The tiny house movement originated in the United States in the late 1990s. Typically these small homes aren’t larger than 46 square meters with some as small as 11 and half square meters. That is smaller than most master bedrooms. The movement has since spread to New Zealand, Canada and Australia and today we talk to Lara Nobel who has built one and is getting so many demands to build more she is starting a business building them.
Kevin: I wonder if you’ve seen a show on Foxtel about tiny houses. It’s called “Tiny House Hunting,” and it’s all about people who are looking for their perfect tiny home. Now, these homes aren’t just small; they take tiny to a whole new level. Typically, they’re small homes. They’re no larger than about 46 square meters, and some transportable tiny homes are as small as 11.5 square meters – and that’s smaller than most master bedrooms.
I conducted an interview on our consumer show on Real Estate Talk on radio recently and spoke to Lara Nobel, who joins me now. Lara and her partner have gotten together. They were architects, and they’ve taken up a whole new trade, which we’ll talk about in just a moment, just so they can build their tiny house.
Hi, Lara. Thanks for your time.
Lara: Hi, Kevin.
Kevin: That was a big move. You’ve moved from being an architect; you’re now almost a qualified carpenter. You’re doing an apprenticeship, are you?
Lara: Yes, that’s correct. I was a graduate architect, so I’d done all the study, and now I’m almost a qualified carpenter.
Kevin: What sparked the interest in tiny houses? What’s the attraction for you?
Lara: There are lots of factors that attracted us – and also, Greg, who is part of the project – to the tiny house movement. We even went over to Portland in America to the Tiny House Conference earlier this year.
Some of the factors are to do with affordability and what kind of a lifestyle you can lead with a massive mortgage, downsizing in terms of how much stuff you need to own, and also sustainability issues about living off the grid. Those are some of the reasons that drew us towards it.
Kevin: You and your partner, Andrew, have recently completed the construction of your own tiny home. Tell us a little bit about that one.
Lara: We started designing earlier in the year and teamed up with the crew that I work with, that I’m doing my apprenticeship with, so there were a couple of other guys helping us heaps on the build.
The design is built on a trailer, which is about 7.5 meters by 2.5 meters. It’s less than two car parking spaces, and it has pretty much everything you need – well, everything we think we need. It has two spaces where you can fit double mattresses, so a loft space and a bed that lowers down from the ceiling. It has a little bathroom, shower, composting toilet, kitchen, laundry, and it also has a deck that packs down.
Kevin: You say this has got everything that you need, and no doubt, it does for you and Andrew. I imagine they’re great for couples. What about families? Do you think that a family could actually fit into one of these?
Lara: I guess it depends on the family and their lifestyle to a certain extent. Most likely, a couple and a small child would easily cope very well in the tiny house, especially, in Queensland, because we can spend so much time outdoors and on the deck and in the garden. We’ve got a very good climate for it.
Realistically, in such a small space, a larger family would have to make bigger compromises – not to say, they couldn’t do it. I’ve heard of families traveling around in caravans with three kids, and that’s also cool, so it just depends.
Kevin: The tiny house movement itself originated in the States. I know that you have traveled to Japan and Berlin. What are some of the influences that you brought back to put into your property?
Lara: When I was traveling in Japan, one of the focuses of the study trip was on small spaces and micro housing. In Japan, there are a lot of smaller spaces, and they have different techniques that they use in order to organize those spaces – whether it is tatami mats or rolling beds out at night and packing them away during the day. I learned a few strategies from that.
Also, we got to visit a couple of architecturally designed small houses that were very tall. I learned a bit of strategy about stacking spaces and multi-use of the one space – so a bedroom that’s also a living room that’s also a dining room. There was a lot of influences from that, and also, of course, a bit of Japanese joinery and my love of timber.
Kevin: I understand you’re taking this to a whole new level starting your own company to build these – the Tiny House Company. How’s that going?
Lara: Well, we have a lot of interest. It’s amazing. A lot of people are excited about the idea. We haven’t got a facility yet where we can build, but that’s going to happen early next year. We have some very interested customers, and we’re embarking on that most likely early in the new year.
Kevin: What prices will they come in at? Is there a price point at all, Lara?
Lara: It depends. We’re looking at a range of prices. There has been a lot of people interested in the DIY side of it. They’re interested in building their own, but they don’t really know where to get started, and they’d like the help from qualified carpenters and trailer makers to get them off the ground, so to speak – so kind of a shell, which they can fit out themselves.
Then we’re looking at anything between… The trailer that we built ours on was over $10,000. I think some people in Australia see some of the stuff online from America, and it’s people claiming that they’ve built a tiny house for under $20,000. Realistically, they’re a lot well over what we’re making, more like around the $100,000 mark, depending on what you want.
Kevin: I understand. Have you got a website for the business yet? Is that operational?
Lara: Yes, we do. It’s http://www.TinyHouseCompany.com.au.
Kevin: That’s pretty easy to find – TinyHouseCompany.com.au.
My guest has been Lara Nobel. Lara, thank you. All the best for the future, and stay tiny.
Lara: Thank you, Kevin.