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Downsizing

SMALL HOUSE, BIG LIFE A downsized ‘Kiwi dream’ is gaining traction in New Zealand as people realise a big house on a quarter-acre may not be achievable, sustainable or even desirable. Sophie Preece finds less is more.

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raig Anderson loves flying, camping, cooking and boating, and is not so keen on vacuuming and paying the mortgage. So when he decided to build on his section at Koromiko, near Picton, he sought a smaller house and bigger life. “I worked out if you have a big house you virtually double the size of the mortgage and double the cleaning and you never use it. It’s all in case someone comes to stay twice a year, which really doesn’t make any sense.” Now he’s getting used to people driving down a little country road to check out his small-footprint, highimpact build, sitting on just 55 square metres. He’d planned a traditional small cottage on the site, but when he saw a Taieri River-mouth crib in a book on small New Zealand homes, he was won over by the sense of space afforded by the cathedral ceiling, mezzanine floor, and two walls of glass on the north and east faces. Craig went to Dunedin architects Mason and Wales for the design and to Blenheim builder Dallas Mead for the work, then set about jettisoning ‘stuff ’ and planning nifty storage areas, office spaces and a kitchen that indulges his love of cooking, all within a few metres. “It had to feel like it wasn’t small,” he says. The result is a canny trick of height and light, with beautiful spaces in a modest package. Picton designer Bronwyn Duffy, of Max Architectural Design, says the 38

Photo: Black Rock Building

average house size in New Zealand has more than doubled since 1900, but she is seeing a renewed interest in living ‘simpler and smaller’. She often meets clients with small-house aspirations due to budget constraints, environmental concerns or simply because less house means more lawn. “I am increasingly getting comments and more awareness that big is not better,” she says from her own 80sq.m. home near Waikawa. Smart design and realistic considerations can yield more space for backyard cricket, better quality fittings, and less of a mortgage weighing you down, she says. With that in mind, some clients are dropping the second living area, which once seemed mandatory, she says. “That saves 36 square metres just like that.” Also dispensable are ‘Christmas bedrooms’, on hand for the occasional visitor. “I guess my big thing is building for

what you actually need. So many people think, ‘I have to build four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living areas and double-garaging, because that will help it sell one day’,” says Bronwyn. But ‘one day’ could be a long way off, and in the meantime, the house needs to fit the bill for your situation. “It’s very much having a look at yourself and your house before looking at what everyone else is doing.” ‘DREAM’ NO LONGER VIABLE Renée Williamson graduated from Victoria University’s School of Architecture and Design last year, having published her thesis on her AdAPTA home, a 10sq.m. house that could make home ownership achievable to more young New Zealanders. “It was, basically, how much could be removed and how much was necessary to live with, in terms of space and stuff,” she says from Nelson’s Arthouse Architects.

Wild Tomato November2017  
Wild Tomato November2017  

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