Many people who are drawn to the idea of tiny house living are attracted to the concept by a love of the environment and a desire to do something good for the planet. Today we’ve traveled to the Yarra Valley in southern Australia to meet one young family who are living an incredible zero-waste plant-based tiny house lifestyle. Hey Jo — goodbye — lovely to meet you. You, too. Good day, Mark. How’s it going, mate? Goodbye, nice to meet you. What an incredible-looking tiny house you’ve got here. Thank you very much How long have you been living here now? About nine months. And how are you finding tiny house life? We love it. Love it. Yeah, it’s really cozy. A little bit apprehensive initially, being relatively tall. You are pretty tall. How tall are you. Two meters? It’s not often that I feel short. And what was it that actually first captured your imagination about the tiny house movement? What first made you start thinking “Yeah, I could actually live in a tiny house”? I think we were pretty keen to live a bit more of a minimalistic sort of lifestyle, with less waste and sort of less negative impact and a tiny house is obviously a great way to, to achieve that. And also living debt-free — being able to build and own a house — is a big plus as well. I’ve been looking at tiny houses for years probably. I’d say so, yeah. Yeah, on YouTube, and like just online. And then we’re moving back to Australia from Singapore and we just decided that we’ll do it. It’s a bit of a dream come true, I guess. Yeah, I guess. I guess maybe when you get to a certain age — I don’t know — you kind of start to think more seriously about what you’re doing in life and the impact that it has on everybody. And the people around you, and the environment, I guess, these days is obviously a big concern. So that was sort of why we went towards a more zero waste lifestyle. I say “more zero waste” because we’re still not zero waste. It’s a pretty long road. But we’re doing a pretty good job of steering clear of, ah, single-use plastics and the tiny house really ties into that perfectly because you are only really using what you need in terms of space and the things that you put in that space. So as DIY builders what was the process of actually putting this house together like? Ah, it was a little bit of a mishmash to be honest. Dad had a pretty good idea. He’d built a lot of things before. Um, so when we came back from Singapore we already had the trailer, the windows, and the pine for the framing here. And we just started from the ground up. How long did the build actually take you? It was about three months in total because we both were doing it full-time and we had the support of my parents as well. Mum was cooking dinner so we were working till 9:00 every night and coming in and having dinner. Which is pretty good. The whole process went pretty smoothly. Dad helped us a lot, okay. As I touched on earlier, he’s built a lot of things in the past so he worked with us a lot and then when he had to go to work, he pointed us in the right direction. Because we originally had no idea. I remember googling how to build a house a couple of times and the steps involved: where you start, and then what’s next, and what’s next, and what’s next. So it was very reassuring to to have that information already from somebody who knew what they were doing. And the building process just brought us closer I think — yeah. Working together on a project has been really amazing. And what about materials? So looking at the exterior of this house — what have you used to put it together? Mainly Colorbond [steel]. It was something that we knew that we were kind of familiar with with using. Um… So, Colorbond and cedar is the exterior, yeah. And you’ve built a really nice porch space here as well, yeah Yeah, this is all built from recycled tomato stakes, essentially. Oh really!
Yeah. yeah, and — cut the ends off — and planed and flat. So you can see they’re all different multi colors. And they’re all arranged in 900 tiles. So when we do want to move, we can just pick up the tiles and unbolt the deck and move it wherever we go. And especially here in southern Australia, where the weather is really good, having that extra outdoor living space connected to the tiny house must be really valuable. Yeah. That little bit of a flexibility is very handy especially with visitors. Because it can get a little bit cramped when there’s six or more people in the house. Yeah. I’d have somewhere outside to have a meal and have a chat and chill out is pretty lovely, yeah. And what about the property you’re on right now? So this is actually my parents property. They’re kind of in their backyard, which is again, pretty — we feel pretty lucky. We have our groundskeepers, who take care of our lawn and the veggie garden. Oh yeah, they’ll love that. Thanks Mom. And what about future plans for — ah — are you looking at actually saving up for your own bit of land at the moment? Is this like a stepping stone? It is. Yeah, yeah the house is a total initial investment we hope we’ll get maybe seven or so years out of it. But we’re looking to get a block of land as well to move on to. And it’s not just the two of you anymore. You actually have a young one now, don’t you? Yeah, three weeks old. Only three weeks! A daughter. Yeah. Wow. And how are you finding tiny house life with a newborn baby? It’s been pretty good so far. I mean we’re lucky because we had like a extra little space on the end of the house so we turned it into your nursery, and yeah. Now you actually gave birth to your daughter right here, didn’t you? Yeah. Like where we’re standing. Yeah, we had a birth pool. We had the table and chairs over here, and a birth pool set up, and it was really nice. Yeah. Wow! Yeah, it’s really special. Yeah. When you were building this, did you have any idea that this was where you were actually going to be starting your family? No. It was bit of a last minute decision to put the pool out here. I think a home birth was something that Jo really wanted from the get-go. Yeah. But the specifics of where we would — yeah — we weren’t really sure if it would work out in a tiny house in such a small space, but we had the deck and — yeah — we kind of just like curtained off the side for a bit of privacy and, yeah, it was really nice. Absolutely! Well, I am super excited to have a look inside the tiny house. Can we see what you’ve done? Yeah, come on in! What a lovely home! Thank you. Walking in here, it actually just feels so spacious, doesn’t it? Yeah,
we added a few windows and stuff to the original design to try to bring in a bit more light, a bit more of the outdoors. So, right now, we’re in your living space. Yeah, we had a couch originally that would you know collapse to become a couch and pull out to be a bed. But we always had it as a bed, so we just got a single mattress and put it there. Now it’s our chilling out day bed and now with Alba, if Jo needs to, she spends the night down here, because it’s easier to get up and feed the baby and stuff without having to go upstairs. Gives you a little bit of extra peace as well. Yeah.I wasn’t going to say that, but… Gets to sleep through the night.And underneath you’ve got storage as well. Yeah. The top lifts up and we’ve got a whole pile of stuff under there. Shoes and random things that we don’t really use all the time. And a little storage loft for all the extra bits that don’t fit in our kitchen. And our projector. Very cool! Nice spot to just relax and watch a movie then. Yeah, yeah, lovely. And then you’ve built storage into the staircase behind you as well, including a washing machine. Yeah. Yep, we were a bit worried about the noise but we’ve had no issues with it all.
Yeah, it’s really quiet. And the steps at the end here, they move so if we need extra seating around the house for people and they also — storage, this is a laundry basket. And this one’s just bags and random things. And then tell me about the kitchen!
Obviously, you’re a chef, Mark, so this must have been a very important part of the house for you. It was, yeah. There was a bit of contention when we were building about the stove. Right. Our plumber told us that we would have to have a camping stove, which I wasn’t having a bar of. So he managed to find a nice, little four-burner gas stove that actually works pretty well. Because, like you said, we do a lot of cooking at home. We started a plant-based diet about two and a half years ago, and I’ve been working as a chef now for about 15 years. So there was an obvious kind of conflict there, in work and home life. So I started a pop-up restaurant which travels around the Yarra valley and uses venues that are already existing. Ah, it just kind of lends their kitchen and their restaurant and their team to serve a vegan degustation menu once a month. So it’s a really great creative outlet, and it’s really nice to get a bit of a toe in the water and people have really loved it. So it’s been very encouraging. And then you’ve got the shallow storage there as well. Yep. Yeah, we wanted to make the most of the uninsulated wall space, so we’ve just got basically all of our dry goods here which from a cooking perspective works really well because when you’re working you can just turn around and grab what you need. You don’t have to really shovel through cupboards and try to find things. It’s all easily accessible. And the benchtop is a really nice piece of kauri from a neighbor, David, that we’ve just, well, I shouldn’t say “we”, that Dad has cut and joined and inserted a bit of black wood just make sure it’s the right length. And the rest of the cabinetry is recycled from an old kitchen that we just cut it down and stripped back the doors and repainted them to suit the extra height that we have on the bench top because it’s 110 mil instead of 90. So obviously this is pretty close to a zero-waste kitchen, right? Yeah, it’s pretty close. There’s a few things that always pop up, but we’ve done, I think, pretty well so far to try to steer away from single-use plastics. Ah, everything, as you can see, is in the old Moccona coffee jars. Which were a really good buy from from op shops down the line. Yup. And we buy all of our food at The Full Pantry which is a bulk store. So we can just take our jars now, no brown paper bags, if we need to chop them up. Yeah, we found it really nice to be able to not produce so much stuff, you know, because obviously you have less space — you can’t fit all this stuff in there that you would generally use, especially not really related to the kitchen, but like having a baby a lot of the stuff that you would generally end up accumulating, we just really can’t, because we don’t have the space for it. So with the baby, we’d already decided that we were going to try to live the zero waste lifestyle. So we had a bit of time to do a bit of research on the internet about what is available for babies and the best way to go about things before she was born we already stocked up with like nappies, and we’ve got a lot of second-hand clothes — all of her clothes actually. Yeah, alot of our stuff is either second hand or like, been lent to us to use, so we haven’t really bought a lot of things new and um, with the cloth diapering we also use cloth wipes so we don’t use disposable wipes either. We don’t use any soaps or detergents or anything. The only thing that we would have actually bought would be the diapers, but that’s it. It is quite a good investment because they’ll last for her whole diaper-wearing life. Yeah. And then, is that the bathroom in there? It is, yeah. Cool. Ok This is lovely! Thank you Yeah, well, we’re pretty keen on having a wet room, so we didn’t have to worry about, obviously, segregating the water, or having a specific shower box. How do you find it with the toilet, though? Does the toilet not get sort of wet and …? Ah, it’s okay, actually. It’s the box on the outside is marine varnished. And it’s lifted off the ground a half a centimeter. So if it does get wet, it can all just flow away anyway. Right, okay. Yeah. I really love what you’ve done with the basin here, too. Thanks. We were pretty keen on having something that wasn’t intrusive. And we were originally looking at a corner unit but then we saw this little copper bowl in the objob so we just cut the bottom out of it and made it into a sink. And stuck it onto a piece of the raw edge black wood from the neighbor comes out really nice. Beautiful. Yeah. I think this is a really clever way of taking quite a small bathroom but actually making it feel like a large space, aye? It does feel very spacious, yeah. Yeah, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to, like, dry myself in there — be hitting my hands on the roof and on the walls, but, without the division, there’s a lot of space. And then what’s through here? Ah, this is Alba’s room. Oh, and there’s Alba. Oh my gosh, she’s so sweet. Three weeks old today. She’s so tiny and what a wonderful little room for the child, though, isn’t it? Yeah, it’s a perfect space. It’s got everything she needs: a bed and storage. Yeah, and more than enough for her to still have enough space as she grows up as well. Yeah, as well. Yep. She’ll be in here for a few years. Longer than a few years. Beautiful. Well, we’d better let her sleep, aye? And then your sleeping loft is up here? Yep, sure is. Yeah. This loft is super spacious! Yeah, we we added a little bit of extra height to the walls from the original design so that we can fit in our windows and so that we’d have a little bit more head space so we can actually sit up in bed without hitting our heads on the roof. And I really like how you’ve got this landing here before the bed as well. Yeah. We wanted a bit of an area that we could not get out of bed and fall down the stairs, essentially, to set up an organizer — clothes or whatever — that we have stored up here. And that extra length that we added to the loft gives us a bit more wall space, for our wardrobe and clothes and books and stuff that we keep up here.
So, nine months now living in this home, how’s it working out for you? I love it. Yeah, it’s really good. It’s really nice. Yeah, I really like living here. That the lifestyle I like trying to have a minimal footprint and very enjoyable and the fact that we made it ourselves. We can lie in bed and kind of think back and, yeah, what it was like building it and… That’s actually one of the key things, I think. Like, being in house that you built yourself and having it be so comfortable, knowing that you made the right choices in what you added to the house or didn’t put in. Yeah, it’s really nice. I’m happy. Obviously, you’ve done all the labor in this build yourself, but do you have an idea of what the project actually cost to complete? Yeah, aside from the time and the labor, like you said, it was probably, with all of the equipment, like washing machine, air conditioner, toaster, all this kind of stuff — a bit under 50 grand? Hmm. It’s a great result. Yeah. Yeah, we’re really happy with developing our own in little house for that much money, yeah. And what do you think the future is gonna hold for you guys now? I don’t know. That’s a good question to answer. Like with Alba. Yeah. Living in a tiny house, I guess it’ll limit the time we can maybe live here. But because we have that back room, like, she’s got her own space for now, and I think again… Yeah, we can get our can completely I think until she’s maybe around ten. And she would then eventually just have this house, and she would live in here. We’d be moving out, and once you get more annoying, we can just tow it further and further away… I’m jacking, mom. Yeah, it will be really nice to be able to give her, essentially, a house, which is something that as as a teenager, you never really get that that space, generally speaking, so going forward, that would be really nice. Yeah, what an incredible start to life that would be, huh? Yeah, so part of living in a tiny house — building it and being debt-free, essentially, provides a lot of, not a lot, but it provides more financial freedom to pursue the things that we enjoy more, which is part of the reason why the possibility is there to do business like the circle dining and spend the time that isn’t necessarily financially rewarded immediately in building something that we believe is really important. This is such a beautiful home — walking in here — it’s warm — it’s welcoming. You’ve both done an exceptional job with all of the finishes in here, and I have no doubt that this is going to be an incredible home for your family. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. Thank you very much. Thanks for coming. Thank you. Mark and Jo have created a truly wonderful home for their family. But more than it just being a home, it’s also offering them an incredible amount of security and the ability to go out in life and live not only true to their values, but also true to their inherent desires of what they want to do with their lives and that is an incredible position to be in.