In an age of rising house prices, crazy consumerism and a trend towards living more simply, it makes perfect sense that the tiny house movement is finally making in-roads in Australia.
US shows such as Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunting are helping pique our interest in these cosy and super-affordable dwellings, of course, but many who’ve jumped on the tiny bandwagon believe ‘going tiny’ could offer a real solution to the housing crisis.
“I’m convinced that the tiny is the house of the future – well, for a big chunk of the Australian market,” says Grant Emans, NSW-based builder and owner of Designer Eco Homes, which specialises in tiny houses. “It’s sustainable in so many ways, not just environmentally but socially. I think it’s just a great option for many people.”
Emans isn’t the only one. Big World Homes unveiled its sustainable, portable flatpack tiny home late last year, which includes a living room that converts to a bedroom, running water, plumbed-in bathroom, solar panels and rainwater tanks. They’re optimising the structure so that IKEA products can be easily integrated into the build for storage, and claim the tiny homes, at 2.5 tonnes, can be towed by a ‘regular 4WD’.
The surprisingly spacious Designer Eco Homes can take about three months to build
In terms of costs, the average tiny house with kitchen, bathroom and loft bedroom will set you back anywhere from $50,000-$90,000. Designer Eco Homes’ tiny houses range from $55,000 to $85,000 and take about three months to build – while the Big World Home’s tiny house is $65,000, and can reportedly be constructed with a hammer and a drill in a matter of days.
Who’s going tiny?
In the US, an estimated 40 per cent of tiny houses owners are over 50, and while Emans’ clients are all ages – including young first homebuyers – he also gets single and/or divorced women in their 50s or older who are seeking something small and manageable. “I also get older couples who might already have a beautiful home, but want to invest in a tiny home to put on their property as a guest house, or to rent out for extra cash on Airbnb,” he says.
Tiny homes can be used as a home or as a guest house for your property
A true ‘tiny home’ on wheels (THOW) is essentially a registered caravan, and it must be built in accordance with Australian Design Rules. That’s a maximum height of 4.3m tall, 2.5m wide and 12.5m long. “It cannot weigh more than 4.5 tonnes, either, whereas American tiny homes can be 7 tonnes,” adds Emans. “Also, it’s not the kind of thing you want to drag down the highway every week. The reality of a tiny home is it’s caravan built to look like a house – but it’s not aerodynamic and it’s too heavy to tow all the time.”
Tiny design that’s all about you
The beauty of going tiny is you can afford to customise it exactly as you’d like it – rustic, Scandi-sleek, super-luxurious, industrial chic or a mixture of styles that you love. You might want a tiny home that connects to existing services, or one that’s completely off-grid so you save even more on bills. Clever storage, airy loft bedrooms and mod cons are a given – the rest is really down to your imagination, the talents of the builder and what you want to pay. Want a bigger kitchen because you love cooking? Tick. Skylights in the loft so you can lie in bed and look at the stars? Tick. A teeny built-in desk for a home office? Tick.
“Some have two lofts, some have ground floor bedrooms,” says Emans. “And everything is dual purpose. Stairs double as a storage cabinet; the front door doubles as an indoor ladder to get to the second loft, the handrail might double as a shelf. I believe good design should be simple and practical. Everything in a tiny house is customised to suit your style and living habits. If you’re seriously thinking about going tiny, go and visit a few to ensure you’re comfortable living in the space. Most people who come to our workshop usually find the tiny houses bigger than they’d expected.”
There are infinite possibilities when customising your tiny home
Where to put your tiny house?
Finding a permanent or semi-permanent bit of land on which to park your tiny is currently the biggest drawback for potential homeowners, says Emans. “Some people buy bush blocks, and others have family who own a large property and have space in the backyard. My advice? Before putting down a deposit to build one, acquire the land it’ll go onto first.”
Big World Homes is looking to establish ‘Big World Home Communities’ for those who buy its homes but have nowhere to put it. The only other option is to do a DA to create a caravan park – which might be one way if you have a bunch of friends who are keen to go tiny. “The industry is only about three years old in Australia, and while we’d eventually like to see legislation to create tiny house villages, councils will take a while to catch up,” says Emans.
That said, people are already bucking the trend, with tiny house villages being created by enthusiasts around the country. Phonse Moon, who is creating Beachside Village in NSW’s Ulladulla, is one of them. “We’re building a tiny house community in an old caravan park with residents due to move in early next year,” he says. “It’ll have a vegie patch, chooks, a big communal kitchen. We’re in the early stages of tiny house living but I imagine it’ll be a huge thing in coming years with house prices and rent so high. It just offers another option.”
Would you live in a tiny house – or do you already?