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The industrial Bohemian

Jannine Bishop with husband Mike, and children Isaac, 12, Jack, 10, and Pearl, 8, have been living in a house truck for the last two years.

“I was really tired of paying rent,” says Jannine.

Their business operates from part of the building next to the housetruck and has been customised to provide for Jannine’s office, and storage.

“There are people living across the road, in industrial places. A lot of the new industrial units have a little apartment up the top. So it just makes sense.”

The 15m housetruck was once a traveling zoo.

 “I found it on Trademe. We gave our notice to our landlord at the last rent rise. We told him ‘no’ to a rent increase, and that we’d find somewhere else to live. We went looking and this came up.”

The house-truck previously belonged to the sister of someone Jannine and Mike knew. “They lived in it for a couple of years,” says Jannine. “Then they had a child and bought their own place. A lot of people were after it as it was right on the cusp of that tiny house movement starting.”

Now sitting on chocks, Mike spins the wheels every three months to keep them from rusting, and turns other businesses’ discarded pallets into decking and planter boxes for vegetables and bromeliads.

“I love the fact that there’s no rent to pay,” he says, smiling.

The green exterior is board and batten, with two main entrances, featuring French doors at the back, painted decorative attachments, and leadlight windows. Evoking a sense of Bohemian gypsy and yesteryear, Jannine plans to turn it into B&B accommodation.

“Fully off the grid, and you’ll get a fully organic breakfast. Eventually we’ll get a bit of land and move this house truck on to it. We’ll set it up to be eco-friendly.”

In a previous chapter of life, Jannine worked in the art department for Pacific Renaissance Pictures, which produced the ‘Xena’ and ‘Hercules’ television series. She’s been bringing her production design skills to the Bay of Plenty, creating stunning film sets for BOP Film, and recently helped create the ‘wow’ factor for Zoetica. She’s now the project manager for the International Youth Silent Film Festival, runs workshops, and encourages creativity.

“Because I’m a collector, downsizing and figuring out what I really need to live with was interesting. I discovered we don’t actually need a lot, but it was hard having to compact down.”

She uses designated space in their business building to store film props, art tools, and all the supplies an artist and creative person needs.

Jannine’s art and design work is often influenced by images of oriental and colonial styles, and the Catalan modernism reflected in her Pinterest collection of Antoni Gaudi architectural photos. She’s also drawn to natural textiles.  

The family enjoys eating outdoors, having created a private dining area with picnic table and umbrella outside the truck.

“We may have breakfast inside but most of the time if we can, we’ll eat outside. It’s not cold by any means, and we find ourselves opening the windows. The truck doesn’t take much to heat. Everyone goes to bed warm, so it’s quite different from going to bed at the end of a freezing house.”

The kitchen has four power points, rimu panelling, and a macrocarpa benchtop. Although there’s an oven inside, the family often cook outdoors too.

“We use the barbecue and electric fry pan to do most of the cooking. That’s been another challenge – going from a full-size kitchen and a lot of bench space, to a different style of cooking.”

Jannine has done up the fire place, painted the French doors, and is planning to paint the inside white.  Pearl’s bedroom has been painted, and with downsizing, the children learned to respect each other’s spaces.

There’s no water supply into the truck, as the family use the bathroom inside the building. They also use a solar shower and enjoy a weekly soak in the nearby hot pools.

“I have a lot of stuff in storage still. One day we’ll build a house or find something. We always have our radar out, waiting for that right thing to turn up, whether it’s a piece of land, or a house and land. But it hasn’t turned up yet.”

With a small creek running through the back of the industrial property, the boys have improved their ball-handling skills, as they got tired of continually retrieving their football from the muddy water. By 4.30pm most afternoons, the other businesses in their street have closed down.

“Everyone goes, and then we have the area to ourselves. The kids can ride their bikes out there, and Isaac can play his drum kit without any neighbours asking him to stop.

“I couldn’t live in the house truck with three children if we didn’t have our industrial building,” says Jannine. “Ideally I’d like to live in a barn. I have a vision of a half-round barn, a bit of bush, chooks, fruit trees, organic garden, a little studio down the back for me, and a B&B. That’s me, that’s all I want.”