I've taken some photos of our wee house at last! Between actually finishing with the build, shifting in, taking some time to settle in and running my photography business I just haven't had the chance to do this until now. Walking around our home taking these photographs this morning nearly brought me to tears - happy tears! It's finally sunk in that we've done it. This is our home! Our dream has been realised. We're living it.
The home might be just 65sqm but we definitely don't feel like it's cramped or tight. Each area in the house has been well thought through.
The use of plywood for our walls and ceilings is probably the most talked about component of our interior. People either love it or hate it. We love it, that's why we did it. The texture it adds and the variation in the natural grains of the wood suits the look we wanted.
Our bed headboard wall doubles as a walk-around wardrobe. Designed by us, made by the clever Regan at Elite Joinery Solutions.
We've still got laundry shelving to go up in the bathroom and some towel hooks - all of which are going to be custom made by us. The bathroom is our only room in GIB so I decided to go bold with the colour tones in here. The walls are Dulux Nevis Valley, the ceilings Dulux Cardrona. Black fittings throughout and a one of a kind vanity unit made from reclaimed rimu and steel, with a stone basin that matches the outside bath.
One strategically angled shot of my office because that room is still a mess with boxes of sentimental items & seasonal clothing etc that will eventually get put up into the roof space for storage. This room is also home to the linen shelving and hot water cylinder (no we didn't go gas - another common thing we get asked about - our reason: one day we want to install a solar system, so gas would be a utility bill we couldn't reduce, where as electric water heating we can).
The much talked about outside bath tub! This beauty came from Indonesia and is a composite of crushed marble and resin. We've plumbed hot water to it and use it just like you would an indoor bath, except that (to the relief of the neighbours) I wear togs!
It feels like every part of this home is 'my favourite thing about the house' haha but that Siberian Larch feature on the front is a definite highlight, breaking up the black but complimenting it at the same time. Our builders (Wilson Baird Building in Riversdale) did an incredible job with the exterior and while the changing runs of horizontal & vertical corrugated cladding were one of my most annoying design ideas logistically I think it's SO worth it.
We can't wait to put Matt's custom made outdoor furniture on the deck ready for summer days with the bi-folds stacked open. And soon the task of landscaping will begin. More photos to come as we continue to get settled and do the final finishing touches.
I am so behind on blogging the progress of our house build! But now that we're all moved in and the chaos is over I plan to catch up and share the last couple of months of building which were a crazy blur of busy. Matt ended up taking most of August off work (man are we lucky he has an awesome employer!) and we were on the building site ourselves an average of 80 hours a week, from dawn until well after dusk every day.
In August we were ready to start fitting out the interior. The electrician and plumber ran their wiring and piping through the walls and then it was on us to insulate and begin putting our ceiling and walls up. Proof of how much of a blur this part of the build is the fact that we didn't take many photos because we were so busy just getting shit done. While builders straightened walls and began on the exterior cladding Matt and I were learning how to do all sorts of things as we went; installing ply sheets, gib-stopping, painting, sealing concrete floors, installing the drainage channels brackets, foaming up windows, putting on architraves and skirting boards, making the bathroom vanity, putting up the Siberian larch weatherboards and being general labourers to help the builders with any jobs we could.
I was so glad we were only building a tiny house - the insulation for the ceiling and walls was all done in one weekend! Putting up the ply walls was another story. There was so much planning, measuring and double-checking involved with every sheet. And then we had to polyurethane it all!
And let's not forget how much of a test the weather was for us. Building in winter had more than it's fair share of challenges - with high water tables causing excavation nightmares, rain delaying concrete pours and wind holding up the roofing and cladding installation.
Countless late nights spent working and countless takeaway meals on the run! There's no denying that this part of the build was one of the most stressful times of our lives! Every last blood, sweat and tear went into building, but we did enjoy being hands on and it was very rewarding to know we played such a big role in creating our forever home. At the end of each day we could see the progress we'd made and that kept us going. We had a vision of how the house would look and I think it took most people, even our builders, until near the end to truly see what we had envisaged from the start.
I googled how to gib-stop the bathroom - it's not perfect but I was pretty pleased with my efforts. Painting the bathroom was a team effort (would you believe I had never used a paint roller before?!). Matt chose some expensive Italian Corten steel look tiles for the shower and they're utterly gorgeous! Adrian Van Uden's team did an incredible job of the tiling for us.
Regan from Elite Joinery Solutions, not only made our beautiful kitchen but also helped us with a number of other projects in the home including these rimu slabs which I then poured with resin while Matt made steel frames which would become our vanity unit.
Matt and I had our fair share of 'heated discussions' during the build but we're lucky that on the whole we work pretty well together. One thing I will say is that project managing a build is SO much more intense than I was prepared for. This stage of the build just became all consuming and my head was filled with one massive to do list. Added to that was managing the budget! I was often overwhelmed with the full responsibility for all the decisions I was making and the consequences of those decisions at times. But we haven't been living in the home a month yet and already we've both said it was all worth it. Well and truly.
While final fitout of electrical and plumbing began inside, the outside was all coming together too with the cladding and utilities.
We can't thank all our tradespeople enough for the huge efforts put in to getting this build over the line! Gavin and his team at Wilson Baird Building, Matt of Henson Electrical, Nick from NG Plumbing & Heating, Lindsay Roy for the all the earthworks, Regan at Elite Joinery Solutions, Adrian Van Uden, Gore Flooring Xtra, Ben at Thwaites Aluminium (& Rolly!), Brennan at Southern Concrete Cutting for all his advice and of course Josh at MAS Architecture for taking my hand drawn plans and turning them into a real house design for us.
Thank you also to all the beautiful people in our lives who dropped in to see us while all of this craziness was in progress and delivered care packages of food, fed us meals, helped us with a paint brush, lent another pair of hands to whatever job needed done, let us borrow tools, helped us lift stuff and just generally raised our spirits with your company & good banter. We love you. We appreciate you. And how cool is it that this house already has our friends & family as part of its story?
The windows & doors went in last week. This week the pre-wiring and plumbing was done. And this weekend Matt and I have a whole lot of insulation to install!
What a relief it is to no longer be weather dependent. Not that we've had much time to really stand back and let the fact that we're well over half way through this build sink in! Instead we've been busy (often long in to the evenings) working on pre-lining tasks, preparing the concrete floors and making decisions on interior fixings & materials. It has been all go.
I thought I had most things sorted for this part of the build but it turns out that having it planned in my mind or on paper is entirely different to having things ordered or actually organised! This week has been a whirlwind of phone calls sorting everything from concrete sealer to siberian larch weatherboard profiling. I've done walk throughs with the electrician and picked up our tapware. We've spent more hours than we want to count cleaning back the concrete floors ready for sealing (the concrete floors are a whole other story!) and each night I go to bed exhausted but with a million things racing around in my mind.
Still, while there's a bit of stress involved with overseeing so many aspects, making decisions and trying to manage the dollars going out as well, I am wildly happy every time I set foot in the house. This is going to be our home and it's looking beautiful.
The roof is on! Which naturally called for a few beers after work yesterday.
This milestone feels like a halfway point. The structure is pretty much done and once the windows go in we'll be closed in. I'm so looking forward to when we begin working on the interior. It just feels so real now that we have walls and a roof! This is also the point where Matt and I get to do a bit more of the process ourselves - would you believe me if I said I'm excited about doing the insulation?! Haha I'm sure the novelty will wear off fast!
But how good does that roof look?! I'm so pleased we stuck with black coloursteel - we tried to find an off-black shade that wasn't quite so bold but we just kept coming back to plain black. It's striking but it's not as in-your-face as I worried it would be. When we designed the house I also had reservations about the house length and roof pitch. I didn't want the proportions to be out and thought it might look too long and pointy but now I see it in 3D I realise there's nothing long about this house - it's tiny! 🤣 And I love it.
We are officially out of the ground! Today the concrete got poured for our house and we're pretty darn excited. Anyone that has built before knows getting out of the ground is one of the longest, slowest parts of the build. And what with crappy winter weather we've had recently it feels like we've been waiting for this day for a while. But it's happened & we're so excited to see it all progressing.
I thought now would be a good time to share why we went with a tiny house on foundations rather than the very popular tiny house on wheels.... When we really started talking seriously about downsizing, we first looked at the idea of tiny houses on wheels (THOW). This is the most common type of tiny house and examples of incredible THOW's can be found all over Youtube and social media now. Many people choose THOW's because of the ease of being able to move their home if they need to. The pricepoint of a THOW is often more attractive because you don't have to own the land. And of course being on wheels means you fall under transport regulations, not building regulations (although this is a grey area & is likely to change). Not having to build to specific code & go through the rigmarole of council consent is obviously attractive (having just gone through this process ourselves we can certainly see why people try to avoid it & the costs involved!). The reason we decided a THOW wasn't for us is because the mobility of the house wasn't a priority for us, we still wanted to own some land and being on wheels has it's design restrictions because your home has to stay within set road-legal dimensions.
We briefly looked into container homes, another form of a tiny house. This is where we kicked our ideas up a gear and got in touch with our builder to quiz him about the logistics of building with containers. We quickly realised from talking to him and doing some more research that while it may seem cheaper to use a container versus conventional building materials there are drawbacks and factors that need to be added into consideration. You're also limited by the dimensions of the container/s which reduces flexibility for the design.
In the end we decided on a more conventional to-building-code house on foundations - just a really small build compared to the average NZ home (which is now over 200sqm!). This way we could design a floor plan that worked perfectly for us without making compromises, we'd have a home that was easily insurable, equitable and built to NZ building standards. We'd still be 'in the system' as such (owning land, connected to services etc) but we'd get a home that would last us our lifetime and we'd be able to achieve financial freedom much faster than had we stayed in our big house.
Building a tiny house on foundations definitely has it's drawbacks too though and won't suit everybody going down the path of going tiny. Because it falls under building regulations you have all those costs to add in. Having to adhere to those regulations also means you might have to forego some amazing tiny house design ideas (such as a simple ladder up to a loft would instead have to be a compliant staircase). Going off-grid with your services (such as a composting toilet & greywater systems) isn't going to be as easy when having to be signed off by council. And it could be tricky to find land that you can build tiny on because of minimum size restrictions in certain regions.
That's the beautiful thing about tiny houses - they're specifically unique to the people living in them. What works for some, won't work for others. We are so excited to live in the space we've designed uniquely for us. And today we are one step closer.
The number one question we're getting asked on the daily at the moment is how is the build coming along or when do we think we'll be in our new home. It's exciting talking to people about our tiny home and getting to share our journey. It's cool to see such an interest in what we're doing. And we're so flippin' excited to see it all start to come together. We talk often about how amazing it is going to be living in a house we've designed, somewhere we can see ourselves being for the rest of our lives, a home that is going to give us the life we're dreaming of!
But I realised recently that each time people asked me about the build progress I was constantly thinking of timeframes and targets rather than the beauty & fun of the build itself. Over the last few months of getting out the other side with consent and then starting the groundworks I found myself getting stressed and worried every time something took longer than expected, materials didn't turn up on time or the weather stopped work for the week. I laugh now at how I naively thought we'd be out of the ground by Easter!
I've slowly learnt to release any expectations of timing. Sure it's important to have a loose timeline so all the contractors are on the same page but in terms of when certain stages will be done & when we'll be shifting in... all in good time. There never was a hard set deadline anyway and we want to get it all done right, rather than rush it.
And you know what - that mindset shift has made the build immediately less stressful and so much more enjoyable. Letting go and just being excited about the small steps forward each week doesn't come naturally to me as I'm such a planner, but it totally aligns with what we're also trying to achieve with this build.
A year ago today we announced to our family and friends that we were selling up. I remember the excitement of putting our plans into action. The nervousness of putting our beloved home on the market. And then I remember the frustration of waiting for it to sell. It took over six months which felt like forever! Ha. Now one year later as we break ground on our new section and get excited for the next chapter, I appreciate all the life we've lived in that year. I'm grateful that we took the leap and began living our lives on our terms, creating the life we dream of. We might not be there yet but I am reminded that it is all about the journey itself.
Ever since I can remember I've been a pretty driven person, always just wanting to get on and do whatever it is I'd put my mind to. I like to think I'm self-motivated. Others might call it impatient. I left school at the end of sixth form because I was ready to start a career rather than 'waste' another year in school! I've never shied away from a challenge (unless it involves heights) and I don't let fear of the unknown hold me back. Build a house at the age of 20 - sure. Quit my job to pursue photography - yip. Sell said house to go tiny - shit yea! I definitely prefer to be taking action rather than resting on my laurels (as Dad would have said).
I've talked a little about our decision to sell our house & go tiny but there's so much more to this journey that the square metre-age of our home. It's about lifestyle. We realised we were spending huge hours working to pay the bills. Did we really need to have this huge mortgage for another 20 years? We'd be 50 by the time we owned our home out-right and that seemed like a lot of life to be spent paying off an excessive asset. We dreamed of a lifestyle that let us do more travelling, spend more time with friends & family and the freedom to enjoy our hobbies. We realised a way to achieve more of this good stuff in our life was to downsize our home & in turn our debt. As we looked at alternative living our eyes were opened to new, different possibilities. We talked about selling up and just renting, we looked at nomad living travelling the world, we talked about the advantages & disadvantages of a tiny house on wheels or a house bus. We weighed up what we loved about our current home and what we could do without.
Now I'm not advocating that everyone should start getting rid of their possessions or sell their home! But I am all about living your best life and prioritising the things that bring you happiness. Perhaps you want to travel more, or maybe pay off a loan. Want to start your own business or learn a new skill? The biggest step you can take is to start. Don't just think maybe one day you'll do it. Make a plan, set some goals, start saving, enrol in that course - whatever you've got to do to begin the journey.
Life is for living. If there's things you want to achieve or changes you need to make to live the life you dream of then start today. x
It's been a few months since we sold our home and began the planning stages of what I've nicknamed the "Horton Build 2.0" - our tiny home. During this time we've been working towards gaining building consent from the council and while it's been quiet on the blog here, we've been busy behind the scenes getting our ducks in a row so it can be all go once we're ready to break ground.
Technically we're building a small house at 65 square metres, as tiny houses are under 50sqm or even less depending on who you talk to, but tiny houses are a way of living - a lifestyle, more than a square meterage. The philosophy is about paring down, living simply, gaining financial freedom, reducing the consumer-driven excesses, being more sustainable & eco-friendly. For some people tiny house living is also about beating the property market, or the option to move about (if your tiny house is on wheels) or even moving towards community living with shared resources. For us going tiny is a way for us to move towards financial freedom, giving us more time for experiences. We've also become conscious about our footprint on this planet and wanting to live more sustainably.
So how did we come up with our tiny house plan? When Matt and I first started talking about the idea of going tiny we took a look at the footprint we were actually using of our four bedroom house. We realised we were only really using a third of the home. So we floated our idea of going tiny to our builder and he had us take a look at a few house plans to see if we could cut a plan in half or find a way of using something existing to base ours off. But we couldn't find anything that worked for us and we began drawing up house plans ourselves. We quickly became fixed on a long house configuration with a short hallway joining everything. In fact the plan looks very close to the configuration of half our old house! We got out the measuring tape and stepped out areas. We thought about the things we loved in our old home and what we'd change. We looked at house cladding, roof pitches and design styles everywhere we travelled. We found pictures online of interiors we loved. And then we went to see Josh at MAS Architecture in Invercargill.
Josh helped us bring our ideas to life. He took my basic drawings and created all the technical drawings, plans and details required for council consent application. Here's the concept we ended up with below. A 65 square metre home that opens up to the north onto a patio running the length of the house. The living and kitchen area has a pitched ceiling to create the feeling of a bit more space. We'll use sliding barn-style interior doors rather than swinging to save on space. We've added more room to the bathroom than in our previous home to allow for a big tiled shower. Our kitchen is based off our old one but tweaked slightly to give us more storage & more breakfast bar space. We're having a walk-around wardrobe in the bedroom which will also double as a 'headboard' for the bed. We decided to still have a spare room as we want this to be our forever home and this gives us options. It will double as office and storage space. And possibly the most talked about feature - an outdoor, plumbed in bath tub!
The home will be insulated including the concrete floor, plus the use of Low-E glazing for the windows. We'll make the most of the sun's warmth but we're also planning on having a small, low emission wood burner.
We're going with plywood for the interior walls and polished concrete floors as we've fallen in love with both of those 'raw' looks. When we started thinking about the interior of our home I really wanted the house to feel like a bach - with the comforts of home but also so that it feels a little like we're on holiday. There's nothing conventional about this build and we didn't want it to feel like our last home did with white walls and carpet throughout. Corrugated cladding will be broken up along the north side with a wood feature. The natural colours and textures of stone and wood will feature throughout the home, inside and out. From the stone bath, the concrete floors, right through to our plans for the tiled shower. With plywood walls the interior will have a warmth about it, contrasting against a white kitchen. Matt has created some beautiful pieces of wood & steel furniture and plans to create a vanity unit for the bathroom of the same style. I'm imagining potted plants throughout the house bringing the outside in and the big stacking door off the living area will open us up onto the patio for those cracker Southland days.
And for those wondering about storage and where all our 'stuff' goes... we're currently living in a small rental and we actually don't have a heap of things in storage. Most of the boxes and items in deep storage currently are Matt's shed things and he's getting another shed with this build. We're not having an internal access garage this time which is something we were okay with forsaking, but Matt's new shed is actually going to be bigger than our tiny house! 😂 We managed to pare down so many of our possessions in the process of down-sizing so the built in storage within this house plan will be more than enough for the two of us.
The next blog post update will hopefully be us breaking ground and I'm so excited for that stage. This tiny house has been on my mind for the last year - I dream about it frequently and can already visualise in my mind how it will look as I walk through it. It was initially a little scary thinking we had designed this house plan & what if it didn't work functionally, but we've had a year to nut it out, we've had the best architect we could wish for helping us every step of the way and it's going to be pretty neat living in a home we designed ourselves! I remember when we decided to list our old house for sale back in March 2018 and spending half of that year thinking it was all taking too long. Now I realise time has flown and the Horton Build 2.0 is all about to get very real!
I heard someone talk recently about the script that is written for our lives (it goes a little like this: get a good education, find a well-paying job, get married, buy a home, fill it with stuff, own a nice vehicle, have kids, buy a bigger house...) and it made me take stock of the idea that we really are programmed to live our lives to a script of sorts. Every day we are bombarded with advertising, products and social pressures that push this script upon us, touting that 'bigger is better' and that we need to be keeping up the Jones's. Consume this, buy that. Our families without consciously realising it teach us to chase this same materialistic script. Our friends are busy ticking off their life accomplishments so we'd better keep up.
Now I'm not saying that this script is wrong, or right. But I do wonder how many people spend their whole life running in the same direction as everyone else, just because. We've certainly spent the larger part of our 20's doing just that. And then we sat back and re-assessed. If the script fits then that's all good, if half of it or none of fits then I think that's all good too. There should definitely be the freedom to choose your own path. I do think a lot of people stick to the more well-tread path simply because. Maybe due to expectations. Maybe it feels safer.
We're re-writing the script to suit ourselves. We no longer want the big house with the big mortgage. We don't find happiness from the material things surrounding us anymore, in fact we had so much stuff it was stressing me out! We decided a more simple life would leave us with more time and resources to experience this beautiful life we have.
If life hadn't thrown us a curve ball and we'd started a family when we wanted to I doubt this blog would ever exist. But the fact that we are looking at life without children prompted us to re-consider the path we're on. We're fortunate to have an incredible relationship & the only question was really what do we want to do with our lives then? Matt's first answer was; more travel. Followed quickly with; more time for toys (not the kid variety, think more expensive grown-up toys that all seem to have engines!). When I asked myself the question of 'what do I want to do with my life' it took a while longer to come up with the answer. But eventually it came to me; I want to slow down and enjoy the simple things - like family, friends, nature, experiences.
While there's a great many opportunities that down-sizing is giving us, our number one priority is to work towards financial freedom. We realised we were staring at another 20 years of mortgage on a house we weren't using to it's full potential. And even if we knuckled down and paid off our mortgage faster we'd still be left with a beautiful, but excessive home. We were utilising less than half the footprint of our house. When we became enchanted with the tiny house movement we started talking about the idea of reducing our footprint and in turn reducing our debt so that we could do more living now. We don't want to spend the best part of our lives busy paying for & maintaining more house than we need when we could be travelling, spending more time with family and friends, enjoying this beautiful world we live in.
The biggest roadblock in re-writing the script I think is that you have to be okay with the fact that you will be judged, criticised and told you're crazy. It's human nature to be judgmental and I guess by taking a road less traveled there will be some more conventional people who are going to have something to say about it. We've already been told we're stupid to give up our big home... (well actually the bank owned most of it). We've been told we're turning into hippies. I get reminded on an almost weekly basis by strangers, clients or friends of friends that there's an expectation that someone of my age should have children by now. But none of this judgment matters to me and it certainly won't sway us from the ideas we have for our life. We're not doing it to stand out or to make a point, we're simply choosing to live our lives the way that best suits us. We are happy and we're excited about re-writing the script.
The point of sharing this? Or any of our journey for that matter? In hopes perhaps that it's inspiring or intriguing & provides a different perspective on living. In a world that is all about being busy and having more - we're opting for a more simple life. I'm not saying everyone else needs to start making drastic life changes like us but ask yourself this; what do you want to do with this beautiful life you have? And don't be afraid to dream outside the 'script'.
When we decided to put our home on the market back in April we had so much interest in what our next 'move' was. I know it came so out of the blue for many when we told them we had decided to sell the place we've built and called home for the last six years! In reality, our dreaming & scheming began last year after spending our 10th anniversary in a eco-retreat just outside of Wanaka. So now that our house is officially sold it feels like the right time to announce our plans.
We are in the process of planning our next build! Now before I go into detail, I want to answer some of the other questions we've been asked; no we're not selling up because we're broke and can't afford our mortgage! 😂 This is purely a lifestyle choice. No we're not moving away, we're staying in Riversdale - we love it here! And contrary to many guesses we're not going "bigger and better". We're in fact going smaller.
We realised that when we built our house six years ago we had plans of having a family and establishing that kiwi quarter-acre dream. The reality is that some things in life don't go as planned. As a result our ideas and goals have transformed and changed direction. The mortgage we happily took on back then for a house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and multiple living spaces is now oversized for just us two. Since August last year when we stayed in that eco-retreat we've fallen gradually in love with the idea of downsizing, simplifying and working towards financial freedom.
Already a few people have told us we're crazy, but most of the friends and family we've talked to get it. They can see why we're choosing to say no to the more 'conventional' lifestyle, instead picking a road less travelled. We're in a unique position where we can do this. We don't have dependants and rather than tie ourselves to another 20 years of a mortgage, we're choosing to maximise the experiences in our lives. We have come to realise that it is the experiences in life that you treasure the most, not the material things. You can't take 'stuff' with you when you go. Having financial freedom will mean we can say yes to more experiences. More travel, more adventures, more fun. And as an added bonus; we can also say yes to less stress, less pressure and less materialism.
So tell me more about this new build you say?! Our first build was a modest but well set out four bedroom home with two living areas & bathrooms. The Horton Build 2.0 will be almost one third the size of our first build. With just a master bedroom, one bathroom, a spare room and an open plan kitchen & living area that will extend out onto a deck. Unlike our first build which was a turn-key spec house, 2.0 will be custom-designed with some different building elements, aiming for a lower carbon footprint and a lot more of our personality stamped into it. And of course I'm going to be blogging this build! We've had so much interest in what we're doing already and I think it will be fun to document the build and tell our story as we go. So watch this space...