Sisters help a single mother find a small home solution to her rental crisis
A tiny house in a rural area of Kaucapakapa is the perfect living space for Rebecca Ransley and her pre-school son… and the fact that the house won a design award is just the icing on the cake.
Ransley’s home has been named ‘Most Innovative’ in the 2023 New Zealand Tiny House of the Year Awards, following a collaboration between her (interior designer turned entrepreneur) and Cocoon Tiny Homes, a custom tiny house production company run by husband and wife duo Anton And Sarah Alders.
Described by judge Lucy Leach as “strikingly beautiful” and “one of the most inventive tiny houses I have ever seen”, and the home showed that there was clearly a design synergy at hand.
While building the 44-square-metre two-bedroom home was a creative project for Ransley, 41, the main goal was to move her and her son Hugo, 4, into a much-needed home.
These are the best tiny houses in New Zealand, according to the judges of the NZ Tiny House Awards.
She was evicted from their home by landlords during the Covid crisis, and made the decision to build a tiny house after separating from her partner.
“I ended up staying with my sister, who had a really big family and a lot of land as well. So Hugo and I kind of moved in with them. It was very difficult, and at the time, the rental market was so devilish, we couldn’t “Really finding a place to live.”
“So I just started toying with the idea of building a tiny house and putting it on their land. I think what really appealed to me was the fact that I could be close to my family. I was on my own after a recent breakup, and facing being a single mother, and having my family close to me was really attractive.” .
Highlights include the 3.8-metre-tall lounge space with full-height curtains (which Ransley made herself using a sewing machine parked on her tiny house’s kitchen table), interior mirrors in the kitchen to increase light, gorgeous hand-painted murals in Hugo’s bedroom, and a pink-themed bathroom The mezzanine office space is well ventilated.
Although she had worked as a designer for several years, Ransley “didn’t pay much attention to tiny houses.” Instead, it was more about working within their budget and tapping into their own creativity to create a home that would be safe and fit their lifestyle.
“It was just about looking at myself and how I live and kind of arranging spaces around that. And then kind of establishing my own aesthetic. I think the inspiration just came from within.”
Ransley had some savings, and one of her sisters helped her with a loan to reach a budget of $240,000 for the building. Another sister, who now pays her ground rent, allowed her to park her small house on her site.
“I just got the best family in the world,” Ransley says. “I know how difficult it is to get small home loans, and I didn’t have the savings to do it myself.”
She describes the process of collaborating with the Aalders on Cocoon Tiny Homes as “fantastic”.
“They are just good people. I really loved working with them,” she says.
“I had a strict budget and couldn’t go over it, so they reined me in when I got a little crazy. And yes, they were really open to my ideas and tried to understand them.
Construction was a positive experience for the Aalders family as well.
“She is a really smart lady with amazing determination,” says Sarah Alder. “We felt like it was a great collaboration with her.”
“She came to us knowing that we stood out in the market by being very bespoke, offering custom home designs, in addition to designs we had already built and sold ourselves.”
“She basically said, ‘Can you guys help me, I have all my own design ideas, and I would like you to put them into real life.’”
“A lot of time and detailed effort went into it. But again, because we’re not a company that builds volume, we build quality, and we love that. It’s part of our passion to have a lot of time to spend with our customers. I really delved into How complicated things are.
“And so, with a little bit of collaborative work and, you know, a few tweaks here and there, my co-director and my wonderful husband, Anton, who is the lead designer for all of our homes, sat down with Rebecca in great detail and went through everything. The end result was her amazing home.”
The house was completed last summer in about 12 weeks, and Ransley took possession of the tiny house and moved it to her sister’s property in Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland, in February. For her and Hugo, she’s happy to finally be able to put down roots and do “the normal home-owned things” like thinking about gardening.
Special features of the home include floor-to-ceiling windows, additional storage space in upper kitchen cabinets accessible via stairs, LED strip lighting built into inlaid mirrors in the kitchen, a full-size refrigerator, and specialized waterproofing in the shower. To make design options possible, and many more.
Ransley’s favorite spaces are probably the ones that make you stand out, too.
“I think my favorite office is the mezzanine office, I spend a lot of time working and sitting there, and it’s very warm,” Ransley says. “And it has great views, and it’s open. So I really like that.”
“I love my living area, the double-height space really makes it work. I really love my bathroom. The pinks and the plants, it’s a really beautiful space.”
“I’m a designer, but I’ve never won an award, so I feel very special.”
For the Alders, it’s the latest confirmation that their “crazy lockdown idea” of starting a small housebuilding business was actually a great idea.
In contrast to many other tiny housebuilders that have gone into liquidation over the past year, the couple’s business in the custom tiny house industry is thriving, with the company having just opened a second production warehouse in Katikati, in addition to their own. The original Silverdale headquarters.
Due to the win and popularity of this particular design, “Rebecca’s Custom Tiny Home” will soon be released by Cocoon Tiny Homes as a purchasable plan that others can then use to build.
Once someone who knew little about tiny living, building was a life redirect for Ransley, who, after creating her own modular decking system for her tiny house, started her own company Ready Deck Systems so others could have access to that, too.
“I’m happy to be involved,” Ransley says. “It’s a perfect fit for the way I live because I designed it that way. I love the light and openness. Even though it’s a small house, it’s the high ceilings and windows that make it feel really spacious.”
“Yes, I love having space for myself and my son, and knowing that no one can kick me out or want their house back.”