A warm welcome back to our three-part series about “Tiny” – the twenty square metres house being built by my sister, Kendall, her husband, Steve, and contributed to by their own tiny one, Elvie (22 months). We first checked in on Kendall and Steve at the end of January, this year. Back then, they were just starting out on their journey, with a trailer bed and some plywood on a bit of land, living in a tent and anticipating all the challenges and rewards to come. The days were sunny and long, the project, in stages yet to be known, lying ahead in much the same fashion. It was the beginning of the story.
Now, in July, and deep in the southern hemisphere winter, Kendall and Steve are well into their tiny house journey. Tiny has walls! And a roof! As you can see from the photos Tiny is really taking shape and it’s much easier now to imagine the end result. For them and all of us curious onlookers it’s a thrill to see Tiny becoming real and tangible, an idea that became a thing, a dream coming to life. Even if the fact that they built it with their very own four hands still rattles my mind…
Sharing the details of Kendall and Steve’s sea-change and fledgling adventure here on Fork and Fiction was something new for both of them and there was some trepidation about how it might be received. I was nervous too, wanting to make sure I did their (very personal) story justice. Hoping I wouldn’t totally stuff it up and make for awkward family dinners for months to come! Thankfully, the kindness and support has been unequivocal, as Kendall and Steve explain below:
What was it like telling your story on the first Tiny House post and how did people react?
S: Surprising! The power of social media… I honestly didn’t consider that many people would be interested in what we are doing. I saw this as a personal thing for me and my little family and that a few mates and immediate family might be interested but not what we received after last time. it was quite uplifting.
K: The response was very motivating. Everybody was positive and interested. We are not always the most communicative people (understatement) so it was great to let everyone know what we were doing in one fell swoop.
What is your life like as you live with the building but not in it? What does your day to day living look like?
K: We roll out of bed once Elvie has sprung joyful from her slumber and get going on with the day. On the days we aren’t working Steve will head up to Tiny and I will assume the girl. Myself and Elvie usually head up to Tiny after a morning activity or just after Steve has had enough time to sort out what I can help with. We then juggle to keep Elvie amused while I help out as best I can. Sometimes Elvie has a nap and I can solidly help for an hour and a half but often the nap just doesn’t happen. Steve tends to spend evenings working out how to do his next step and I struggle to get a grasp on what the next step is.
Since the last post where are you up to with the building?
S: She’s weathertight, we’re slowly adding insulation and lining the inside as money allows. Tiny is now part time for me as I need to earn to spend. We’re constantly scouring trademe (online private selling website) for interesting bargains.
K: We have started working on the inside! I love making her really cozy with serious insulation.
What surprises have you experienced in the journey so far? Biggest or most unexpected challenges?
S: There’s more to every building task than at first glance and clamps are very handy when building by yourself.
K: Each step has twenty little steps. So I’m always asking “whats next?!” and Steve’s always having to reign my expectations in.
How do you work together on the project?
S: The need for one of us to be directly looking after El at all times has meant that time spent together physically on the house has been limited. I’ve had to learn to talk each step through with Kenni instead of just stewing over things in my head, that way we’ve both been involved in decisions and Kenni’s been able to pick up and run with things. We’re already talking about building another tiny when El’s at kindy/school where we both can get stuck in side by side.
K: I would love to help more and hopefully as the build moves inside and becomes more design focused I will be. I get quite frustrated at how little I can help.
How does your toddler impact the project?
S: Hah, her mark is all over the house, there’s suns and flowers on the soffits, swirly scrawls on the cedar cladding! She’s way too quick at climbing ladders, she slows it all down but makes it so much better.
K: She hinders the build, adds to it, embodies the reasons for why we are doing it, unites us in the task and brings joy and laughter to every mundane task. She’s a cheeky little energetic monkey.
How are you tracking against schedule and budget?
S: Ummm. Schedule was optimistic; thanks to friends with access to trade accounts we’re pretty well on budget (don’t pay retail if you don’t have to!!!) It’s slowed down now that I’m working part time and building part time, we knew it was going to happen at some stage but its all good, I get out and about and then get keen to get back to Tiny to pick up where I left off.
What aspect of the project have you found the most stressful?
S: I’ve actively fought against viewing this as another work project for me and getting stressed about it. Rather, I have been doing my best to enjoy it for what it is. Thats really been my biggest thing, trying not to let it become stressful; not letting it become a construction project.
K: I have found the budgeting stressful. A few items have come in over estimated budget and this really forced us to have to sort out a work – saving – building balance. However we are finding an equilibrium now that is, for the most part, working for us.
What aspect have you found the most enjoyable?
S: Ticking little things off – learning to look at something, however small, and recognising that I did it that and it’s complete and it is good has been very important for me.
K: Standing back and looking at Tiny with Steve and feeling a sense of accomplishment that we haven’t really felt before in our lives.
What have you learnt about yourselves through the experience of this project so far?
S: You can’t do it all by yourself.
K: I have learnt that I have a lot more to learn about myself. This journey is leading me on other journeys to discover more about myself. In terms of our relationship I have learnt that we can handle stress, mistakes and upsets when we are united. I have learnt that Steve’s baggage is my baggage (and vice versa) and it’s a much lighter load when you share it.
What support have you received so far that has made a big difference to the project?
K: The greatest support has been the ease that our families have accepted this change and challenge in our lives.
S: Family – Rob and Glen (Tunnicliffe) have been very generous and Layne (Chilman, from L’n’B Construction Ltd) has been awesome in casting an experienced builders eye over things and making sure I don’t stuff things up.
What are you most worried about as you near completion of the project?
S: Shifting her from her current home will be fun, I’m sure it will be sweet but that doesn’t mean every power line won’t look too low as we’re driving our home around the streets.
K: Getting pregnant again in such a tiny tiny space….
What are you most looking forward to? Same as your original answers?
S: Yeah, under the skylight in the loft is already my favourite spot
K: Designing Elvie’s little room. I’m keen on a pastel pin board wall.
Any tips from your time so far for anyone looking to undertake a project like this?
S: Do it. I’m learning that things really do fall into place if you give it a go. Not specifically just building Tiny but changing our approach to where we’re going and how we want to live our lives.
K: We already look back at this journey fondly and we haven’t even neared completion. We love the challenges and the accomplishments. Its a fantastic thing to be doing regardless of the end result. I would also recommend others to do it. Don’t put too much weight on scheduling if you have no experience because quite frankly you don’t know your own skills or lack there of.
If you haven’t already read the first instalment of Tiny’s story please check it out here. And, of course, stay tuned for Part Three, when we drop by to see the finished Tiny, complete with bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, pastel pin board and sky light! As always, please feel free to share this story with others and leave your thoughts and words of encouragement below. Kendall + Steve and Ria + I here at Fork and Fiction love to hear your voices and views.
And to the Tiny House Trio – K, S and E – thank you so very much for candidly sharing your story and adventure with us. We cannot wait for Part Three and to be the first guests to crowd out your tiny house!