As I was nutting out the puzzle of how to best share a detailed look at our little house with you, I was pondering why it has taken me this long to do this when I receive a message about it almost daily!
What I've realised is that our home is an extension of us (as I'm sure yours is too). Because of that, it's ever evolving in small ways, almost like a living, breathing part of our little family. I really don't feel it will never be 'done', especially the biggest 'room' of them all, the garden.
So let's call this the 2022 winter house tour.In this post you'll find:
⭐️ Beautiful Nikole Ramsay Images with accompanying descriptions
⭐️ A house tour video by me
⭐️ A list of truths about living in our small house
⭐️ A list of pros of living in our small house
⭐️ Bonus links to some of the magazine features of our house over the years.
Let's make something clear to begin with: our home is very small...like really small. Not technically a 'tiny' home as it's not mobile and cannot fit on a trailer, but very small nonetheless. It measures 40 square meters and if like me you are not great with visualising square meterage, this may help put it into context: according to realestate.com.au, the average home in Australia is 195.8 square meters. Over a decade ago now, my husband Fraser (a building designer & carpenter) updated a small existing house using both new and reclaimed materials. These existing and reclaimed pieces such as windows and doors heavily influenced the overall design of our humble little home.
Frase cleverly crafted the house for our specific needs and within the various restraints of the project, such as the existing structure, aspect, location, availability of locally sourced materials and our extremely small budget. Luckily, he is a skilled carpenter and he was able to do the labour himself, which was a huge help. Meanwhile I helped where I could, but the extent of my help included things like painting or holding tape measures (I actually find painting so satisfying, just don't ask me to properly prep anything lol!). All of these elements combined to make our beautiful home possible. Frase has created the interior layout in such a way that the space feels much bigger than it actually is and it fits our needs perfectly with not an inch of floor space wasted.
If we could wave a magic wand and see into our dream future, one day we hope to be living in a modestly sized completely passive home (once you've had a very small house to clean you never go back!), designed and built by Frase with only low VOC and non-tox building materials, up-cycled wherever possible. And for the cherry on top, outside the home would be a beautiful natural pool (I am obsessed with pools and swimming). One can dream right?! All of these dream elements have a larger price tag than the standard homes being built these days, not to mention the rising cost of land. So, it's a pipe dream for sure and one that we don't have the means for now and probably won't for a long time. That said, we have the idea and the dream so at least that's a start. If one day we are in a position to build this beautiful abode, we want to build a home that will stand the test of many generations (hello embodied energy) and use next to no energy (hello environment) while having the highest possible air quality (hello health). But for now (and for a long time to come) we will be making the most the time, energy and love we have poured into our beloved little shack, treating it like we may be here forever.
Alrighty, let's get into the details...
Our house consists of three rooms. One half of the home is occupied by the kitchen and a small sitting area that acts as the entry. Accessible via a small step is the other half of the home which includes a multipurpose space consisting of our bed nook, shelves and drawers that double as a stand up desk with our record player and records, some floor space in front of our beautiful bifold doors and a cot for our one year old daughter. Adjoining this half of the house is a third room taken up by a compact bathroom with a shower, toilet, sink, shelving and a small hanging space for our clothes. Click play on the below video to be taken on a mini tour.
Welcome, ( I did do a little tidy up for your visit ) …
OUTSIDE & ENTRANCE
Welcome to the largest and most well loved room in our house: the garden, deck and entrance. This little space has evolved over time and continues to change each season and year. Last year, for example, we extended the overhead wires to allow the beautiful grapevine to grow over our bed nook. Such changes can alter the experience of a space dramatically. Our deciduous ornamental grapevine works to shade the larger north facing windows in summer when the leaves are thick and lush, then welcomes warming sun in in the cooler months after the vine has lost its leaves. It's one of my favourite parts of the house and looks so amazing when it turns a vibrant red in autumn! As you enter the house into the kitchen, Frase has installed a basic coatrack he made from some bits and pieces we had floating around and I don't know what we'd so without it. We store everything we use regularly as we come and go from the house there. This is particularly handy for wet weather gear in winter as we're out in the garden a lot. Below the coatrack, Frase recently made a little shelf from ply and coated it in tung oil. Here we store our shoes but also a few of our daughter's toys and books which I rotate for her regularly. A bit of a Montessori style shelf that she loves to explore.
Our kitchen has evolved as we have lived in the space over time. In the beginning we had a few industrial shelves servicing as the pantry. Frase then created the open ply shelves and drawers below the bench from some offcuts. Having open shelves is so handy as you can always see everything and easily identify what you have on hand. The stand alone commercial kitchen bench along the internal wall is also open as is the area below the sink, which is where we store most of our appliances and larger cooking items. Having these spaces open felt visually cluttered to me, so I plant dyed some calico I had left over from my fashion design days and made it into curtains, which work a treat. Our dining table and chairs where second hand finds a few years apart. Frase gave the table a bit of a birthday by sanding it and coating the top in tung oil. The commercial stainless steel bench tops are super durable and although they don't work as a visually appealing surface for recipe images, they are so incredibly practical. I can place hot items straight onto them with no worries and I feel like the timber and the white sections of the room help to balance their cold appearance. We often use the timber outdoor table for meals in fine weather (see Fred demonstrating a brekkie of Lazy Bones Loaf avo toast toast) which gives us a feeling of extra space, particularly in the warmer months. Considering the very small footprint of our house our kitchen area feels quite large, it fits everything we need and it flows well. While it does take up up almost half of our floorplan, it is definitely the heart of the home and where I do a lot of my work.
One of the many things I love about our very small home is that we have continued to edit and change little bits of the interior over time. Painting the ceiling here, adding a shelf there, that sort of thing. But where we have poured the most love (and hours) is into the garden. What was once a patch of dusty and sparse lawn is now a small veggie patch and multiple native gardens surrounding our home. Being in such a small space feels completely doable when there are lush green spaces to look out to (cleverly placed windows and doors help enormously with this, too). We treat the surrounding space as the most important room in our home. We are both novice gardeners, learning through experience over time and trial and error in our own garden...but we love it and the payoff for all the work is more than ten fold when you get to look at it everyday and feel the positive influence it has on our sense of wellbeing.
BABY AND LIVING
Pre baby, our living space was in the same room as the bed nook (see top right image below), but since having our daughter we've removed my work desk from the kitchen area and replaced it with our small sofa from Melbourne maker Pop and Scott (see top left). In the space our living area once was is now a cot for our one year old little legend. All of our home-wears come from a variety of places. Op-shops, hand-me-downs, vintage finds, sentimental gifts from family and friends. The few new items I have purchased, featured in the below images are from Banabae & Dharma door.
The bathroom is the smallest room in the house but it's more than sufficient for us. Within a small space, Frase has fit a large shower that he retrofitted from roof sheet cut offs and a seconds shower base as well as our wardrobe which is a series of open shelves on the opposite wall to the shower. They are deep but we have to be minimal all the same as we share it and Frase loves a warm jacket (or 500 haha).
Probably the most photogenic part of the house is our bed nook. Hilariously, I have been asked more times than I can count how I manage to change the sheets! I honestly don't find it difficult at all. It's not as easy as a regular bed set up but it's a very small price to pay to gain the floor space in front of it for living, to have a cozy spot to sleep and an extra place to sit. Laying down to read a book with the window open and fresh air flowing is heaven in this snuggly space. I confess, it's something I haven't done since having our little girl, but laughing and falling around in here with her is just as wonderful! In front of the bed nook and below the bifold doors is the largest free space in the house. Our daughter often plays in this area and I also use it for my food photography and videography as it has the best light in our home. You will notice in the images that I tend to move things around often and use a few items like rugs interchangeably. I'm just someone who loves to regularly refresh a space so I will often swap a few items between rooms as I spring clean. It's such a mood shifter for me. I've always done it ever since I was a little girl when I would rearrange the furniture in my room all the time to see how it felt and flowed. I must say that I find this practice, if you can call it that, even more potent now living in a very small space. P.S that gorgeous original watercolour is by Camilla Walford
I'm often asked for my experience living as as a family of four (we can't forget Fred dog!) in a home that would take up the same amount of space as many peoples double car garage. So, here is a list of the truths of living in a small house and some tips for anyone considering downsizing, plus some of the huge benefits of living this way.
SOME TRUTHS ABOUT LIVING IN A SMALL HOUSE
- Looking at these beautiful sunshiney Nikole Ramsay images, you could easily be forgiven for thinking the weather is always sunny and beautiful at our house. We live in Victoria on the south coast of Australia. Winter may not reach the extra low temperatures of some of the northern hemisphere countries, but it does get cold here and it can be very wet. For that reason (and being more of a warmer climate person myself) I find winters are not as easy as the other months in our small home. We have to rug up and get outside into the garden as often as we can for a healthy dose of nature. Having said that, we are lucky to look out on green space rather than directly at another building, and it hasn't escaped me that many people in small spaces don't have the same luxury. The surrounding greenery is what makes the longer periods of cold weather, wind and rain as smooth sailing as possible for me.
- We have enough storage inside the house for everyday items but we also have a small shipping container behind the house where we store things like bikes, surfboards, camp gear etc. Basically all the larger outdoor activity gear.
- I needed an extra sense of space, so I painted the ceilings white a few years ago and now I don't notice it as much. These days, my #mombun sometimes hits the door frame. I am 6ft after all #giraffeproblems
- I'm someone who doesn't like clutter. We both work from home and I find I focus better in simple spaces so it's a constant challenge to keep our clutter to a minimum, whilst still keeping practical items easily accessible. If we one day live in a purpose built small structure designed by Frase, we'll be able to solve loads of these first world problems...but for now, the reality is that we have adapted an existing structure while being conservative with money and building waste. On the flip side, the many benefits of keeping clutter to a minimum on the daily have formed lasting habits for us that are practical, economical and more environmental (see number 1 on the pros list).
THE PROS OF A SMALL HOUSE
- Living in a small space has its advantages if you are looking to curb your consumerism. Minimal furniture and clothing and only small items fit practically inside our home. If we want to be able to walk across the floor or have free surfaces handy, not only do things need to be put away as you use them, but they also need to need to be regularly used to warrant a space in our home. I would consider myself a 'practical minimalist'. We keep items we use regularly and try to buy considerately. That said, we are not extreme about it. It does make you deeply contemplate each and every purchase even more closely when it is a matter of 'where will I put this though?' haha
- Possibly one of the biggest advantages to living in a small home: It makes for super speedy cleaning.
- You can maximise outdoor space. Being in nature is so good for us and even just looking at it through a window holds many benefits too! Did you know that the human eye can detect more shades of green than any other colour? pretty cool huh? Green is also thought to relieve stress! We also feel good about our daughter having outdoor space available to her to run and play and we're happy to sacrifice indoor room to maximise that.
- One of the things I've learnt in this process is that so many factors influence a smart basic design. From the aspect, to the location, to the local available materials and in our case a very small budget. This is why building designers, like Frase, who take into account all of these things when designing a renovation or new build are so important. As a society, we can be making much greater use of what already exists. Making the most of space and utilising existing buildings creates less waste and is ultimately better for our Earth. Waste from building demolitions is one of the largest culprits of waste in many countries and within all of those materials is embodied energy, which is the sum of all of the energy required to produce and transport goods. We can also better consider the lifespan of a building by optimising that embodied energy. Preserving much of what was already in a space, using reclaimed materials where possible and keeping the overall footprint of homes to a minimum all go a long way to being financially conservative and environmentally sustainable. In short, where you may have to spend more on expert advice you will make up for it in overall build and running cost (and personal satisfaction) in the long run.
So, that's it legends. Thanks for coming along for the ride and I hope you enjoyed seeing more of our humble little space!
Our home has also been featured on some amazing platforms:
The Design Files Country Style
For even more pictures and info on our home see my 3rd book HOME by Natural Harry.