Two UQ architecture alumni are laying the foundations for sustainable, affordable housing in Australia through their start-up business, the Tiny House Company.
Lara Nobel (Bachelor of Architectural Design ’09, Master of Architecture ’11) and Andrew Carter (Bachelor of Design Studies ’07, Master of Architecture ’10), along with co-founder Greg Thornton, are the brains behind a bespoke and innovative design that combines all the essential elements of living into an efficient amount of space.
Despite their small stature, these tiny houses still manage to feel open, airy and inviting, thanks to elegant design and storage options.
The busy couple said they were drawn to the idea of tiny houses as a result of their education and experience.
“Although living in small spaces is not new, Australia has a lot to learn from other cultures,” said Nobel, who was able to expand her interest in micro-housing in Japan and Europe thanks to philanthropic scholarship opportunities she was awarded during her studies at UQ.
“We decided that building a tiny house was a good mix of our skills in carpentry and architecture. So it was something fun to try and an important concept to test in an Australian setting.”
Carter agreed, crediting his interest in designing small spaces to his university studies.
“We saw great precedents of what you can achieve in a small space and the benefits of high density living, yet we didn’t see many built examples in Australia,” he said.
While tiny houses appeal strongly to students and graduates who are trying to break into the property market on a tiny budget, Nobel said their market was surprisingly broad.
“They’re for young people, old people, middle-aged people – all people really, anyone who feels they can live in a tiny home,” Nobel said.
Nobel and Carter are currently living in a tiny house they designed and helped build. The house is located in Red Hill, although it has been moved nine times in six months since its completion and has been displayed at various events including the Woodford Folk Festival.
The main area of the house covers just 18m2, with an outdoor deck covering an additional 10m2. It caters for all the essentials, including a space to dine, lounge, sleep and entertain.
It also has a bathroom with a full-size shower, laundry space, cooking space, and a variety of storage spaces.
By night, the bed drops down from the ceiling at the press of a button.
“The tiny house idea comes with the notion of being self-sufficient, off-the-grid, or living close to the city – as many people our age have to for work – with a smaller mortgage,” Nobel said.
“Small spaces have a lower impact because of their lower embodied energy and their lower demands for ongoing operation. Being transportable also allows us to offer off-the-grid features more effectively than a fixed dwelling.
“We’ve got a composting toilet, grey water filtration system and a grease trap. We’ve also used a lot of recycled Australian hardwood throughout.
“The space is designed to minimise the need for active cooling from fans and air conditioners.”
The design costs about $100,000 to build; however, the Tiny House Company is working on a new design of a similar size (with no deck) that is estimated to cost $80,000.
To learn more about the Tiny House Company, visit the tinyhousecompany.com.au.
The tiny house movement
Tracing its origins to the 1970s, the tiny house movement is an architectural and social movement that advocates living simply
in small homes.
A residential structure under 46m2 is generally accepted to be a tiny home – for context, the average Australian home is 243m2,
one of the largest house footprints of any country in the world.