Chameleon shotgun house blends modern/vernacular on a budget

Inspired by the shotgun houses of the Gulf Coast, architect Zui Ng set out to create a modern version that could adapt to any lot. Calling it the Shotgun Chameleon, he built a prototype home for his family in Houston’s Fourth Ward (Freedmen’s Town).

Reflecting the buildings on both sides, it is clad in wood and metal, which are slatted to allow for light and breeze to enter while simultaneously allowing for privacy from the apartments next door.

The “Chameleon” in the title refers both to the home’s adaptability to place as well as to moments in time. Ng designed it to divide into separate apartments to reflect his changing family. When he first moved in, he left the interior stairway open and his mother lived downstairs. Now the stairwell is closed and he, his wife and young daughter live in the 750-square-foot upstairs. The downstairs is rented out as a separate flat, now accessible via an exterior door.

“There’s different ways to live free. I’ve seen people, they move to the middle of nowhere and they move into a car or something to live free. That’s one way. Me and my wife, right now, we are kind of living free The rent for the bottom unit actually pays for the mortgage.”

In order to keep the build affordable, Ng (ZDES Studio) and his wife created most of the interior themselves: building cabinets and furniture (some hacked from IKEA and Home Depot), staining the plywood, designing and installing steel countertops from leftover siding, and even creating wooden, sliding pocket doors.

“With the digital age we lost a lot of ability that our ancestors used to have, with your hands… This house was built $180,000 less than what the contractor asked for so this is like another master degree for me. I learned to do subcontracting.”

ZDES Studio:

Original story:

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  1. ZDES Design-Build
    June 26, 2017

    Hi everybody, I am Zui. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I am planning on building my next prototype house. It will have 4 bedrooms and can easily be converted to a duplex for rental. The main goal / challenge of this new prototype is to push the DIY concept beyond cabinetry and interior finishes so that I can build it within $100K . You can check out the design concept @ ( . I have recently acquired a lot to build it but still lack the funding for the construction. I am hoping to get $1 from 100,000 supporters to complete this project. You can mail me your one dollar to the address on my website – ( I also hope to create a blog to document and share the cost saving ideas and construction of this new prototype. Give me a Like if you support this idea. Let's make housing affordable !!!

  2. Geoffrey Human
    October 11, 2017

    Absolutely beautiful. An inspiring design that shows how less can more. Much more is this case. A triumph of ingenuity over vulgar expenditure.

  3. Ant polo
    October 12, 2017

    Show me the floor plans please I love this house.

  4. dooms day
    October 13, 2017

    How'd that house do in the recent hurricane? Let's see an update.

  5. anan
    October 15, 2017

    cough.. he remind me so much of my father.. in his new house, he tried to pour all his creativity (so that he can get the material as cheap as possible) and call it art. 5 years, and the house already kinda broke apart orz

    October 15, 2017

    I hope his house is alright after the hurricanes

  7. yolanda scott
    October 16, 2017

    A beautiful home. Nice size not too small or big.

  8. Joe Wehry
    October 17, 2017

    Thanks for taking the time to open your home and sharing your thinking and craftsmanship.

  9. cj2sew
    October 20, 2017

    I can't get over how much planning went into every detail. This is an awesome home.

  10. Sloan
    October 21, 2017

    Very cool except when your whole neighborhood can see inside your home 24/7

  11. TheAcenightcreeper
    October 21, 2017

    I love the passion that these people have for what they are doing.  If you watch all of Kirsten's videos, you will not see one unhappy person giving a tour of their home.  When I am having a bad day, I go to this channel and the happiness is contagious 🙂

  12. Zach Kellner
    October 24, 2017

    "The name of the house is the shot gun chameleon" Puts in title as Chameleon Shotgun house.

  13. Janice Bowman
    October 25, 2017


  14. isapink3204
    October 25, 2017

    amazing perspectives, Mr. Zui Ng. you home is lovely

  15. abenzuoo
    October 26, 2017

    i can relate quite good oon this proj. good job nerd :)!

  16. Lynnette K Polson
    October 27, 2017

    I love his design. Integrating everything and I love the flush doors. If I have the money to build a house, I want him to design it.

  17. Charlie J
    October 28, 2017

    Not only is this man a creative genius, he's also a financial wizard. His downstairs tenant pays his entire mortgage and he saved $180,000 building most things himself. Ziu you are my hero!

  18. Paul Adamson
    November 3, 2017

    Love, love, love it!

  19. EITFM
    November 8, 2017


  20. The Southern Lady
    November 12, 2017

    I love the outdoor finish… how they inclosed it.

  21. YPO6
    November 12, 2017

    Cold sterile boring style.

  22. juntao79
    November 12, 2017

    This guy is the Bruce Lee of home design. I love it.

  23. Prashanth Budihal
    November 15, 2017

    Awesome guy !

  24. Ray ray Vidal
    November 24, 2017

    Amazing ….. Dominica could do with someone like you ….

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