Great design benefits the human condition, but given a mere five per cent of single residential homes in Australia are estimated to be architect-designed, this is a privilege out of reach for many Australians.
Small is a Victorian-based business founded by designer Nick Lane and builder Aaron Shields to address this problem, resulting in their first project, ‘The Brook’. Described as an ‘apartment-sized home’, the tiny house is built on a 27 square metre footprint, and is transportable via a truck. It’s also completely off-grid, with a water tank, solar system and compostable toilet.
‘We believe this is the future of regional and suburban design. By shrinking the footprint you reduce the material needed, environmental impact and cost,’ says Nick.
Among features that differentiates The Brook from other tiny homes is its five-metre high ceiling, which facilitates two-full height levels beneath.
‘The lounge room is large enough to entertain, and it was imperative that there be no loft bed or crawl-space storage,’ says Nick. ‘The mezzanine’s angled roof means the bedroom and office ceiling is well above standing height.’
Developing this ceiling height was perhaps the most challenging element of the project. Nick explains, ‘The five metre height of the design wouldn’t sail underneath power lines once secured up on a truck trailer, so we approached an engineer friend to mastermind a telescopic frame that would contract, allowing the house to fold into itself.’ A cog system allows the roof to expand upwards by 1.2 metres when not being transported, with panels folding out from underneath to complete the upper-level walls.
The Brook is available built-to-order or as a plans package, but the prototype is a one-of-a-kind model built with hardworking and recycled materials such as Australian hardwoods, volcanic bluestone, glass, spotted gum, and steel. The bathroom tiles for example are bluestone cut from the volcanic lava flows of nearby Mount Rouse; the concrete slabs turned front steps were found in a paddock; and the floorboards (concealing a large underfoot storage area) are made of salvaged ironbark.
‘We ran short of ironbark for the entire floor, but chose to use the offcuts to complete it. The floor dissolves into smaller and smaller pieces as it approaches the windows, and I love the playfulness of that moment – like a child writing their name too large on a piece of paper and then squashing the letters at the end to fit.’
Altogether, these warm, textured and dark materials feel similar to a New York City apartment, while remaining appropriate to regional Victoria. ‘Like the redeveloped warehouse spaces of New York this small house feels that it has ‘lived’ before,’ says Nick.
The Brook is currently located in the Rosebrook wetlands of south-west Victoria, but will soon be relocated to Port Fairy, where it will be available for short stays.
New versions of The Brook are available built-to-order, or as a plans-package. Under Nick’s direction, Small is working to produce more custom housing projects and plan packages focusing on small footprints, while Aaron has launched Small Projects, to explore commercial directions for the project.