Real Homes

Inside Eleanor Ozich’s two tiny, holiday-ready cabins

Eleanor Ozich loves making people feel at home so much, she created two simple but detail-rich tiny retreats to play host in

As if Eleanor Ozich isn’t busy enough. The Your Home and Garden wellness columnist, mother of three and author who’s currently working on her sixth book, a wholefoods cookbook in which recipes take no more than 15 minutes of effort, is now playing host to guests in her two cabins in the bush-clad Waitākere Ranges.

“I love entertaining and I want to create little experiences for people,” she says of the extra touches she’s brought to the cabins from her family’s 1.6ha plot just city-side of Auckland’s west coast beach Piha.

It all began when the family had been looking to move to Waihi, which is where her parents mostly are. They’d sold their home in Titirangi, a west Auckland suburb at the start of the Waitākeres. After a two-year search spent living with Valentin’s parents, they stumbled on this spot, which came with a ’70s house.

“It took a while to convince my husband. It was untouched and didn’t look appealing to most people and it is in the middle of nowhere, but I just loved
it and knew it was our house as soon as I came here.”

They moved in a year ago. Eleanor always wanted a family home that was focused around beach-life. Apart from young Archie, the surf-obsessed family surf most days and are members of the local surf riders’ club, so the fact they’re a nine-minute drive (“I know, I timed it”) from Piha was a huge selling point.

The house itself is a long-term project but with so much land, the couple wanted some portable dwellings they could turn into Airbnb lodgings.

The first and, at 10sqm, smallest of the two is affectionately known as ‘The Snug’. They bought it “from a guy up the road. It looked like a run-down shack” as the exterior was unpainted corrugated iron. The interior had already been lined with marine ply, which was a blessing and part of the cabin’s rustic charm. Eleanor confesses buying it was the easy part, moving it onto the property into a clearing just under their own home was the tricky part.

Once the tiny building was positioned in a clearing surrounded by nikau, ferns, kauri and rimu, they set about making a bathroom complete with composting toilet, adding a deck that’s larger than
the actual cabin and making it livable with a portable induction hob and built-in bed. When the necessities had been taken care of, Eleanor’s well-developed aesthetic and advanced hosting skills came to the fore with the finishing touches.

“I wanted a minimal rustic cabin but something that also has a natural earthy warmth to it. We really wanted it to be a space where people could come away and completely disconnect – they literally cannot make any phone calls [phone coverage is patchy at best].”

Eleanor’s idea of bare minimum is still luxurious and lovely. She stocks the shelves with Mt Atkinson coffee, Webster’s organic chocolate and blood orange teas and her homemade tahini granola, and the cabins are cleaned with natural products. Guests sleep on good quality bedding from Penney + Bennet and Trade Aid, there’s a supply of interesting books and on the walls is a photo of nearby Lion Rock, a vintage-look poster and artist Valentin’s original works.

“I’m influenced by vintage things. I love anything that has that lived-in feeling, whereas my husband is more masculine with a black-and-white style.”

They do agree on one thing, though. “Choosing quality is important. Buy beautiful things that will last. There’s only room for a small amount of things here,
so they may as well look good.”

There’s also a menu for guests to order Eleanor’s homemade treats off, such as lavishly constructed grazing platters, her gluten- and dairy-free chocolate coffee cake with maple and her sublime raspberry slice.

The second lodging, ‘The Tiny’, is actually a wee house on wheels, and at just 18sqm is on the small side of tiny houses. It was a Taupō builder’s lockdown project, so when the couple saw it advertised, they rushed down to see it before quickly buying it.

“It was a bit of a nightmare with the windy road and manoeuvring it in here,” she admits. Once the house was safely in place, they built a 20sqm deck alongside it and sank a fully plumbed bath into it. It’s right on the edge of the bush, so kerurū and tūi are constantly flying low over the cabin. This cabin has two beds, a queen and a king single on mezzanine levels, as well as a dining table, two chairs, a sofa and TV. Space-saving touches such as the bathroom’s sliding barn door, built-in cupboards and beds on the mezzanine mean it feels more spacious than 18sqm.

Since they opened for business a couple of months ago, the cabins have been in demand. Some guests are curious to see if tiny house living is for them, but the majority are wanting to immerse themselves in nature. Truth be told, Eleanor loves what they’ve created so much that when guests aren’t booked in, she can often be found taking a tiny time out for herself in a cabin, enjoying the peace and writing her book.

Words by: Fiona Hawtin. Photography by: Helen Bankers

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