Small but per­fectly formed: A clever and cre­ative Wai­heke Is­land cou­ple’s petite re­treat

The tiny house trend is tak­ing off and for this cou­ple, liv­ing on a small scale gave them the chance to de­sign their dream home

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Nes­tled in the bush, the house is sur­rounded by bird life

TThe tiny house trend has taken off in re­cent years, and there are now lit­tle homes pop­ping up all over New Zealand, along­side many oth­ers mak­ing the shift to­wards a more min­i­mal life­style. For graphic de­signer Kate van den Bergh and ar­chi­tect Willem, their place on Wai­heke Is­land is a dream come true.

When they re­alised as new­ly­weds that buy­ing a home in Auck­land was out of their price range, the cou­ple be­gan brain­storm­ing other op­tions to get out of the rent trap and own a place of their own. Kate was work­ing for a mag­a­zine fo­cused on sus­tain­abil­ity and green liv­ing at the time, and a fea­ture on a $21,000 tiny abode sparked her in­ter­est. This was around three years ago, when tiny houses were al­most un­heard of, but af­ter vis­it­ing the house, the cou­ple fell in love with the idea and the project be­gan.

With their cre­ative skills com­bined, they drew up the plans and de­signed the house to­gether, a beau­ti­ful blend of Willem’s love of modern de­sign, and Kate’s love of small cot­tages. They spent sev­eral months col­lect­ing ma­te­ri­als, scour­ing TradeMe for bits and pieces to keep costs down. The house, which at $96,000 cost them the price of a house de­posit in Auck­land, took three months to build out in West Auck­land, be­fore be­ing fer­ried over to their new sec­tion on Wai­heke Is­land. “It was the best move we’ve ever made,” says Kate.

Nes­tled in the bush near Palm Beach, the house is sur­rounded by birdlife and na­tive trees. Within 27m2 of space they’ve man­aged to fit a beau­ti­ful

They drew up plans and de­signed the house to­gether

kitchen, lounge, nurs­ery, laun­dry, bath­room with com­post­ing toi­let, read­ing loft and bed­room loft, with French doors open­ing out onto a gor­geous wrap-around deck that’s larger than the house it­self. There are lights strung be­tween the trees and a bath­tub built into the deck, per­fect for a glass of wine and a soak un­der the stars.

Their home might be com­pact, but it doesn’t feel it. “It was re­ally fun to de­sign and it’s even eas­ier to live in than we thought,” Kate says. “The beauty of these houses is that you can de­sign them to suit your ex­act needs. It’s not like buy­ing a house where you have to knock down walls or any­thing, and you can make every bit of fur­ni­ture multi-func­tional.” The stairs up to their bed­room loft dou­ble as Kate’s closet, the couch opens up for Willem’s wardrobe, and the break­fast bar dou­bles as stor­age shelves. The house is full of cre­ative space-sav­ing ideas and many pieces are pre-loved or up­cy­cled, such as the cop­per pen­dant light in the lounge, which was once a hot wa­ter cylin­der. “You can re­ally de­sign it all down to the lit­tle tiny things, even to suit the size of where your toi­let pa­per roll is go­ing to go,” she laughs.

By na­ture, Kate isn’t a min­i­mal­ist her­self, but

liv­ing on a tiny scale doesn’t leave much room for a big wardrobe or piles of clut­ter. “Once you peel back to the ba­sics of what you can live with, it’s pretty easy to live with less,” she says. Ini­tially, she also wasn’t sure how liv­ing in such a small space to­gether would af­fect their re­la­tion­ship, but to her de­light, the whole ex­pe­ri­ence has brought them closer to­gether. With their first baby now on the way, it was lucky they de­cided to in­cor­po­rate a sound­proof nurs­ery into the de­sign. They have plans in the pipe­line to build a big­ger house on the same sec­tion for their grow­ing fam­ily and rent out the tiny house, but they are keen to keep things small. Their liv­ing space might be lit­tle, but it has brought them a huge amount of joy.

Fol­low them at build­ingtinyauck­land.word­,

* or on In­sta­gram @build­ingtinyauck­land.

‘Once you peel back, it’s easy to live with less’

Clock­wise from top left: The light-filled kitchen fea­tures ceram­ics from lo­cal artist, Thea Ceram­ics; the house is sur­rounded by na­tive trees; the kitchen is supris­ingly large, and con­tains a pull-out pantry, full-size oven and fridge and a dou­ble sink; the view from the bed­room loft over the lounge and the read­ing loft.

Above: With out­doorlights from their wed­ding and a ta­ble hand­made by Willem, the spa­cious deck is an ideal place to re­lax. Right: As Willem is from South Africa, theyde­cided to make the nurs­ery sa­fari-themed,keep­ing with the nat­u­ral colours and ma­te­ri­als through­outthe house. The cot from Global Baby can con­vert into a tod­dlerbed later on.

The wooden shelves in the read­ing loft are made from a macro­carpa kitchen­topfound on TradeMe.

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