An Art Deco Queenslander becomes a Contemporary Family Home

Renovating an Art Deco Queenslander into a contemporary family home can be challenging.

It can be difficult to preserve the character and original details, whilst ensuring the finished home suits modern family life.

Read on to see how we achieved this in this renovation project.

This project was my husband’s and my own renovation. It was the third we did together, and by far the biggest!

We purchased it as a project (ie we intended to renovate and sell once complete). It look longer than expected, because around the time of purchasing it, we also had our third child, and I started an architectural practice with 5 business partners!!

This home was around 100m2 at its original size.  A small 3 bedroom home, it had walk-through rooms as verandah space on the original home had been built in to contain a bathroom and study / nursery. A new kitchen had been put in by the previous owners prior to renting it out, and there was a small laundry tacked onto the back, which sat adjacent to a deck. The deck was accessed by a single back door, and had no relationship to the interior.

We renovated it over a three year period into a large and beautiful family home intended for sale on completion.

Built in the 1930s, the home had significant original features both internally and externally that we sought to protect and enhance. It was quite an unusual Queenslander for the area, being Art Deco in style. We wanted to preserve this character, and the local town plan also required that the street elevation be protected, and any other pre-1946 features of the home.

Room sizes weren’t conducive to modern lifestyle requirements, and did not optimise the orientation of the site (which was north to the side). And despite the block actually being a large one for its area, it was a weird pizza-slice shape, and the home was doing very little to create an indoor / outdoor connection with the garden around it.

During purchase, and our settlement date, I worked on several design options. However, when we went for our pre-settlement inspection, we discovered the neighbour had come onto the property (taking advantage of the fact no one was occupying the home), and chopped down a line of significant trees along the fenceline. They sat on our property, and their foliage had screened the neighbour’s upper floor deck (their main entertaining area) from looking down into our yard. The neighbour had done it to open their views and northern light up, and illegal as it had been, you can’t really do much about trees that are no longer there. We did reach a financial agreement with them, but it meant that I had to completely rethink the design in order to create privacy from their overlooking.

The design ideas

So, the design we ended up deciding on raised the existing home by around 1100mm, and shifted it sideways on the block by 1500mm (to the east and away from this neighbour). This then created sufficient room on the western side to add a double-car garage.

We located secondary bedrooms and a family room (or kids’ living space) on the lower floor, with their own bathroom and internal entry from the garage. This living space had french doors that opened onto the side garden. We securitised the front garden with high fencing so it connected to the rear garden as well. This meant that kids could be in the lower living area, run around the garden, come up into the rear garden and main living area, and be safe and contained in the one space.

In renovating the existing home, I was very keen to keep as many of the original features as I could. This included traditional ceilings, and timber detailing on the walls. So, the design in the existing home worked to keep the walls where they were, and we located the master bedroom with an ensuite, and his and hers’ separate walk-in-robes, in this part of the house. We also located a second bedroom, sitting room and study in the original home as well.

The old deck was removed, and the old laundry became a connection zone between the existing home and its new extension. We located a stair in the old kitchen to connect lower and upper floors. A study nook was created in the connection zone, and a full bathroom added on here, which could be accessed as a guest powder room, and also for showers from the pool area.

The biggest change to this home was the pavilion extension we added to the rear. I positioned this along the southern boundary of the home. It was designed as a separate element that ‘bolted-on’ to the connection zone. Due to this design, we could position the pavilion to do a few things:

  1. the main living areas were able to be oriented to the north
  2. it enabled the home to connect with the rear garden
  3. it privatised our garden area from the overlooking neighbour
  4. it stretched out budget as we could then build the pavilion as a new structure and more cost-effectively (renovating can be labour-intensive and slow – a pavilion extension can be much faster and simpler to build, capitalising on new-build efficiencies).
  5. it meant our living / kitchen / dining space could be sized as generous, open plan spaces, and not constrained by existing house structure
  6. we were free to choose suitable materials because it was an independent structure to the home

This extension successfully expanded the home to suit modern lifestyles and enable full surveillance and connection of indoor and outdoor living areas, as well as the pool.

The result was a home to suit any family, at any age, throughout their ages and time in the home. It also gave this gorgeous old Art Deco Queenslander the opportunity to live on!

Some special design features we included that you may find interesting:

The intercom / security door

We wanted to create an intercom gate, so the front door could be left open to bring breezes through the home, yet the home stay secure and private. We also knew that the front door is a bit of a walk from the lower floor, and the rear living areas.

A local aluminium panel fabricator had a range of standard panel designs that included this ‘leaf’ patter. The home itself was located on the grounds of the original orchard of the first home in the suburb – so I loved this motif of leaves / trees / orchards as a decorative element. We had the frame of the door custom made from square aluminium tube, and the panel sized to suit, to fix over the top.

We then fixed a handle and lock, and also included a camera intercom connected to a unit in the kitchen. It didn’t electronically open the door, but it meant you could determine from the kitchen if you needed to walk to the front door!

We also used this aluminium panel design as a privacy screen on the lower floor bedroom, where you start walking up the stairs.

The lettering for the ‘sixty-one’ street number fixed to the house, and the letterbox numbering as well (structurally supporting the timber letterbox) were all custom made to my design, and powdercoated to match the screen panels.

The colour scheme

We wanted to keep the colour scheme fairly monochromatic so as to appeal to future buyers, and give the home a contemporary look. However we were keen to use colour to accentuate the original features of the home. This included the stucco art deco form on the central part of the house, and its feature border, which we highlighted in a darker paint colour. Colours used here are all Dulux:

  • The dark grey is “Bushland Grey”
  • The white is on the window frames is “Whisper White”
  • The lighter colour on the stucco and new extension is “Grey Pebble”
  • The dark / black on fencing and trim is “Namadji” (this is a brilliant warm black)
  • Natural timber battening is Spotted Gum with a natural oil finish

Rainwater chains

The new little roof to the entry needed to be unobtrusive and elegant, and so a downpipe wasn’t going to be a great feature right by the entryway. Instead, I sourced a rainwater chain for that small area of roof, to run down to a stormwater drain mounted in the grass garden below. The same detail was used on the roof to the outdoor room at the rear. That roof was actually made from Solarspan Bondor, which is super-fast to install, thin in profile, and provides insulation and weather protection all in one material.

There were lots more, as a lot of thought, detail and attention went into this home to make it extra special! Have a look through the photos and floor plan below. All images and design are copyrighted to Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The “BEFORE” photo of the home!
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
This is the home transformed, with new extensions to the side and rear, and a lower floor built in underneath.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The ‘before’ rear of the home, showing the old deck and laundry.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The new rear of the home, with the connection zone and new pavilion extension.
Undercover-Architect-Ashgrove-Queenslander-Renovation-Art-Deco
The new pavilion extension with its north-facing outdoor room
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
Inside the pavilion, the living room has great visibility of the pool.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The interior view of the pavilion from the living area. A butler’s pantry and laundry were located at the western end.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
Interior view of kitchen / dining and living pavilion extension.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The master bedroom in the original part of the home, with its original ceiling and timber features.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
Building in underneath the existing home to create a lower floor. We cladded both storeys in weatherboard to tie together old and new.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
Inside the lower floor, this is the kids’ living space, with access to outside.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The connection zone between the original home and extension (in the area of the original laundry). This space also provided external access to a bathroom.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
A view of the home from the driveway. We used exposed aggregate for driveway and paths.
Undercover-Architect-Queenslander-Ashgrove-Floor-Plan
These floor plans show the ‘after’ version of the home. The blue highlight and text indicates the original part of the home, and shows how rooms were repurposed or renovated.

Want to see more Queenslander Renovations? Check out these other blog posts:

Before and After: Bringing a Dilapidated Workers Cottage into its new future

The corner store no more | Renovating a corner Queenslander home

The post An Art Deco Queenslander becomes a Contemporary Family Home appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Source: Undercover Architect

An Art Deco Queenslander becomes a Contemporary Family Home

Renovating an Art Deco Queenslander into a contemporary family home can be challenging.

It can be difficult to preserve the character and original details, whilst ensuring the finished home suits modern family life.

Read on to see how we achieved this in this renovation project.

This project was my husband’s and my own renovation. It was the third we did together, and by far the biggest!

We purchased it as a project (ie we intended to renovate and sell once complete). It look longer than expected, because around the time of purchasing it, we also had our third child, and I started an architectural practice with 5 business partners!!

This home was around 100m2 at its original size.  A small 3 bedroom home, it had walk-through rooms as verandah space on the original home had been built in to contain a bathroom and study / nursery. A new kitchen had been put in by the previous owners prior to renting it out, and there was a small laundry tacked onto the back, which sat adjacent to a deck. The deck was accessed by a single back door, and had no relationship to the interior.

We renovated it over a three year period into a large and beautiful family home intended for sale on completion.

Built in the 1930s, the home had significant original features both internally and externally that we sought to protect and enhance. It was quite an unusual Queenslander for the area, being Art Deco in style. We wanted to preserve this character, and the local town plan also required that the street elevation be protected, and any other pre-1946 features of the home.

Room sizes weren’t conducive to modern lifestyle requirements, and did not optimise the orientation of the site (which was north to the side). And despite the block actually being a large one for its area, it was a weird pizza-slice shape, and the home was doing very little to create an indoor / outdoor connection with the garden around it.

During purchase, and our settlement date, I worked on several design options. However, when we went for our pre-settlement inspection, we discovered the neighbour had come onto the property (taking advantage of the fact no one was occupying the home), and chopped down a line of significant trees along the fenceline. They sat on our property, and their foliage had screened the neighbour’s upper floor deck (their main entertaining area) from looking down into our yard. The neighbour had done it to open their views and northern light up, and illegal as it had been, you can’t really do much about trees that are no longer there. We did reach a financial agreement with them, but it meant that I had to completely rethink the design in order to create privacy from their overlooking.

The design ideas

So, the design we ended up deciding on raised the existing home by around 1100mm, and shifted it sideways on the block by 1500mm (to the east and away from this neighbour). This then created sufficient room on the western side to add a double-car garage.

We located secondary bedrooms and a family room (or kids’ living space) on the lower floor, with their own bathroom and internal entry from the garage. This living space had french doors that opened onto the side garden. We securitised the front garden with high fencing so it connected to the rear garden as well. This meant that kids could be in the lower living area, run around the garden, come up into the rear garden and main living area, and be safe and contained in the one space.

In renovating the existing home, I was very keen to keep as many of the original features as I could. This included traditional ceilings, and timber detailing on the walls. So, the design in the existing home worked to keep the walls where they were, and we located the master bedroom with an ensuite, and his and hers’ separate walk-in-robes, in this part of the house. We also located a second bedroom, sitting room and study in the original home as well.

The old deck was removed, and the old laundry became a connection zone between the existing home and its new extension. We located a stair in the old kitchen to connect lower and upper floors. A study nook was created in the connection zone, and a full bathroom added on here, which could be accessed as a guest powder room, and also for showers from the pool area.

The biggest change to this home was the pavilion extension we added to the rear. I positioned this along the southern boundary of the home. It was designed as a separate element that ‘bolted-on’ to the connection zone. Due to this design, we could position the pavilion to do a few things:

  1. the main living areas were able to be oriented to the north
  2. it enabled the home to connect with the rear garden
  3. it privatised our garden area from the overlooking neighbour
  4. it stretched out budget as we could then build the pavilion as a new structure and more cost-effectively (renovating can be labour-intensive and slow – a pavilion extension can be much faster and simpler to build, capitalising on new-build efficiencies).
  5. it meant our living / kitchen / dining space could be sized as generous, open plan spaces, and not constrained by existing house structure
  6. we were free to choose suitable materials because it was an independent structure to the home

This extension successfully expanded the home to suit modern lifestyles and enable full surveillance and connection of indoor and outdoor living areas, as well as the pool.

The result was a home to suit any family, at any age, throughout their ages and time in the home. It also gave this gorgeous old Art Deco Queenslander the opportunity to live on!

Some special design features we included that you may find interesting:

The intercom / security door

We wanted to create an intercom gate, so the front door could be left open to bring breezes through the home, yet the home stay secure and private. We also knew that the front door is a bit of a walk from the lower floor, and the rear living areas.

A local aluminium panel fabricator had a range of standard panel designs that included this ‘leaf’ patter. The home itself was located on the grounds of the original orchard of the first home in the suburb – so I loved this motif of leaves / trees / orchards as a decorative element. We had the frame of the door custom made from square aluminium tube, and the panel sized to suit, to fix over the top.

We then fixed a handle and lock, and also included a camera intercom connected to a unit in the kitchen. It didn’t electronically open the door, but it meant you could determine from the kitchen if you needed to walk to the front door!

We also used this aluminium panel design as a privacy screen on the lower floor bedroom, where you start walking up the stairs.

The lettering for the ‘sixty-one’ street number fixed to the house, and the letterbox numbering as well (structurally supporting the timber letterbox) were all custom made to my design, and powdercoated to match the screen panels.

The colour scheme

We wanted to keep the colour scheme fairly monochromatic so as to appeal to future buyers, and give the home a contemporary look. However we were keen to use colour to accentuate the original features of the home. This included the stucco art deco form on the central part of the house, and its feature border, which we highlighted in a darker paint colour. Colours used here are all Dulux:

  • The dark grey is “Bushland Grey”
  • The white is on the window frames is “Whisper White”
  • The lighter colour on the stucco and new extension is “Grey Pebble”
  • The dark / black on fencing and trim is “Namadji” (this is a brilliant warm black)
  • Natural timber battening is Spotted Gum with a natural oil finish

Rainwater chains

The new little roof to the entry needed to be unobtrusive and elegant, and so a downpipe wasn’t going to be a great feature right by the entryway. Instead, I sourced a rainwater chain for that small area of roof, to run down to a stormwater drain mounted in the grass garden below. The same detail was used on the roof to the outdoor room at the rear. That roof was actually made from Solarspan Bondor, which is super-fast to install, thin in profile, and provides insulation and weather protection all in one material.

There were lots more, as a lot of thought, detail and attention went into this home to make it extra special! Have a look through the photos and floor plan below. All images and design are copyrighted to Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The “BEFORE” photo of the home!
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
This is the home transformed, with new extensions to the side and rear, and a lower floor built in underneath.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The ‘before’ rear of the home, showing the old deck and laundry.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The new rear of the home, with the connection zone and new pavilion extension.
Undercover-Architect-Ashgrove-Queenslander-Renovation-Art-Deco
The new pavilion extension with its north-facing outdoor room
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
Inside the pavilion, the living room has great visibility of the pool.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The interior view of the pavilion from the living area. A butler’s pantry and laundry were located at the western end.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
Interior view of kitchen / dining and living pavilion extension.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The master bedroom in the original part of the home, with its original ceiling and timber features.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
Building in underneath the existing home to create a lower floor. We cladded both storeys in weatherboard to tie together old and new.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
Inside the lower floor, this is the kids’ living space, with access to outside.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
The connection zone between the original home and extension (in the area of the original laundry). This space also provided external access to a bathroom.
Undercover-Architect-Art-Deco-Queenslander-Renovation
A view of the home from the driveway. We used exposed aggregate for driveway and paths.
Undercover-Architect-Queenslander-Ashgrove-Floor-Plan
These floor plans show the ‘after’ version of the home. The blue highlight and text indicates the original part of the home, and shows how rooms were repurposed or renovated.

Want to see more Queenslander Renovations? Check out these other blog posts:

Before and After: Bringing a Dilapidated Workers Cottage into its new future

The corner store no more | Renovating a corner Queenslander home

The post An Art Deco Queenslander becomes a Contemporary Family Home appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Work begins to prepare site for a new home | New Zealand Home Project Diary Update #4

Whilst waiting for approvals, work on site begins. And lots can be done!

Read on to see photos and footage – it’s really exciting. Here’s the latest update in the New Zealand New Home Project Diary.

In our last instalment, I shared the final design concept drawings that I prepared for the Andersons. This package enabled them to commission a local draftsperson to work with them to create an approval package and construction documentation.

In the meantime, there is often work you can commence on site without building approval. It’s always worthwhile checking if this applies in your area, for your site – as it can give you a fantastic head start on your project. Building approvals can sometimes take a few months, and that can be a long time to delay a project. Check what’s possible for your project, and whether there’s any work you can commence before you receive building approval – whilst managing your risk as well! (You always have to consider what will happen if you don’t get your building approval when you anticipate it! This is important risk management in any project.)

First, let’s begin with site preparation and excavation

Whilst the Andersons kicked off documentation, and also started getting prices and quotes from various suppliers, this work commenced on site.

UndercoverArchitect-New-Zealand-New-HomeExcavation of house area has begun

Sandcastle making meets icing cakes…


More sand…

Our site and this digger are intimate friends

The compacted sand needs to get to the top of those fluro pegs

Compacting ground at excavated extents

Compacted by 4.5tonne roller

Another 200mm deeper for the 2m circumference of house where load bearing walls are located

Marking out house plus 900mm in all directions

Building Approval plans and documents all lodged with Council. Fingers crossed for approval in 3 weeks.

“Work has started onsite. So exciting to see some physical changes after being buried in plans and getting quotes from suppliers. Due to soil conditions in this area the geotech report required excavation so that we can achieve a compacted sand base of a minimum 600mm under the foundations. We have also tidied up around the eastern and northern boundaries, trimming back hedging on adjoining properties that had overgrown significantly. It feels like we have another 5m of land on these boundaries now.”

Once the site is prepared and the correct pad level is set, the sand base can begin

It will vary based on your site, your soil conditions and your local building rules as to how a site is prepared. On this site, a sand base is created to act as the platform for the home’s concrete slab floor and foundations. This will not always occur, so check you local area as to how sites are prepared before slabs are poured. And you may be having an elevated floor structure, which will vary again!

The sand base here provides a stable, level base for the home’s concrete slab. And remember, that sand base is sitting on an excavated site, where varying trenches were dug for different areas of the home – where walls were loadbearing vs where they were not, for example.

More progress on the sand base. Now that it’s been excavated its time to refill it with sand being continuously compacted with a roller. It’s a slow, methodical and somewhat tedious task. Amazing to see the colour difference from last weeks excavation as it went through the top soil, to this bright white sand.

The sand pad is all complete now, site is pretty much cleared and getting leveled. The roller worked overtime creating a really solid base. We have been really lucky with the soil conditions here, free draining and next to not clay to have to manage. Just wonderful top soil and sand.

The drone footage is a fantastic way to see the size and layout of the home isn’t it?

In the next instalment, the Andersons will progress to having site services installed, and also get a head start on their landscaping. The beautiful thing about gardens are that they grow, and everything costs less when you buy it small. So the Andersons are employing a great strategy to save money, and make the most of their construction time.

Until next time …

Are you starting construction on your new home or renovation soon? Don’t sign your contract without this …

Would you like to know how to manage each stage of your home’s construction before you build?

Whether you’re building a new home, or renovating an existing one, the construction stage can be exciting as you see your dreams become reality on site. It can also be nerve-wracking and overwhelming too, and many homeowners fear falling prey to a dodgy builder, getting charged for things they shouldn’t, and seeing their budget (and dreams) blowout during their build.

Manage Your Build is my online program that will give you key knowledge, tools, cheatsheets and industry insider checklists and tips, plus strategies to save your sanity and budget as well.

This online program can support you, help you avoid expensive mistakes and drama, and put you in the driver’s seat, feeling confident during the construction of your new home or renovation.

Head to www.undercoverarchitect.com/manageyourbuild to see more about what’s inside the program, and how it can save you stress and money as you navigate the construction of your reno or new home.

From finding your builder, signing your contract and then overseeing the construction of your new home or renovation, this program will equip you each step of the way. It’s a self-paced course, with no expiry, so you can get prepared now, and follow along during your construction. Join Manage Your Build now, and access peace of mind for your project.

The post Work begins to prepare site for a new home | New Zealand Home Project Diary Update #4 appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Source: Undercover Architect

Work begins to prepare site for a new home | New Zealand Home Project Diary Update #4

Whilst waiting for approvals, work on site begins. And lots can be done!

Read on to see photos and footage – it’s really exciting. Here’s the latest update in the New Zealand New Home Project Diary.

In our last instalment, I shared the final design concept drawings that I prepared for the Andersons. This package enabled them to commission a local draftsperson to work with them to create an approval package and construction documentation.

In the meantime, there is often work you can commence on site without building approval. It’s always worthwhile checking if this applies in your area, for your site – as it can give you a fantastic head start on your project. Building approvals can sometimes take a few months, and that can be a long time to delay a project. Check what’s possible for your project, and whether there’s any work you can commence before you receive building approval – whilst managing your risk as well! (You always have to consider what will happen if you don’t get your building approval when you anticipate it! This is important risk management in any project.)

First, let’s begin with site preparation and excavation

Whilst the Andersons kicked off documentation, and also started getting prices and quotes from various suppliers, this work commenced on site.

UndercoverArchitect-New-Zealand-New-HomeExcavation of house area has begun

Sandcastle making meets icing cakes…


More sand…

Our site and this digger are intimate friends

The compacted sand needs to get to the top of those fluro pegs

Compacting ground at excavated extents

Compacted by 4.5tonne roller

Another 200mm deeper for the 2m circumference of house where load bearing walls are located

Marking out house plus 900mm in all directions

Building Approval plans and documents all lodged with Council. Fingers crossed for approval in 3 weeks.

“Work has started onsite. So exciting to see some physical changes after being buried in plans and getting quotes from suppliers. Due to soil conditions in this area the geotech report required excavation so that we can achieve a compacted sand base of a minimum 600mm under the foundations. We have also tidied up around the eastern and northern boundaries, trimming back hedging on adjoining properties that had overgrown significantly. It feels like we have another 5m of land on these boundaries now.”

Once the site is prepared and the correct pad level is set, the sand base can begin

It will vary based on your site, your soil conditions and your local building rules as to how a site is prepared. On this site, a sand base is created to act as the platform for the home’s concrete slab floor and foundations. This will not always occur, so check you local area as to how sites are prepared before slabs are poured. And you may be having an elevated floor structure, which will vary again!

The sand base here provides a stable, level base for the home’s concrete slab. And remember, that sand base is sitting on an excavated site, where varying trenches were dug for different areas of the home – where walls were loadbearing vs where they were not, for example.

More progress on the sand base. Now that it’s been excavated its time to refill it with sand being continuously compacted with a roller. It’s a slow, methodical and somewhat tedious task. Amazing to see the colour difference from last weeks excavation as it went through the top soil, to this bright white sand.

The sand pad is all complete now, site is pretty much cleared and getting leveled. The roller worked overtime creating a really solid base. We have been really lucky with the soil conditions here, free draining and next to not clay to have to manage. Just wonderful top soil and sand.

The drone footage is a fantastic way to see the size and layout of the home isn’t it?

In the next instalment, the Andersons will progress to having site services installed, and also get a head start on their landscaping. The beautiful thing about gardens are that they grow, and everything costs less when you buy it small. So the Andersons are employing a great strategy to save money, and make the most of their construction time.

Until next time …

Are you starting construction on your new home or renovation soon? Don’t sign your contract without this …

Would you like to know how to manage each stage of your home’s construction before you build?

Whether you’re building a new home, or renovating an existing one, the construction stage can be exciting as you see your dreams become reality on site. It can also be nerve-wracking and overwhelming too, and many homeowners fear falling prey to a dodgy builder, getting charged for things they shouldn’t, and seeing their budget (and dreams) blowout during their build.

Manage Your Build is my online program that will give you key knowledge, tools, cheatsheets and industry insider checklists and tips, plus strategies to save your sanity and budget as well.

This online program can support you, help you avoid expensive mistakes and drama, and put you in the driver’s seat, feeling confident during the construction of your new home or renovation.

Head to www.undercoverarchitect.com/manageyourbuild to see more about what’s inside the program, and how it can save you stress and money as you navigate the construction of your reno or new home.

From finding your builder, signing your contract and then overseeing the construction of your new home or renovation, this program will equip you each step of the way. It’s a self-paced course, with no expiry, so you can get prepared now, and follow along during your construction. Join Manage Your Build now, and access peace of mind for your project.

The post Work begins to prepare site for a new home | New Zealand Home Project Diary Update #4 appeared first on Undercover Architect.

The final design drawings are done | New Zealand Home Project Diary Update #3

The final design concept drawings are done and we move onto the next stage!

Read on to see the final design concept drawing package, and for the latest update in the New Zealand New Home Project Diary.

In our last instalment, the Anderson’s had decided on a preferred option, and I’d prepared some drawings for feedback.

Now we dive into creating the final design concept drawing package, so they can proceed locally with documentation and approvals.

NB: Not all architects will work like this with their clients. I don’t provide documentation services, so when I work with clients now, I only provide design concepts. They then take them to local designers or draftspeople to then continue the process, have approval and construction drawings prepared and manage it locally. Other designers and architects will provide all of this work for you as one service. It’s important, however you are executing it for your project, that you understand copyright laws and know what’s involved in taking a design to someone else to get drawn up.

So, the purpose of this package of design concept drawings, is to present the design in a way that someone else has sufficient information to convert them into formal documentation.

That means lots of notes, lots of dimensions, and descriptions of windows, ceilings and roof design – both in written and drawing form. Want to know how many drawings you’ll need for your project?

Here is the design concept package for the Anderson’s New Zealand new home …

UndercoverArchitect-New-Zealand-New-Home

Floor Plan of proposed new home in New Zealand

The proposed floor plan is drawn at 1:100 and shows detail for the home’s overall layout. It also shows internal dimensions for all rooms, layout for the kitchen, and window types and sizes (and how they open). The latter information regarding windows and doors can be correlated with how they’re shown on the elevations as well.

Extra notes provide additional dimensions to be applied as standard across the design. Dashed lines show roofing and window hoods over the top of the floor plan, and proposed skylight locations.

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Ceiling Plan of proposed new home in New Zealand

I find that creating these colour coded drawings is a simple way to illustrate how ceilings are to be designed. Anyone drafting these drawings requires this information for the design intent to be carried through properly into documentation.

The aim was to do the bulk of the home in a flat ceiling, so that the roof structure could be constructed in roof trusses, and keep costs down overall. Where the impact would be meaningful, we’ve raked the ceiling (see yellow area). This opens up the volume of the living spaces, and the contrast in volume between those spaces, and the flat ceilings of the adjacent kitchen, will create drama and openness. Those raked ceilings will also have skylights to ensure loads of natural light (especially in winter) enter the main living space of the home.

Remember last instalment when I mentioned the shared storage / fireplace wall between the two living areas, and how we were intending to detail it to maintain a visual connection through? Well, this design proposed one of two options – dependent on budget. One was to do doors either side of the storage wall, with a 2700mm (or 9 feet) flat ceiling over, so that long lines of view could be established when the doors were opened.

The other option (and the one that the Anderson’s are doing … YAY!) is to install glass doors internally in those locations, and run glass over the top of the fireplace / storage wall. That way, the visual line of the raked ceiling runs through both living spaces, as well as loads of light and spaciousness. I can’t wait to see that when it’s finished! It will be incredible.

Lower ceilings (2400mm or 8 feet) are proposed wherever joinery is installed, or in tiled areas, to keep expenses down where possible.

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Roof Plan of proposed new home in New Zealand

The roof plan is important for illustrating roof pitches and any plans for gutter locations, and how roofs are intended to sit over the top of each other. The roof is a huge factor in the form of the home, and in a large site like this, it becomes a fifth elevation. So conveying this information accurately is important in maintaining design intent.

I’ve also indicated where skylights are proposed, and the type as well.

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Western Elevation which is the entry elevation of the New Zealand home, and a long section to support information about ceiling and roof design

Elevations are essential for showing the overall form and materiality of the proposed design. They also show window and door information that sometimes isn’t visible on the drawings.

The intention for this home is to wrap the roof and walls in the same cladding, and create a monolithic, simple and elegant gabled form. Almost like an elegant shed (but on steroids!!) This home is not small … it’s intended to house family, and guests, and life, and generations. There’s a balance we need where we don’t want the site to dwarf the home, but we also want the home to have intimacy and elegance about it too. So, the design of the elevation and overall form certainly assists with this.

You’ll see porthole windows in the entry space – these were intended as a bit of fun. I saw the entry space as being a gallery of family photos, with the porthole windows providing framed ‘pictures’ of their own between the family photos.

The entry itself is not over-bearing. It’s sufficiently strong to show where guests need to enter the home, but we didn’t want it to be too significant. It’s designed to protect people from the wind and rain whilst they wait for someone to open the door as well.

The section cuts through the living pavilion, and shows how sliding doors are arranged along the north-eastern façade, and the ceiling steps from being flat (over the kitchen) to raked (over the living spaces).

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North – west and South – east elevations of the living and sleeping pavilions. The ‘oblique’ view is how we show elevations when the plan is on an angle. So in the top elevation, we’re looking at the living pavilion square-on … and the sleeping pavilion is on the oblique (because it’s at an angle to the living pavilion). The bottom elevation shows the living pavilion on the angle, and we’re looking at the rear of the sleeping pavilion square on.

The ‘end’ elevations of the home work to articulate the two pavilion forms. The northern end of the home is, of course, open to natural light. This elevation hasn’t changed from the previous time I presented it. The Andersons decided they wanted full glazing to the northern end of their living space (not the cedar transom as was an alternative).

The southern end of the home is basically the ‘rear’. However, it is where the kids will have their bedrooms, and so natural light is important. This site is also big enough that the home can easily be circumnavigated, so this elevation will be visible. The ‘wall blades’ use on the northern elevation are brought in here, however we have an eave protrusion that is flat, not gabled – which means that the roof structure can be trussed, and we don’t require additional window hoods over the bedroom windows.

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Additional elevations to describe the home

These elevations pick up the remaining facades that aren’t described elsewhere in the package. Here also, the northern elevation of the sleeping pavilion is shown square on – rather than oblique – to help with measuring and scaling for window sizes.

The north-east elevation gives the opportunity to describe how the connection zone will work. This is important, as the roof over the connection zone is low so it tucks under the pavilion roofs – but it can’t be too low overall!

Exciting times ahead …

Now we have the design bedded down, and this package describes it so a draftsperson can convert these drawings into an approval package and construction drawings, it’s time to move on to the exciting stuff.

In the next instalment, I’ll share how the Andersons kicked off construction prior to having their formal approval – as there was specific work they were able to commence without approval. There’s some great photos and footage to share.

Until next time …

The post The final design drawings are done | New Zealand Home Project Diary Update #3 appeared first on Undercover Architect.

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Choosing a preferred design option | New Zealand Home Project Diary Update #2

How did this family choose a preferred design option for their New Zealand new home?

Read on for the latest update in their Project Diary (and catch the previous installment here).

In our last update (and first in this Project Diary), I shared what the Andersons were asking for in their home. And I took you through the various options I created in response to their brief.

So, which option did they choose?

Well, it was a tweaked version of one of them. Keep reading!

One of the things I love about working remotely with homeowners, is the different ways I find clients use to convey their thoughts and feedback to me.

The Andersons are really invested, involved clients. And having done this a couple of times before, they’re also very clear on what they want, and trusting of the design process as well.

And they’re able to use different techniques to convey what they want and need, without over-riding the design process completely. Clare sent these sketches back to me, as well as an email with feedback.

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This is worth remembering … When you’re using a designer, it’s important that (as a client) you feel you can drive the process, without limiting the design exploration or outcome. The whole point of using a designer is to tap into that expertise and expand what is possible. If you want to control the outcome, you may as well design it yourself and save your fees. However, if you wish to drive the process, then being clear on these three things will be essential:
+ your brief
+ your budget
+ your feedback (likes, dislikes, wants, aspirations)

And then listen.

If you’ve done your homework in finding a designer who is experienced, and the right fit for your project, then listen to their input and trust their expertise. (Want to know how to find the right designer for you? This will help.)

The feedback

Clare provided me with these images initially, which showed a slight rearrangement of the pavilions. This would assist with privatising the sleeping pavilion, and giving the living pavilion north / north-eastern orientation.

We both agreed, that siting-wise, we wanted to bring the home back to the southern end. This would limit the extent of driveway required, and maximise the northern outdoor / site area for a huge garden and privatised outlook.

Other detailed feedback included:

  • Siting and garaging location would mean the home’s entry would probably need to be articulated – so guests knew where the front door was
  • The arrangement of the master needed to consider the new siting and outlook, and how windows and light worked with the bed position – and the ensuite needed to work into this as well
  • The service zone of butler’s pantry, laundry and study nook, needed resolution as part of being the connection zone between the living and the sleeping pavilions
  • And some other feedback about elevations, and the general stepping of the floor plan, plus where covered outdoor areas might be located for sitting, and for hanging clothes

So based on the feedback, plus on reviewing some images that Clare had sent to me to explain some of these ideas, I created a new option: Option D.

Here is the next design option for this New Zealand home …

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Option D: Site Plan

The siting of the home brought it back towards the southern boundary. This minimised the length of driveway required into the property – and driveways can be expensive! So, keeping it shorter helps us put budget elsewhere. It also maximised the northern part of the property for landscaped area.

The cul de sac location ensures the home can then have privacy in this way. The finger-like nature of the living pavilion is exposed for natural light all day (to both living areas) and the sleeping pavilion also gets good natural light (and is protected from harsh afternoon light as well).

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Option D: Floor Plan

Entry into the home occurs at a core area of services, and the home itself is screened at the entry point. This helps provide an airlock at colder times of the year as well. In this service core is the mudroom, laundry, toilet, butler’s pantry and study nook, and then the home expands into living and dining areas.

Two living areas are separated by a storage / fireplace wall that could service both rooms. The detailing of this wall was also intended to provide transparency around this wall (but still have acoustic separation between the spaces), so that views are maintained throughout. Watch out for the next instalment to see how that was achieved.

A service core also exists in the sleeping pavilion, housing linen, walk-in-robe and study, and skylights provide natural light at these points.

Kids’ bedrooms are equally sized (no arguments), and the master and guest bedroom face north. These make them great retreat spaces as well for their users.

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Option D: Northern elevation of the home, showing full glazed façade to the north-facing living space

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Option D: Alternate northern elevation, where cedar is introduced to the living façade as a transom between glazing panels

Now that we had the plan option moving closer to resolution, it was time to show the Andersons what I had in my head for the elevations. Clare and I had been sharing imagery and ideas along the way, and we both had very clear ideas about strong simple forms, with the living pavilion being the dominant structure.

Both the living and sleeping pavilions are expressed as simple gabled forms. Because the sleeping pavilion is a wider shape, the pitch of the roof is kept lower, to help it not dominate overall. The living pavilion has a steeper roof, and open glazed end on the north. Connecting the two pavilions is the library spine. This provides an outdoor area to the north, and a service court to the south, all tucked between the two pavilions.

I started playing with how the glazed façade could be broken up – and the second option explores an alternate idea.

What happens next?

Now things are getting exciting, as we’re honing in on the final option. Again, the Andersons are super fast at getting feedback to me, and me then being able to resolve their design as a result. Stay tuned for the next instalment, as I share the final design and elevations. I’ll also share the package of drawings I prepared to illustrate how the inside would appear, and you’ll get to see a site update (because things are moving along there too!)

Until next time …

THIS MAY ALSO INTEREST YOU …

Listen to the podcast where I introduced this New Zealand project for the first time here.
Want to see how the Andersons created their Brisbane home? Start the Project Diary here.
Do you love following progress of a home? There’s also the renovation of a Queenslander cottage here.

The post Choosing a preferred design option | New Zealand Home Project Diary Update #2 appeared first on Undercover Architect.

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How ‘The Spheres’ by Amazon will help you design your home and its garden

How can “The Spheres” by Amazon help you design your home and its garden?

This incredible facility, built by Amazon in order to connect its employees to nature, can help with your home and garden design. Here is more information …

I got to visit the Amazon Spheres, or “The Spheres” as they’re known, when I visited Seattle.

The view of The Spheres as we approachedThe view of The Spheres as we approached | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

The exterior of The Spheres as we entered.The exterior of The Spheres as we entered | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

The Spheres were built in between February 2013 to January 2018. The building itself – which comprises of three glass domes, was completed in December 2016, and then from that time, up until the opening in January 2018, the garden inside the building was established.

Other movements in The Spheres occurs around a central garden, and right up against the glass panelled dome wall.Other movements in The Spheres occurs around a central garden, and right up against the glass panelled dome wall | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

The walkway under the highest part of the dome puts you right next to the glass panels.The walkway under the highest part of the dome puts you right next to the glass panels | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

This is pulled from the Sphere’s website

The Spheres are a place where employees can think and work differently surrounded by plants.
The Spheres are a result of innovative thinking about the character of a workplace and an extended conversation about what is typically missing from urban offices– a direct link to nature. The Spheres are home to more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries.

Why am I mentioning this project? Well, I think there’s lots of inspiration that you can draw on when thinking about your home, and how you go about renovating or building it. And particularly, how you create the green spaces in and around it.

The importance of connection to nature in our everyday lives – and our homes

For both the High Line and The Spheres, it is super significant that landscape design, planting and green spaces are essential to the quality and feel of these structures and spaces.

The vertical planted wall is dense and lush.The vertical planted wall is dense and lush | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

Platforms project out into the void, and overlook the garden areas.Platforms project out into the void, and overlook the garden areas | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

The connection with gardens, with light, with natural elements … all of that is scientifically proven to improve our well-being, our sense of relaxation and lower our anxiety levels overall.

This is what your garden – no matter how big or how small, can offer your home. That feeling of relaxation, of slowness, of haven and enjoyment.

This doesn’t have to be grand statements. There are many examples of projects that have shown that something as simple as a lovingly curated collection of indoor plants can make a massive difference to the feel and function of a space in someone’s home. That can be achieved anywhere, for very little budget.

Each plant in The Spheres is identified with these fantastic timber signsEach plant in The Spheres is identified with these fantastic timber signs | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

So, let me tell you more about The Spheres, because it’s an amazing project.

I actually got access because the friend I was staying with used to work for Amazon. However, they do open the Spheres up to visitors a couple of times a month, so you can check out the Sphere’s website if you ever plan to be in Seattle and want to check them out.

Let me describe the experience to you if I can. As you approach The Spheres, winding your way through city streets, you see these glass domes that look unlike anything around them.

External structures defining walkways between The Spheres and other buildings look like tree canopies.External structures defining walkways between The Spheres and other buildings look like tree canopies | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

Amazon allows staff to bring their dogs to work, and provides an off-leash dog park outside.Amazon allows staff to bring their dogs to work, and provides an off-leash dog park outside | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

They’re really notable, and as you get closer you can see the amount of greenery inside them, because they’re a fully transparent structure. In fact, they had to test the insides would get enough sunlight to support a tropical garden of that scale, as Seattle’s weather isn’t the most tropical or sunny.

So a mockup greenhouse was built to test glass types, temperatures and sunlight penetration, before they committed to the selections for The Spheres.

You enter at the bottom level, into quite a darkened space by comparison. There’s a security sign in, and as you move through turnstiles, you step into the full volume of the dome.

Up a winding staircase, along side a full height vertical garden, you start to see all the greenery revealed to you. The green wall extends up 65 feet – or approximately 22 metres, and the overall height of the domes at their tallest point is 90 feet – or approximately 30m. So, we’re talking a BIG space with a lot of greenery!

There’s several floors of cafes, meeting rooms, walk-ways and little gathering spaces.

Looking down on the entry stair, where you arrive into The Spheres, adjacent to the vertical wall garden.Looking down on the entry stair, where you arrive into The Spheres, adjacent to the vertical wall garden | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

Looking down through the volume of The Spheres with its staircases and ramps.Looking down through the volume of The Spheres with its staircases and ramps | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

Different spaces are created at each level, with all movement oriented around garden areas.Different spaces are created at each level, with all movement oriented around garden areas | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

The walkway and large trees on the uppermost level of The SpheresThe walkway and large trees on the uppermost level of The Spheres | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

Everything seems to pivot around the greenery … you literally feel like you’re walking through a garden despite looking outside to city buildings. You can hear running water, and every so often a mist fires off to water the huge vertical garden wall nearby. And light … there is so much sunlight.

I didn’t know a lot about The Spheres before I visited, but surmised that Amazon had done a lot of research around how a connection with nature, and providing a space like this for staff to go, meet, work in, and be away for their desks, would enhance creativity and productivity overall … and impact company culture in a really positive way.

Since returning, I did some reading on the ‘why’ behind creating this space, and I found this great article – which I’ll pop a link to in the show notes, but wanted to read this section to you …

It was written in the Seattle Weekly by Kelton Sears in May 2016 – so about 7 months before it opened, but by this stage, all the plants were being installed and established. The article says …

“The Amazon Spheres are the latest local manifestation of a fascinating new design approach—biophilic and biomemetic architecture.

Kelton continues … Biophilia is the name of a seminal 1984 book by E.O. Wilson, a biologist with a specialty in ants. In Biophilia, Wilson posits the “biophilia hypothesis,” which states that, subconsciously, humans have evolved a deep connection with and affinity for natural systems and life forms (biophilia literally means “the love of life”).

In turn, the emerging field of biophilic design seeks to connect humanity with nature through the built environment. This can be as dramatic as cladding the entire exterior of a building with foliage or as simple as installing a small garden in the lobby. The approach has been most popular in hospitals, thanks to a scientific study that was able to quantify the medical benefits of biophilia. Patients recovering from surgery did so quicker and required less pain medication when they could see trees out their window than they did with a view of a brick wall.”

I think we actually understand this need for connection with the natural environment. That we feel better when we spend time in nature, and connect with it. I love thinking about how we do this in our homes, so they’re a really restorative place for us.

Throughout The Spheres, there were these gorgeous sitting areas that projected from the central stair and ramp at several places … including the Bird’s Nest. This was a semi-enclosed meeting area that projects out into the void of the dome, and literally does look a birds’ nest.

I think the Bird's Nest was one of my favourite features.I think the Bird’s Nest was one of my favourite features | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

A view of the "Bird's Nest" from belowA view of the “Bird’s Nest” from below | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

Looking inside the seating area of the Bird's NestLooking inside the seating area of the Bird’s Nest | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

Looking down on the Bird's NestLooking down on the Bird’s Nest | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

A small workspace with a canopy over the top that can be moved to shade the space as required.A small workspace with a canopy over the top that can be moved to shade the space as required | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect

There were smaller zones where you could sit at a desk and use your laptop, and adjust a panel above you for shade based on what the sun was doing (like the space in the image above). Everything felt very connected to the garden at every level.

How can your home do this too?

A couple of other things to be inspired by when it comes to The Spheres, and your new home or renovation …

One is the impact of volume.

I’ve spoken about this in more detail on another episode of the podcast (you can listen to it here). However, volume is a key way to create spaciousness in your home – without having to increase the floor plan of your home. Many homeowners think two-dimensionally about their design. They arrange boxes on a plan to get the rooms right … the correct size, connected the way they want … and then pop a flat ceiling over it all. Consider how volume can change how a space feels in size.

Another is the impact of natural light.

Again, I’ve dedicated several episodes to how important natural light is in helping you and your home feel great (you can start listening here). If you do want to include indoor plants, or even have a green space growing within your home, then getting the natural light right in your design will be essential. Design that in early, so you can maximise its potential.

There’s lots more I can mention … but if scroll through those photos above, I’m sure you can look for inspiration yourself.

It may seem weird that I’ve written about an urban park, and an Amazon staff facility, when this is a website all about designing, building or renovating your family home.

My hope is that it shows you that design inspiration is all around us.

When we get curious, and watch how we, and others, use and interact with spaces and places, it can give us great ideas for our homes.

It can help us see what we resonate with, what makes us feel great, what we do and don’t enjoy, and how we can make our homes fun, relaxing, enjoyable and beautiful places to live.

EXTRA RESOURCES FOR THE SPHERES, SEATTLE

The Spheres website >>> https://www.seattlespheres.com/
Article about Biophilic design and The Spheres >>> http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/using-nature-as-inspiration-architects-and-designers-are-building-seattles-biofuture/
Study on hospital patients from 1984 >>> https://www.healthdesign.org/chd/knowledge-repository/view-through-window-may-influence-recovery-surgery

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Source: Undercover Architect

TINY HOUSE IN THE HUNTER

Some mornings I wake up with sawdust in my hair.

There are bent nails in the pockets of all my clothes.

I dream about ceiling quad and Spac Filler and No-More-Gaps.

My husband, Felix, and I just spent eight months building a “Tiny House on Wheels” in the Australian bush.

We live between his home country of Sweden, and mine – Australia, so living arrangements for the last three-and-a-half years, usually involved living with parents and in-laws.

 While the company, support, and home-cooked meals were all lovely, we started to long for something of our own.

Earning half an income between the two of us at the time, a home loan and mortgage weren’t options we were comfortable with, and would have made travel back and forth much less doable.

Enter the Tiny House Movement.

As an active member of the millennial generation, I spend a fair bit of time on the internet.

It was during one of my endless scrolls on blogging platform Tumblr one day that I came across my first tiny house.

On wheels like a caravan, but shaped, built and insulated like a house, I was intrigued by the structure’s beauty and utility.

Tiny houses can be any small home, but are often movable and usually defined as having around 120 square feet or less of livable space.

Most have lofts, plumbing, electricity and composting toilets, and many are self-built.

Felix was impressed by the photos and the concept and it wasn’t long before we were watching endless video tours on Youtube and sketching up floor plans.

It started innocently enough. It was what ifs and hypotheticals and pipe dreams.

But, financially, the numbers added up and, pretty soon, we were shopping for trailers and second-hand windows.

We started building in August 2016 and, eight months later, we were tiny homeowners (or maybe tiny-home owners) and our “mortgage” (a debt to my parents) is under $20,000.

Felix and I had never done anything handier than installing shelves, but the cache of “how-to” videos online and truly supportive family convinced us it was worth giving owner-builder a whirl.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to build on a beautiful family-owned rural acreage near Gloucester in the Barrington Range.

Felix and I had never done anything handier than installing shelves, but the cache of “how-to” videos online and truly supportive family convinced us it was worth giving owner-builder a whirl.

My brothers and I grew up between there and Newcastle while my parents built a holiday house in the friendly country community.

The site is located adjacent to the Barrington River, which provided an endless supply of drinking and bathing water –  always lovely, but particularly valuable during the building process, before the water tank was installed.

There was no power in the beginning, so we got hold of some smart cordless power tools.

We used a substantial Milwaukee brand kit with 18v batteries and all with brushless motors.

All that mechanical jargon actually began to mean something to us partway through the build.

The drill, screwdriver, and circular saw were completely invaluable, as were the reciprocal saw and multitool. The two batteries held power for an unbelievable length of time considering the heavy duty, daily use they received.

Other indispensable tools included hammers, chisels, handsaws, clamps, sawhorses, nail and roofing punches, spirit levels, roofing squares, caulking guns, measuring tapes, rulers, a reliable extension and stepladder, vice-grips, pliers, shifting spanners, a socket set, tincutters, pincers, stringlines, bevels, a planer and a belt-sander . . . the list goes on and on.

Before we began this enormous project, I barely knew what half of those things were, let alone how to use them.

Our knowledge and experience of tools and building increased at a tearing pace.

It was the single biggest learning curve of our lives, and one we’re extremely proud of, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

“I said 1500mm, not 1300mm!”

“Oh my god, the stairs can’t fit over the fridge.”

“None of our studs line up where they’re supposed to.”

“Our water tank leaks.”

“The shower doesn’t drain.”

“The powerpoint is in the way of the bathroom wall.”

“Rats have made a nest in our fridge.”

One frustrating Tuesday was spent waiting at the house for eight hours for a plumber who never showed up, without reception to ring and ask what was going on.

A drive into reception later revealed the truth.

“Ah. Yeah. I didn’t show up,” he said, helpfully.

“Sorry about that. I’ll come next week.”

The following week was better, with only a four-hour fruitless wait.

Trouble with tradies showing up on time, however cliched, was one of the most frustrating parts of the build, but one shared by owner-builders the world over.

We became adept at finding creative solutions to bizarre problems and honed our skills in arguing with tradies who liked to insist things could not or should not be done.

Before the solar was installed, a typical day saw us brewing a cuppa on the camping stove, washing ourselves in the river, and getting to work on whatever seemingly impossible task we happened to be up to.

First, it was framing, which was both extremely logical and also somehow almost impossible to get right the first time.

The thing with a Tiny House is that it’s . . . small. By the time we got really good at any given task, it was time to move onto the next.

Next we built the loft platform, installed the Colorbond roof, plywood bracing and sheathing, Earthwool insulation, interior ply lining, a bathroom wall, second-hand hardwood weatherboards, and a host of other trying jobs.

We had only minor setbacks, and encouraging success.

Before too long, we had built most of the house.

A tabletop mounted on folding brackets and folding dining chairs provide a dining area that can be neatly stored flat to the wall, allowing more room for a lounge, which we picked up free from Gumtree, and which was reupholstered by my talented mother.

240 volt solar electricity, plumbing connected to a rainwater tank, a bit of paint, floating floorboards and a second hand kitchen made the place really start to feel like a home.

Of course there are things we would do differently next time, but on the whole we’re beyond happy with how it turned out.

We also learned a lot about ourselves, our relationship, our personal limits, and living simply.

Tiny house living isn’t for everyone, and we were lucky that Felix worked from a distance so that we were able to dedicate the best part of a year to building our home.

Tiny houses are certainly not unanimously beloved, with jokes about passing gas, spousal infighting, and washing your hands in the the toilet, but the reality of “living tiny” fit our lifestyle perfectly.

There are a million and one reasons for choosing to “go tiny”, from a desire to live mortgage-free, a love of minimalism and the ability to tow your home around the country, to concern for the environment, off-grid goals, hesitance to apply for a development application, or just the fun of building something slightly less complex and expensive than a fully-fledged house.

Our reasons were a mixture of many of those and a few others stemming from a life between two countries.

Most of the information about Tiny Houses available on the internet is American, and it can be hard to find out about local businesses and Australian building specifications and the law surrounding these structures.

To combat this, I banded together with four other Australian women to create a Facebook group for Australian Tiny House enthusiasts, where people can ask questions, show off their builds, give advice and advertise their Tiny House services.

With almost 4000 members joining since the group’s creation this year, the demand for more information is certainly there.

Felix and I are living in Sweden for the foreseeable future and facing the sad reality that we’re just not there to use our little house.

Sad as it is, the most sensible move for us right now is to sell it to someone who can love it and live in it and give it the attention it deserves.

 

Happy building, tiny lovers!.

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Title image credit: Designer Eco Tiny Homes

Source: Tiny Houses

LESLIE’S FIRST TINY

Indulge me for a moment and imagine this: deer grazing, wild geese flying above, dramatic wild American countryside and a meteor shower uninhibited by light pollution overhead. Got it? Now throw in a charming, rustic tiny home and you start to get an idea of this little adventure.

This experience was by far one of my favourites while visiting tiny houses in Oregon and, though it may sound dramatic, it moved me. In fact, I felt like a child in a candy shop. I can’t find the words to describe the experience and do it justice, and the fact that it all happened by chance just blows me away.

A few months back, when prepping for the trip, my mate and I decided we were keen to get out of our comfort zones and get to know some of the locals. We signed up and registered for the Couchsurfing network and had a look around for a verified host.  I came across Pab’s profile (not his real name. I don’t want him to be slammed with Couchsurfing requests).

His eyes were kind, he had a warm and inviting smile and his profile was written in such a way that I instantly wanted to meet him in person.  I sent him a request asking if he would have the time and space for a short stay for us in Eugene.  Part of the Couchsurfing process is to let people know a little about yourself and why you are traveling, so I mentioned our tiny tour.

To my surprise, he not only accepted our request and offered us a place to stay, but also offered to get in contact with a friend of his, Leslie, who had two tiny homes up north. Of course, the response was an enthusiastic yes, please! After a few emails and a Skype chat, Leslie, despite traveling at the time, offered us the use of her very first tiny.

After a 4 am start from Coss Bay, we got to Bend, returned the hire car and switched it for a BEAST of a camper van (later nicknamed affectionately Beastie) and headed out in search of Leslie’s tiny home.  On our approach to the property, I’m sure I annoyed Cam with far too many repetitive statements like “Wow!”, “This is unbelievable!” and   “Quick, check that out!”, all in the middle of broken sentences when no words could come out. The drive into this property alone was breathtaking.

When we arrived at Leslie’s tiny, I was out of the van exploring before Cam had even parked. The placement of this tiny was even more stunning than the drive in. And to be greeted by a doe and her fawn calmly eating their dinner seemed so fitting. Their curiosity was endearing (sorry, not sorry), but I don’t think they were half as interested in us as I was by this beautiful tiny house. 

The home looked inviting and I couldn’t wait to get inside for a look. Leslie did warn me that the tiny was “rough”, being her first attempt, but I just thought it was rustic, simple and appropriate for the location it was in. To me, something too polished just wouldn’t have fit with the tone of this wild place.

The interior was painted in a way that brought the colours from of the surrounding cliffs inside, and the exterior colour choice complimented the surrounding plant life. The congruency of this tiny had an effect that I don’t feel that could’ve been achieved with a design that was too crisp, modern or neat and it made the space look much larger than it was. This got me thinking about designing with the end location in mind. Sure, I had thought plenty about a tiny home’s purpose, the environmental footprint, functionality, and style before, but Leslie’s property had me thinking more about how a tiny home can complement its environment.

The layout of Leslie’s tiny was simple but functional. The living area had a lounge that you could sleep on that could easily be converted to a larger bed. The kitchen was a basic setup, with two hotplates, a small grill, and a sink. In the centre of the house, Leslie had created a small music room and office space, which tripled as a closest and storage. It worked for the spaced much better than I’d expected.

This tiny was a dry tiny, meaning there was no bathroom, but it didn’t really need one. For a few dollars, all the bathroom facilities you could need were approximate 200m away on the nature reserve. The bathrooms were clean and well maintained, so it wasn’t an issue. In general, the facilities for the public in Oregon are far better than any I’ve seen in Australia, so if you were traveling in a dry tiny, with some planning, you could get by just fine.

The walk from Leslie’s place to the bathrooms was really a sight to see. The light and colours of the landscape seemed to change colours along the way. I may not be as big a fan of this setup come winter time, but I’m pretty sure I could get myself to adjust if it meant living in a place like this.

Leslie’s tiny is completely off-grid and powered by solar. It is built on a trailer with a deck built on the front, so more of a temporarily fixed dwelling, rather than a mobile tiny.  It had doors on three sides, with double doors opening on the front deck, and one door on the back end. Each of the doors had steps for easy access. I liked that this tiny was light filled during the day, so there was no need to turn on any lights.

Having had many years of experience building trailers, Cam was my go-to for trailer info while we toured Oregon. His experience was invaluable in spotting the differences between US trailers and what would pass as legal here in Australia.

Leslie’s tiny measured 6.3m in length and was just shy of 3m wide, so it was larger than what could be towed by a standard vehicle here in Australia. Cam informed me that in addition to the base design of the trailer, this one had 8-meter lengths of steel that had been bent and welded from the tow hitch through the chassis to add strength, but it would have also added a substantial amount of weight.

The trailer had a truck hitch, but the trucks in the US are massive compared to ours. If this tiny was built here, it would require extra services to move. Although possible to be towed by a larger vehicle, the design of this tiny would not be roadworthy here in Australia without an extra permit.

The external features of the tiny home, the size, and the weight, although beautiful and well made, wouldn’t wash with Australian road laws at all. The only way I could see this tiny being legally moved in Australia would be to load the whole thing onto the back of a truck to be transported, and that would most likely be a substantial expense. Certainly, something worth keeping in mind if you plan to move your tiny home often.

After a day of sightseeing, meeting deer for the first time, a fright with a snakeskin (Cam is a brat!), and a wonderful tiny home, I crawled into bed and watched a meteor shower, blissed out, exhausted and content.  What a day! One I won’t forget anytime soon.

Big shout out to Leslie for sharing her tiny home with us, especially given that we didn’t meet her in person until the day after visiting her home. So kind! That day was a standout in our Oregon adventure, and it wouldn’t have been possible without her generosity. Thank you, Leslie! Cam and I greatly appreciate having had the chance to experience, not only your home, but your hospitality. I hope our paths cross again soon.

Happy building, tiny lovers!.

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Title image credit: Designer Eco Tiny Homes

Source: Tiny Houses

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