This column’s recent exposé on the explosion in the number of tiny houses isn’t only restricted to those wanting a new age backyard granny flat.
According to Grant Emans, designer and builder at Eco Tiny Homes, “over fifty per cent of orders are for the leisure market – people wanting to earn some extra income by renting them out on Airbnb, along with more traditional B&Bs;”.
So strong is the demand for the tiny houses, also called pods, that according to Emans, orders placed at his NSW south coast workshop have “increased by seven-fold in the last two years”.
Keen to discover just how many people want to bunk down in what at first glance is essentially little more than a caravan on steroids, your Akubra-clad columnist recently attempted to book my own tiny house weekend escape. However, despite pods popping up all over our region, from Jindabyne to Kangaroo Valley, I couldn’t find any availability for several months. And it’s not even peak season.
In fact, Miguel, one of several pods with "minimum footprint and maximum chill", marketed by Unyoked ( www.unyoked.com ) and tucked away in a secret forest just two hours north of Canberra in the Southern Highlands, couldn’t squeeze me in until 2019. Don’t even think of adding yourself to the waitlist – it’s longer than the trail of smoke rising from its bucolic fire pit. Oh, and at $398 for a weekend stay, its price tag is much bigger than its diminutive dimensions.
Although most tiny houses open for short escapes in our region are dotted along the spine of the Great Diving Range, where you can enjoy great gulps of fresh mountain air with your toasted marshmallows, this weekend Bonnie and Clyde, two custom-designed eco-pods, will officially throw their doors open for the first time at the Tilba Lake Camp just south of Narooma.
Not wanting to miss out on a booking (or end up on another six-month waiting list), earlier this week I jumped in the Yowie mobile and headed down the Kings Highway for a sneak peek.
Unlike Unyoked’s pods, which are all in native bush, these pods are set among the rolling hills of Central Tilba and are just as spectacular. Arriving late afternoon, the sun casts long shadows across verdant green dairy pastures and paints the western red cedar exterior of Clyde, my pod for the night, with splashes of gold.
Apart from the timber, which owners Rebecca and Tim Jones say is “Australian and sustainably sourced”, my tiny house for the night features other environmental credentials including “off-the-grid power, a northern orientation and best of all, lovely fresh Tilba rainwater”. Divine. And at just 6 metres long by 2.5 metres wide, its physical footprint is just as small as its environmental one.
“We are providing the opportunity for people to test-drive tiny living,” Rebecca, who boasts a Bachelor in sustainability, says.
“We wanted to go the next level of glamping, the ultimate winter escape,” add the duo, who already have a loyal clientele who regularly bunk down in their luxury bell tents overlooking Tilba Lake at the top of their property.
Inside Clyde, it’s just like a tiny house. Really, it is. There’s a fully equipped kitchen, dining room and a bathroom which isn’t anywhere near as poky as you’d expect. Oh, and I shouldn’t have worried about crimping on my luggage. There’s heaps of storage space, including under the stairs. But the pièce de résistance is the loft bedroom, complete with a skylight roof window which just screams "open me and stick your head out".
Your columnist’s hatted noggin poking out of the top of the pod like a Jack-in-a-box must be a comical sight for the nearby cows, who respond with a mooing frenzy. Either that or they are late for milking.
I enjoy my dinner on Clyde’s deck which overlooks a dam and watch the sun set over Mt Dromedary (Gulaga) and the rocky bastions of the closer Little Dromedary (Najanuka). The croaking frogs must be hiding in the reeds, for the dam is bone dry. Rebecca and Tim later tell me they have plans to plug its leak and to stock it with fish, adding a pontoon or two. Nice.
Just with traditional camping, it’s early to bed, and so it’s to the distant sound of rolling surf and under a blanket of stars that I drift off to sleep.
I can’t help but wake up with the sun, the dazzling stars slowly replaced by orange-tipped clouds racing across my uncovered roof window. Those who treasure their sleep-ins need not fret – the Jones’ assure me blinds will be installed in time for Clyde’s official opening.
Shuffling downstairs (due to the size and steepness of the stairs, sliding down on your bum with your hands to the side really is the best technique), it’s breakfast time. The fridge is stocked with extra creamy Tilba milk along with some home-made muesli and conserves. Yum. While my coffee brews (yes, the kitchen is big enough for a real coffee percolator), I stoke the fire and peer out of the window just in time to see the farm’s two inquisitive Clydesdales, Aussie and Christmas, emerge from the fog. I’ve spent my first night in a tiny house and a new day has begun.
So, is it worth paying more than double than the going rate for a cabin or caravan at a tourist park for a night in Clyde? I’d have to say yes. Apart from the delightful location, Clyde’s height (4.3 metres) makes it roomier than a conventional caravan.
“While a caravan is designed to be lightweight, aerodynamic, and to be transportable, a tiny house is designed to be for permanent living,” explains builder Emans, adding “transport is only a matter of a one-off process, so that’s why they can have such high ceilings and other house features like double-glazed windows”.
Another appeal of Clyde is that it is the very antithesis of the McMansion which in the past two decades has become so prevalent in our suburbs. It provides a welcome opportunity to live an uncluttered, simple life, even if just for a night.
I’m just glad I managed to test-drive Tilba Lake Pods before they officially open, for once word gets out, I suspect both Bonnie and Clyde will be as sought after as their criminal namesakes.
Tilba Lake Pods: ‘Bonnie’ and ‘Clyde’, two self-contained eco-friendly tiny houses, set among coastal countryside in Central Tilba, a leisurely three-hour drive from Canberra via the Kings and Princes Highways. From $450 for a two-night minimum stay. tilbalakecamp.com.au
Tim’s tip: Potential guests should be able to climb steep stairs (without a handrail) and have a moderate level of fitness. A third tiny house, fully accessible, with a luxury 2.4 metre by 2.4 metre bathroom and pod-side parking, will also be available for hire.
Buy your own: Eco Tiny Homes workshop and display centre is open Monday to Friday, 9am – 4pm. Unit 2/26 Blackburn Rd, Ulladulla. designerecohomes.com.au
Mirroring the explosion of tiny houses in our region has been a similar increase in the number of labyrinths. When, eight years ago, this column first shone the spotlight on local labyrinths, there were only a handful in the region. Now, there are dozens. One of the more readily accessible of these is new, and at the National Arboretum Canberra.
The 18.2 metre, eleven-circuit design, based on the medieval labyrinth found in the Chartres Cathedral, France, is constructed from concrete impregnated with local aggregate, and according to the arboretum’s website, “is designed for personal contemplation and renewal”.
Walk the labyrinth: To mark World Labyrinth Day (yes, really!) on Saturday, May 5, the National Arboretum is offering guided labyrinth mediation walks from 1pm to 3pm. Free.
Did You Know? Labyrinths aren’t new, they date back over thousands of years to the Palaeolithic times and are often associated with ancient pilgrimage routes and rituals of self-discovery.
Where in Canberra?
Clue: It’s Tree Week and Canberra has so many distinctive trees including this particularly bulbous specimen, located just a stone’s throw from the GDE, but where?
Degree of difficulty: Medium to hard
Last week: Congratulations to Kim Lawrence of Jacka, who was the first reader to correctly identify last week’s photo, as ‘Doc’, one of the seven dwarf sculptures featured in Forest View Park, Forde. The park, located on the corner of Amy Ackman Street and Turbayne Crescent, was once the site of Forest View Homestead, established by Alexander Rochford in 1883. Rochford and his wife also had seven children. The chimneys, located in the centre of the park, have been preserved as a remnant of the homestead. If you visit, look out for the concrete seating walls, which outline the external layout of the house, and the internal garden beds which are bordered by old Canberra red bricks laid out to symbolise the rooms and hallways of the original homestead.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to email@example.com. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday May 5, 2018 will win a double pass to Dendy.