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Owners of this box-shaped Otago home share their tips on living small

Big enough for a family but small enough to put on the back of a truck, this box-shaped 90-square-metre home in Otago has given its creators the simple life they’d longed for

Meet + greet

Sophie Brash, 30 (stay-at-home mum and trained occupational therapist), Callan Brash, 29 (project manager), India, 4, and Marley, 1, plus Molly the cat.

Small-living tips

  • If you are designing your own home, eliminate any hallways.
  • Roomy wardrobes are vital. In the girls’ rooms the drawers are inside the double wardrobes, which saves space in each room and keeps things streamlined. (The wardrobes fill one big cavity between the two rooms.)
  • Make the most of storage. Sophie and Callan put plenty of shelving in cupboards, including the large hot water cupboard, which is also the technology hub. They also hang towels on the back of the door as a towel rail on the wall would have taken up potential cupboard space. A roomy pantry in the kitchen houses all the small appliances so those things aren’t on the benchtop.
  • Make furniture multi-use. The kitchen island doubles as a breakfast bar (although there is a dining table, too).
  • Reduce visual clutter. The girls’ beds and the bedside tables in the master bedroom are similar in colour to the plywood walls, so the eye isn’t drawn to those items.
  • Use the space under the house. The Brashes closed off this area and added a door for security and child safety.

Sophie and Callan’s budget building tips

  • Talk to your builder. Having an awesome builder like Mark Velenski made a big difference. He understood how important our budget was and that we didn’t need fancy. He also gave us sound advice along the way, helping us keep costs down.
  • Look at alternatives. For instance, we wanted a concrete bench but Mark helped us find a concrete-look laminate one that we are happy with. It was the same with our splashback – while we would have liked tiles, the laminate option we chose has given us the same look.
  • Do your research. For example, do all your windows need to be opening ones? These cost more.
  • Keep things simple. Go for straight lines. We were able to save money because our home is essentially a rectangular box. We considered a vaulted ceiling but decided it was an unnecessary extra cost.
  • Create a spreadsheet of your spending to keep you on track.


The house cost $212K to build. With fencing and the deck included, the total cost was $225K.

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Cabinetry, laminate benchtop and splashback by Kaboodle from Bunnings, kaboodle.co.nz
Pendants (kitchen) Redpaths, redpaths.co.nz, (dining and bedroom) Design Federation, designfederation.co.nz


Builder Mark Velenski Building, Oamaru, 027 249 0099

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