old grain silo into a hunting clubhouse. It took about three weeks.
Seven years later, the same three Kansas City-area men will be showcasing their incredible knack for converting unusual containers into houses in a national TV series called — what else? — “You Can’t Turn That Into A House.”
Brothers Taimoor and Rehan Nana and their buddy Kyle Davis will star in the show, which debuts at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 15, on the FYI network. Taimoor will host a watch party at his home in Fairway, though the idea of being on TV hasn’t sunk in yet.
“We’ve just been working 15-hour days, and I guess the fact that it’s on TV is out of our hands,” says Kyle. “It’s been fun so far but the fact that it’s a TV show is something … we don’t really know what’s going to come of it.”
They’re still in the process of shooting 14 30-minute episodes. Each show follows the trio as they turn an unusual container like a garbage dumpster, dairy truck or two yellow school buses into tiny homes with big personalities.
Red Arrow Industries in Knoxville, producers of several reality shows including the History Channel’s, "Lone Star Restoration," and DIY Network’s "Building Off The Grid: Bottle Island,” discovered them after Garden & Gun’s website featured the “much-needed” clubhouse that they crafted for themselves from a rusty grain silo.
The silo is also one of only 15 cabins featured in a book called “Cabin Porn,” the spin-off of an eponymous website that has more than 10 million unique visitors.
“We reached out to them, and lo and behold they were super personable and very entertaining,” says Danny Downing, co-owner of Red Arrow Industries and executive producer of this show. “They have what it takes to be on camera. They’re photogenic, they’ve got great charisma and rapport and they love hanging out with each other. So we did a tape and took it to FYI and proposed having them turn crazy things into houses.”
All of the camera-ready traits were on display one recent morning as the brothers and their buddy gave a tour of one of the 10 projects in the Kansas City area that they’ve been building for the show since early May.
For this one, they had hauled an old semitrailer from County Line Auto Parts in Kingsville, Mo., several hundred yards and bolted it to concrete footings near a bucolic pond. Then they cut pieces of trailer walls out of the middle to create a large breezeway, with a cozy enclosed bedroom and full bathroom on one side and an enclosed kitchen with a giant picture window over a sink and counter on the other.
The trailer, which has about 300 interior square footage plus the 100-square-foot breezeway, will serve as a home for Blake Roberts, 21, a recent college graduate and avid fisherman. His parents, Krystyn and Dennis Roberts, own County Line Auto Parts.
Krystyn was responsible for getting the family hooked up with the show after Dennis received an industry email looking for potential show participants.
“I’ve always had kind of a fascination with tiny houses and wanted to design one sometime down the road,” Krystyn says. “But my husband has always been skeptical about living in a tiny home so he jokingly forwarded the email to me and said here’s your chance to get your micro house, not expecting me to respond. But I did.”
They decided the project would make a perfect home for Blake.
“We’ve got two younger daughters and he likes his privacy, so it’s a place he can go and hang out without his sisters around but still be close to home,” she says.
She’s purposely stayed away from the build side because she likes surprises, she says.
“He’s going to have some pretty great parties, you know,” Rehan (Ray-haun) says.
“And you can howl at the moon out here,” adds Taimoor (Ti-more).
The trailer was still in need of finishing touches including paint, furnishings and decor during our visit. Rehan pointed to a red tailgate from a Chevy pickup attached to the side of the trailer that folds down into a fish-cleaning station.
They’ve also turned license plates from the salvage yard into square shades for pendant lights and will make a table for the breezeway from salvaged wheels. Blake will get his first glimpse of it Sunday afternoon during the big reveal.
Though it was hot and the air was still that day, it was remarkably pleasant on the breezeway thanks to a constant, well, breeze.
This wasn’t by accident, as Kyle, 31, is an architect and owner of a design-build-manage firm called Blue Earth Projects. He and the Nana brothers have put their full-time jobs on hold while taping the show. Taimoor, 38, owns a company that manufactures clothing, and Rehan, 32, works for The Conservation Federation.
The brothers met Kyle several years ago when a mutual friend introduced them and they realized they had a common interest in the outdoors. They all began hunting together on farmland two hours north of Kansas City owned by the Nana family.
But the four-hour round trip with “a day of hunting in the middle and a dangerous night drive home” — as Kyle puts it — was getting old.
It’s unclear who but about seven years ago, during one of those drives, someone got the idea to make a clubhouse out of a silo on the property and then someone else added onto that idea and so on and so on.
“It was like we were finishing each other’s sentences,” says Taimoor.
They started cutting into the silo with no idea if their plans would work, but less than three weeks later they had their clubhouse.
Their goal on that original project was to reuse as many materials as possible. Much of it came from a nearby barn that had collapsed during a tornado.
Its large structural beams found new life as supports for a loft and the stairs leading to it; tin from its roof became cladding for the kitchen backsplash and interior walls surrounding the bathroom and a closet; stones from the barn’s foundation serve as the bathroom floor.
They try to embrace a similar eco-friendly philosophy whenever possible on all their projects, often finding clever ways to use random materials their clients have on hand.
Clients are selected based on what container they can provide. Taimoor, Rehan and Kyle then begin each project by talking to the clients to learn what they want and need from the home as well as family histories and hobbies.
“These are becoming someone’s house and they all take on the personality of their owner,” says Rehan.
Then they take pencil and paper and draw out plans before moving onto 3D computer software.
Downing is amazed at their creative process.
“They brainstorm on what they could do to it and always come back with something that blows our minds,” he says. “You get used to the idea of a house is this: there’s the entryway, which leads to an open floor plan with a living room and a kitchen area off that. But they’ve blown that idea up by making super unique footprints with the owners’ needs and logistics in mind. They put a twist of creativity on it.”
One of Downing’s favorites was when they converted a bison shed and a shipping container into a home by turning the shipping container on its end and making it into a vertical loft area with a huge vertical window and a deck on top, 20 feet high.
“As soon as they put it up, we were … just amazed!” Downing says. “Today we’re at a horse trailer (near Kansas City) and they’re doing things to it that I would have never thought of.”
Rehan points out that every project has its own unique challenge, like the one where they put a barbecue grill in the hood of a school bus. (“Well, we are from Kansas City, so we have to sneak in something barbecue-related to every project,” he adds.)
“Several times on each project several people will say, ‘I have never done this before,’” Kyle says.
Production of the show began in Texas earlier this year where Taimoor, Rehan and Kyle built four homes in three weeks. In an advance screener, they convert a circus trailer in Austin into a colorful backyard guesthouse with a rooftop deck for a family with a circus history. The owners invested about $30,000 in that project.
They’ve spent the last 11 weeks working on the 10 Kansas City area projects.
“We’re building on multiple sites at one time and going from place to place so they’ve had to really take giant steps in their creative ability — to juggle so many creative builds at one time,” Downing says.
The hectic pace doesn’t seem to bother the trio. They built one of their homes from the ground up in 96 hours.
“There is no sense in watching the weather reports, because it doesn’t matter,” says Kyle. “We work rain or shine.”
Where to watch
“You Can’t Turn That Into a House” airs weekly at 8:30 p.m. Saturday on the FYI network, starting July 15. There are 14 episodes. www.fyi.tv