Rookie builds home one step at a time
When Georgia-Rae Flack told her granddad she wanted to build a tiny home, he tried to convince her to start small. But she had big dreams, writes Kylie Klein Nixon.
Registered nurse GeorgiaRae Flack was living in a shared flat in Dunedin when she realised she’d had enough.
She was ready for her own space and knew she didn’twant to live with other people any more – she wanted a place of her own. She wanted a tiny home of her own.
‘‘I’d been obsessed with tiny houses for years before I started building,’’ says Flack (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, KātiMāmoe), 26.
‘‘I thought, ‘Now’s the time. If I don’t do it I’ll regret it, and I’ll be thinking about it for the rest of my life.’ So I just did it.’’
She moved back in with her parents in Karitane, outside Dunedin, to figure out her next steps. Her parents were happy to have her at home while she worked on the project, and their neighbours let her build the portable tiny home on a piece of their land beside her parents’ place, ‘‘whichwas ideal’’.
Despite not having done much building before – Flack hadmade a skateboard and a couch once, and more recently had built a sailing waka with friends, which she credits with giving her confidence on the tools – she decided she would build the home herself, from the trailer up.
‘‘I watched a few Mitre 10 videos on how to build framing, so I knew that it was safe and built to code. Everything else I just Googled and YouTubed.’’
When she first talked to one of her granddads about the idea, he tried to convince her to start smaller, with a ‘‘little teardrop caravan or something’’, but
Flack had her heart set on a tiny house. Once that was clear, whānau got behind her plans
100 per cent.
‘‘I couldn’t have done it without my parents giving me somewhere to live and my dad helping out. You can’t do everything by yourself – you need someone to hold up the plywood while you nail it in.’’
When you see the stylish aluminium and timber-clad home, it’s hard to believe it’s the work of a rookie builder who learnt everything from the internet.
A classic mezzanine design, with an open-plan kitchen and living room, storage built into the stairs, and a large skylight above the bed for stargazing (and escaping through, in the event of an emergency), the home has everything a first-time homeowner could want.
The window in the kitchen was a ‘‘real score’’ that she ended up ‘‘designing the whole house around’’.
‘‘I knew the layout Iwanted, so I just designed everything to fit around my windows, because all my windows and doors are secondhand. I got the trailer made to the size Iwanted. I didn’t want it huge, but big enough that it’s comfortable to live in. It’s got everything I need.’’
The windows were all different colours so she cleaned and painted them black. The colour makes a nice contrast with the warm, honey-coloured plywood interior.
She had thought about putting a loft over the lounge but decided against it, because as it is it ‘‘just feels really open. The lounge doesn’t feel small or claustrophobic at all.’’
The project took Flack 26 months to complete on her days off and cost about $50,000 in total, with the largest portion of that going on the new trailer.
She was able to pay for each step of the build as she went, buying materials with each fortnightly pay cheque.
‘‘I was lucky enough to be living rent-free with my parents, so that helped with me being able to afford to buy materials regularly.
‘‘It worked out that the speed at which I could build on my days off and with my knowledge – or lack of knowledge – was the speed at which I could afford it.’’
With the build complete, it was time to find a place to put the tiny home for good. Two kilometres down the hill from hermumand dad, a piece of land came up for sale. Flackwas in a position to buy it, and she relocated the tiny home there when it was complete.
Building the house hasn’t just meant freedom for Flack. It has alsomeant living more simply and sustainably, which is important to her.
‘‘Being able to collect my own rainwater, have a composting toilet, and live more simply – I think you just have lesswaste. Thatwas something that drove me as well.
‘‘Not having to work full time just to pay rent or amortgage, but to be able to have more time to grow my own food in the garden [is important to me].
‘‘[I] cook things from scratch that I love cooking and just have amore healthy lifestyle.’’
Flack’s advice to anyone dreaming of building their own tiny home one day is: ‘‘You’ve just got to start.’’
TheMinistry of Business, Innovation and Employment released fresh guidelines to help clarify the legislation around tiny houses last year.
‘‘It can be daunting – I was really quite terrified when I was trying to figure out my dimensions for my trailer and actually committing to it,’’
‘‘But once I’d done that, I thought, ‘OK – I’m doing it.’
‘‘There were points in the build where I’d become a bit overwhelmed with how much work I still had to do. But I’d just step back and look at what I’d achieved so far. Everything is just one small step at a time.
‘‘Nothing was particularly hard; it’s just taking the time to figure it out.’’