By thinking outside the cube, an inventive Auckland couple have squeezed their bare necessities into a petite 8.6-square-metre home
Meet and greet
Shaun Pearce, owner of I Build Solutions and Petra Pearce, climate scientist at NIWA.
An 8.6-square-metre home is the perfect fit for this Auckland couple
An obsession with tiny homes, a passion for Pinterest and despair at the cost of homes in Auckland led to the creation of a nifty tiny home nicknamed ‘Pip’ (perfect in proportion). Dynamic couple Shaun and Petra Pearce are used to living a life of adventure – their blog, The Global Couple, shows photo after photo of their travels around the world, including a trip exploring New Zealand in a converted Hiace van. This wanderlust approach to life meant they were quite accustomed to doing without.
“You get used to a small space and realise what you really don’t need,” says Shaun. “We’re the kind of couple who downsize every few years – for us, it seems quite refreshing.” Their natural inclination to travel light set them in good stead for their most recent adventure: building and living in an 8.6-square-metre home – about the same size as a modern bathroom.
After walking away empty-handed from too many house auctions, the couple started to think seriously about a tiny home – a concept Shaun had been “obsessed with” for years. The idea had many merits: it was an achievable project for builder Shaun, it would give the couple their own space without a gigantic mortgage, and Shaun could instead invest their funds into growing his building company. Even more exciting was the opportunity for the couple to have a creative project to get stuck into.
“We tried to get into a house but couldn’t do it financially, so we thought we’d do something crazy and show people that it’s something to consider if you can’t afford to spend many hundreds of thousands,” says Shaun. “It was our chance to have a bigger life by living small.”
Parked in the driveway of Petra’s mum’s home in Parnell, Pip is a new breed of sleep-out. The couple describe it as a cross between a caravan and a cabin and its dimensions (about 2.3 metres by 3.6 metres) were determined simply by the trailer they could afford – building on wheels means you don’t need building consent, even though Shaun built everything to code.
When sketching up the design, Shaun and Petra had to decide what they could and couldn’t do without. They chose to forgo a bathroom and laundry in favour of a wardrobe and desk as they knew they’d be parked near free facilities (thanks, Mum!) and it made more sense to use the space for storage and work. What they’ve ended up with is a light-filled lounge and dining area, kitchen, office and bedroom, all perfectly in proportion.
Pip takes shape
The build, which the pair documented on Instagram (@pipthetinyhouse), took about seven months of weekend working bees. They started building at the end of June in Petra’s mum’s garage and finished in January. Apart from some electrical work, Shaun and Petra did everything themselves including building, roofing, painting, tiling and even furniture design and construction.
The fold-down bed caused the most headaches: it took many nights to design a configuration that would allow the bed to fold down without colliding with the kitchen bench, and then to nut out the ideal mechanism and fittings. They also had to work out whether it would even hold their weight!
Petra used Pinterest as a guide for her tiny home’s decor. “Keeping it simple and using a lot of white and neutral colours are what makes it feel spacious,” she explains. It also allows their special features to stand out, such as a turquoise Smeg-style fridge and gorgeous kitchen bench, which was fashioned from an old rimu bookshelf sanded back to its natural state and then waxed. A skylight was added to let light flood in from above.
The couple have to be savvy with storage in such a small space. One of their strategies is to keep only a seasonal wardrobe handy, leaving out-of-season clothing in storage elsewhere. A long ottoman stores spare sheets and bed pillows, while the rest of the bedding folds away with the bed.
A slide-out pantry lives above the oven. Glasses, dishes, books and objects are stored in the shelves below the bed, kitchenware is kept on a shelf above the sink, and the cupboards below house a portable induction cooktop, rice cooker, one pot and one pan. “It’s quite refreshing to not have cupboards full of crap we don’t need,” laughs Petra. “We have just one frying pan, two coffee cups and two wine glasses. If we want another drink, we wash our cups!”
Buoyed by the interest from their Instagram followers and fellow ‘tiny house’ movement aficionados, Shaun and Petra held an informal open-home house-warming when they moved in, giving about 30 people the grand tiny tour. “Everyone loved it,” says Petra. “They just can’t believe what we’ve fitted in here.”
The couple hope to inspire people to think outside the square when they’re frustrated at being priced out of the property market. “Kiwis have always had this quarter-acre dream – it’s just something we were brought up with and thought we needed because everyone was working for the same thing,” Shaun says. “But if you are willing to be a bit different, there is another way. We have a much bigger life because of our tiny house.”
Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Wendy Fenwick.