It’s no secret that increasingly, home ownership in the traditional sense is not a reality for many young Australians, and even more so for those without someone to join forces with. When Camilla Walker‘s parents first floated the idea of building a tiny home for her, she thought it was a bit bonkers. But after some consideration, she began to see the perks.
There are many reasons to build a tiny home. Generally, they have a low environmental impact, discourage overconsumption, and are economical to build and maintain. And for Camilla, there was the added bonus of being even closer to her beloved parents!
Located at the bottom of their garden in Melbourne’s north, Camilla and her dad Patrick built this tiny home by hand between September 2019 and April of this year. Over those eight months, the Walkers did everything themselves – drilling, jig-sawing, hammering, and painting – until the tiny, cosy cabin came to life. Despite her early reservations, Camilla has never been happier.
We quizzed her about every angle of this impressive project!
Hey Camilla! First of all, how did the idea of building a tiny home arrive as an option for you?
My parents went to a talk on tiny homes and suggested it to me as something to consider as a housing option. I thought it was a horrible idea at first! But I mulled it over for quite a while and eventually saw the plus side – no mortgage, living more sustainably with a lot less, being near my family, and building a house with my Dad. A lot of my friends were buying their first homes, which wasn’t financially viable for me back then when I was a single gal, so I built one instead with the budget I had!
Did you have any reservations about living ‘with your parents’?
Yes. I’ve been very independent for thirteen years, moving out of home and interstate when I was just 18, living in various sharehouses and overseas in London for a bit. I cringed at the idea of being anything but self sufficient. But as my friends have always told me, I have ‘cool parents’, and we foster a relationship that isn’t ‘parent + child’ so much as it is ‘adult family members who get along really well’.
We share meals, split bills, have each other over for coffee, help each other out, and particularly during Covid times I’ve felt the warmth and love of family that so many have probably been pining for. I love my parents with all of my heart, and never want to look back on life and wish I’d had more time with them.
Talk us through the construction phase!
My Dad and I built my house. Dad was a carpenter when we were kids so has unlimited skills and experience when it comes to building. He’s also endlessly creative and everything he touches turns into an eccentric masterpiece.
We had many discussions about the tiny house and how to build it. We looked at Pinterest a lot to make a mood board, watched tiny house videos and got a great feel for how to approach it. Essentially though, a tiny house is one room so you’re governed by the four walls. We sketched up the floor plan very loosely and then just went for it.
There were a few things I was adamant about – my room had to be on the ground floor (not in the loft as I didn’t want to have to crouch to get dressed) and I needed lots of windows for light and airflow. We had a plumber and electrician come in to do their thing, but the rest was all Dad and I.
How do you approach everyday life in your tiny home?
Life in my tiny home is simple – I wake up and have a coffee, and go out my front or back door to different parts of the garden. It is literally one room but I don’t ever wish I had more space. It has a kitchen and bathroom (with a composting toilet which isn’t as bad as it seems), and a shower which is plenty big enough. The only thing it doesn’t have is a laundry so I pop to the big house to do my washing. I also need to look into some serious cooling during summer because it can get pretty sweaty on a hot day!
We designed the house so that if I ever relocate it pretty much everything can be removed. For example, I don’t have an inbuilt stove, but rather an electric stove top and oven that I store under the bench. To be honest, I was a bit light on with storage (i.e. we weren’t clever to build storage into every nook and cranny) so I have to be ruthless with what stays in the house. For example, my wardrobe can only fit one season’s clothes so I swap them over every few months and put what I’m not wearing in a suitcase under the house.
What kind of life does your tiny home represent to you more broadly?
I’m a minimalist at heart and as I get older, I want only beautiful or practical things in my home. I hate having stuff for the sake of it. My tiny house represents doing life a bit differently – no mortgage, living alone (but quite communally) and feeling free. It’s on wheels so I can cruise away at any time too!
How long do you envision yourself living here?
It’s hard to say how long I will live here. I love it for now, it suits my lifestyle and I foresee growing more fond of it as time passes. But I also love change, so when the time comes for me to fly the coop again (lol), I don’t feel tied to owning a house in a traditional sense. I will either leave it in the yard or sell it, or relocate it to somewhere new!
What has been the most rewarding part of this project?
The feeling of living in a house we built from scratch! Sometimes I just stand in the kitchen and look up and I’m in awe of how beautiful the space is. I know where every last material came from, how heavy every piece of timber is, how strong its foundations are, how much insulation went into the walls, how I wondered what the hell I had done when the trailer was first delivered, and how much I dreamt about what this home would be like when I was living in it. And now I know that it’s the life for me.