When I was researching about tiny houses and planning ours I was ravenous for details of other people’s homes. I wanted to know what they included, what they left out – and why. So I thought I’d include a little bit about our home, for anyone who might be interested.
In New Zealand we have specific trailer restrictions for it to be ‘roadworthy’ – which it needs to be if you want it to be on a trailer and count as an caravan/RV instead of a building on a trailer. These are our restrictions:
- Max weight: 3.5 metric tonnes (3500 kg)
- Max width: 2.5 meters
- Max height: 4.25 meters
- And length is up to 12 meters I think, but most of the time the weight restriction means a house will be around 5-8 meters long.
There is some wiggle-room in terms of the width if you want to have a pilot vehicle and ‘wide load’ sign etc, but for most people 2.5 meters wide is what they go for.
So that’s it – provided you keep within these restrictions, you can build however you want. Obviously these will probably be different in your country/state, so do your own research.
Our tiny house is built on a trailer that is galavanised, with an electric brake system, rated for up to 3500kg (we don’t know the weight of our tiny house because we’ve never weighed it… but we think it’s probably around 3500kg).
We purchased our land with my parents, splitting the mortgage roughly 70/30 between us. They got the existing house on the land and we got a portion of the section to park our tiny house.
Our property is a rural lifestyle section on Auckland’s North Shore, just outside of Albany. We are surrounded by bush and farmland, but are only 10 minutes from civilisation.
Initially the plan was to build a minor dwelling on the property, but as I mentioned here, we grossly underestimated the costs of that. So for now we are living in our tiny house quite happily.
Some details of our house
Our house is 2.4 meters wide, 7.2 meters long and 4.25 meters tall. It has wooden framing, cedar weatherboard cladding and is lined with eco-groove plywood. The windows are aluminum, mostly second hand, painted white (one of our biggest regrets is not getting all new windows). The floor is solid matai (NZ wood) tongue and groove fixed directly onto the trailer.
The house has one big sleeping loft and one small storage loft (or guest loft) over the bathroom. We all sleep up in the sleeping loft: Carl and I on a king sized mattress on a little base we made and Baxter on a crib mattress next to us.
We opted for stairs up to our sleeping loft for convenience, and it also provides a lot of storage for our clothes and shoes.
Our kitchen has a small under-counter fridge, two burner gas stove, small electric oven/microwave and storage under the bench and in cupboards up the top.
The bathroom has a full shower with glass doors, small sink and vanity and a composting (bucket) toilet.
We have a dedicated lounge space (something that is often overlooked in tiny houses) because we love watching movies and being comfy. This space is under the sleeping loft, and has a big corner bench seat/couch that provides more storage and can also slide out to become a bed. We have a TV/computer monitor in the lounge hooked up to our laptop and Bluetooth speaker to watch movies and TV shows, and also use as a personal computer.
The lounge is also Baxter’s play area – he has a few bins with toys, a small bookshelf with books and a small sofa for him. But of course his toys get spread throughout the house during the day.
We have a small fold-up table that works as a dining table or desk space, but we never use it and it mostly functioned as a changing table for the first 6 months.
The house is connected to mains power from the main house on the land. Our water comes from a tank we had installed on the property, and we collect rainwater from the roof. Currently our grey water drains onto the section and disperses over the soil but we will create a proper trench at some point. Because we have a composting toilet we don’t have black water – we empty our toilet buckets into composting bins down the back of the section. Our toilet functions exactly like this here, if you want to know more.
We have recently added a deck to our house. It is actually built on the land and not connected to the house (we do this for legal reasons so it’s clear the house isn’t a permanent structure) but it’s less than half a foot from the house so for all intents and purposes it’s ‘connected’ to the house. The deck is 3 x 5 meters and has a shelter over the top and a railing. It has worked really well to pretty much double our living space, giving Baxter a lot more room to crawl and play, and adding a space for our pup to live during the day.
Our tiny house is actually unfinished – the main building part is done, but there are lots of little cosmetic things we haven’t finished inside, like painting bits and pieces, adding cupboard doors and drawers, trims and other tiny things. They don’t affect our living in here but sometimes I look around and wish all these details were done. I’m sure we will get to them eventually!
We do our laundry down at the main house on the property. We could have included a washer/drier, but it is just unnecessary at this stage.
We have some things in storage at my parents’ place – things like childhood items, photo albums (remember those?!), clothes Baxter has outgrown and some other bits and pieces. We have kept this stuff because the storage space is available to us, but if we had to I’m sure we could pare this down a lot more.
We also each have our own creative studio spaces where we store a lot of our own creative stuff.
Our creative studios
I knew that I would need my own space outside of our tiny house. This could also have worked if we had included an extra loft space for this purpose, but as someone with a lot of art supplies and books, I knew a small studio space would be best. I wanted a space that I could work on my business away from everyone and just get into my creative zone.
I have a small studio space built onto the section, about 10 meters away from the tiny house. It’s 10 square meters (2.4 x 4 meters), the biggest space you can build without needing consent.
I use this space to work when I have a babysitter, and sometimes in the evenings. It’s great to have my own small space because I can decorate it however I like, set up all my lovely things that inspire me, and not have to worry about packing everything away when I’m done.
As a musician with a lot of drums, guitars, keyboards and microphones, Carl also needed his own studio space. We are currently in the process of setting up the interior of his so that it can function as a tiny recording studio/practice/teaching space. We knew from the start that Carl’s gear would never fit in the tiny house! Ultimately Carl would like to have a much bigger recording studio on the property, so that’s a goal for the next 10 or so years.
We could have built these tiny studios ourselves but after spending two years building our house and with a new baby keeping us up all night we were both too exhausted to even contemplate building them – so we paid someone else to build them for us. If you purchased a class from me in 2017 you helped me to get my little creative studio – thank you!
A part of me feels like we are ‘cheating’ as tiny housers by having these studios, but then another part is aware that living tiny can look different for everyone. If we didn’t own our own land, we probably would have built small trailer studios or something similar, because we are both creative people who need a small space for our creative work.
This combination of our tiny house, our deck and our two creative studios has given us the best living arrangement to meet our needs.
Tiny house – Phase two
Since we have decided against building a small house on the land, our next step is to build a slightly bigger tiny house – one designed with a family in mind. This build was not really designed for a family, and was limited by what we knew and what we thought we were capable of when starting out. Now we have more confidence in what we can do, and since the tiny house movement has really grown in NZ, we have more options.
Our new build will be 3 meters wide and 8 meters long. It will have steel framing and a combination of cedar and corrugated iron siding.
It will have two big lofts, one for the kids and one for us, each with a small staircase and a solid wall for privacy.
It will have a bigger bathroom, lounge and kitchen, and will even have a small ‘office’ space in a tiny bit over the trailer hitch. It will also have two doors – one front door and a small set of French doors on the back. We want it to have room for the kids to run through and play.
Our new build will have a few of the things we compromised on in our first build (mostly because we didn’t think it could be done – now we know better): a full bathtub, a fireplace, a full fridge and hopefully a full oven.
We hope to have it running on solar power, heating the water from solar and a wetback fireplace, collecting our own rainwater as well. It will have a similar set up with the deck, and our studios too.