The idea of little houses grew out of a fascination with small spaces for interior architectural designer and Build Tiny director Gina Stevens.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for four years,” says Gina. “The timing was right. Jason had moved here, and the shed was available.”
Brother-in-law Jason Airey has more than 15 years’ experience in the building industry. Predominantly working in residential building, earthquake repairs and assessments, he has developed a comprehensive knowledge of tiny house construction techniques and systems. School friend Steve Cave, also an experienced builder, came on board to help build the tiny homes.
“The goal is to make purchasing a tiny house affordable for all New Zealanders,” says Gina.
To do this, Gina is focusing on creating a range of tiny home designs that meet the majority of people’s needs.
“We’re trying to create a range that can be appealing to the most number of people. We provide a basic plan that people can work from and then make customisations within a framework. Affordability is what we’re really trying to ensure.”
The whole process for the first tiny house was filmed, and each stage uploaded to YouTube, resulting in a massive online following by people in New Zealand and overseas.
‘The Millennial’ is the first of the tiny houses built. Designed to be mobile, it fits on a trailer.
“Western Bay District Council are looking into tiny house villages and bringing that concept into the district plan review in 2018,” says Gina.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council policy analyst Simon Stewart writes in his report that “In a period of extreme housing unaffordability and increasing poverty because of it, council should consider leading New Zealand in enabling tiny house villages in the Western Bay as one solution to affordable housing.”
Building consents are not required as the tiny house is technically a vehicle, but the council may require a resource consent depending on a number of variables like intended use, requirements for services, zoning, and what else is on the land. Every council can be different so Gina recommends people talk it over with their local planners. The family-owned business benefits from the experience of both of Gina’s parents Ian and Diane Stevens with sister Amy also involved.
“Gina has always been comfortable designing her space and being comfortable in her own space,” says Diane.
During Gina’s time at Victoria University where she completed a degree in interior architecture with honours, she was awarded a scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design in the USA.
“That inspired her even more,” says Diane. “She became very interested in our environmental footprint and what we’re doing.”
After working for the BNZ with small businesses, Gina worked in graphic design before returning to Katikati where she started bringing her tiny house idea to fruition.
“Tiny houses really have to be designed specifically for the people living in them and what their priorities are,” says Gina.
The Millennial tiny house is 7.2m long, 4.2m high and 2.4m wide, and is towed on a double-axle trailer. Double-glazed double aluminium doors made from toughened glass feature on two sides, creating an open spacious feel inside.
The house’s fully insulated interior features a retractable staircase, underfloor deep storage between the two axels, and two lofts. The double doors open invitingly onto detachable deck areas creating a pleasant indoor-outdoor flow, and opening up the space wider for lounging and relaxing activities.
The kitchen features swamp kauri; full size appliances, including a 229 litre fridge/freezer, oven, stove, and large sink; and plenty of cupboard and drawer space. The end of the kitchen bench also doubles as a step up to the dedicated home office loft overhead. This minimalist space can also be turned into a guest loft providing more sleeping area.
Opposite, retractable stairs slide sideways, disappearing into the wall and also providing an easy climb into the second loft which is wide enough to take a king size mattress with plenty of available headroom. In and around the stairs more storage is built in.
USB power points feature on either side of the bed, and nearby light switches also control the downstairs lighting. Underneath the loft, a deep bedside drawer goes all the way through to the bathroom.
Windows surround the bed, opening the area up to natural light. The spacious bathroom has a full size 900 x 900mm shower with an 80mm high showerdome, hand basin, compost toilet, and a laundry area with a washing machine and more cupboard and drawer space. The door to the bathroom cleverly doubles as the wardrobe door.
Picking up your digs and taking it with you, hooking it onto the back of a car and relocating to a new place is strongly appealing. Over the trailer drawbar a utility cupboard with power connections and an on-demand gas water heater provide further convenience.
Pre-wired for solar, and built with NZ-made Axxis steel framing, the tiny house is one third the weight of comparable timber framing. Suited to New Zealand’s environmental conditions, the quality steel means there is a 50-year durability warranty.
With two designs completed, the tiny houses can be sold as complete builds or empty shells ready for fit out by the DIY builder. A portable home built tiny, yet packed with nearly all the features one would have in an apartment or home is something that definitely appeals to those looking for sustainability and affordability.
Gina encourages anyone interested in tiny home living to come and experience it first-hand. The Millennial tiny house is available to rent on Airbnb in Katikati where it will be sited from the end of October 2017.