THE LITTLE HOUSE THAT COULD
A family home that re-imagined the great Australian dream.
Marnie Prowse and her husband Dan have been raising their two young children in their tiny house in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire for the past three years, proving that tiny living is possible for bigger households.
After realising that the quintessential Australian dream wasn’t bringing them the happiness they longed for, Marnie and Dan made a life-changing decision to simplify their lives - trading in the traditional house on a large block for a tiny 32 square metres of paradise, and a life less mess.
Dubbed ‘Tiny Haus’, their diminutive two-bedroom home feels airy with an open-plan living room and kitchen, and sleek polished concrete floors throughout. The design takes advantage of natural light with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the sparkling pool and a breakfast bar that opens onto a spacious wooden deck.
The couple chose to build their tiny house in their existing backyard. “We split the block with a dividing fence to maintain privacy for us and the front house, which we now rent out to tenants,” Marnie explains.
“We engaged an architect to help design our space, but we undertook the build as owner-builders.” Dan is a project manager and his best mate is a builder. Between them and a few other contractors they built the home. The family spent most weekends doing something on the build, with their daughter Ella especially keen to lend a hand.
The project took just five months to complete, with only a few little hiccups along the way in an otherwise smooth and uncomplicated process. The most notable moment for Marnie was when the sunken bath they planned on having had to be pulled due to plumbing restraints. “We quickly got over it and now the kids bathe in a bucket,” Marnie laughs.
Being resourceful and adaptable is all part of the tiny house living package. For Marnie and her family the biggest drawcard is the time they spend as a family enjoying the outdoors, their pool and garden space. “We’ve designed our home precisely around our lifestyle,” she says. “We’ve found that our tiny home has given us more time to do the things we love, rather than cleaning and maintaining a home.”
Working within a small space doesn’t mean that style has to be compromised.
Out of these lifestyle changes Tiny Haus Lifestyle evolved. Marnie’s mission-based business empowers others to simplify so they too can live a life of true happiness. “My clients appreciate that while I’m delving into their lifestyle, I’m approaching with hard-won wisdom, empathy and optimism.”
A complete contrast to her once fast-paced corporate life that was leaving her burned out, Marnie now relishes the extra time life in the Tiny Haus has given her to connect with Dan and the children. “We realised we were in control of our happiness,” she says, adding that the process of downsizing their possessions was a major step on the path to freedom. “Today we’re very conscious about what we bring into our lives which makes the decluttering process much simpler.”
With a lot of foot traffic, in a tiny home there’s no unused space and furnishings must be multi-functional. The dining room, for example, also poses as an office, an arts and crafts station and a homework zone. Ella (8) and Frankie’s (2) bedroom is accessible by their own kid’s sized staircase that has built in storage. The room has a triple story bunk bed arrangement complete with a play area underneath. While in Marnie and Dan’s bedroom, the bed lifts up to create another space for the girls to play. “We aren’t precious about our home and the kids enjoy our whole home.”
Marnie’s flare for minimalism is expressed through the Modern Australian style of the design. “I love a simplistic aesthetic with natural, earth tones,” she says. The grey modular lounges that come from the Ambient Lounge collection are lightweight and hard-wearing interior bean bags. “We move them around depending on what we are doing. We’ll push them together for family movie night, or apart if the girls have set-up a game or I’m doing yoga.”
It was important to Marnie and Dan that the house be built with sustainability in mind. Solar panels were installed to supplement power, the highest grade insulation was used through-out, and they installed Low-e glass windows, underfloor heating and ceiling fans for cooling. There is a water tank for the garden irrigation system and a compost for food waste. “Having a smaller footprint, our bills have reduced significantly and it means we consume less resources, which is good for our planet.”
When it comes to successful micro living, a healthy balance between indoor and outdoor living is important. “We prefer to spend our time outdoors so there is a big focus on that,” she says. The outdoor space planning was as detailed as the indoor space for the Tiny Haus family, and growing their own produce was always part of the plan.
Fig trees have been espaliered on the southern wall of their home, in the pool area and on the fence, while olive trees provide privacy from the back neighbours. “The majority of our garden is edible,” Marnie says. Two kitchen gardens, one which runs off the deck and the other positioned alongside their small patch of lawn, supply them with an abundance of spinach, kale, lettuce, rocket, chard, herbs, tomatoes, cabbages, raspberries, spring onions and more. “We also have a passionfruit vine that runs along our fence shared with our neighbours.”
In summer, the family spend their days in or by the pool, while in winter they keep warm around the outdoor fire pit. “We’ve realised that living in a smaller space has provided us the freedom to do the things we value. Where my mornings used to be a panicked rush to get out the door on time, today I take things slow. I’m calmer. I’m present. I’m healthy.”