When a 30-foot stringybark fell on Andrew Bell’s canvas tent, he knew it was time to find a new place to live. Luckily he wasn’t home at the time, otherwise the tree would have broken more than just tent poles.
The outdoor education student spent most of his first year camped on a regenerated bush block by the Bendigo National Park. While all outdoor ed students are at-home with camping, most don’t actually call a tent home.
“After the tree fell I decided it was time to move into something more permanent and my partner Ali said, ‘hey, have you seen these tiny houses?’
“Tiny houses have been around for ages, but in the last 12 months the movement has really taken off here in Australia,” Belly says. “We wanted to build one, and show other people that they could too.”
Belly and Ali moved into their “tiny” two months ago. “We’re really happy here,” he says. “Living together in our tiny is better than we could have ever imagined.”
The tiny is exquisite. A little bit hipster, a little bit scandi, a whole lotta Belly and Ali.
Think recycled ply and timber, windows salvaged from Belly’s parents’ reno, a half wine barrel as a shower recess, and a beautiful garden window that’s Ali’s pride and joy. The house is an extension of this couple’s ethos in life.
Belly’s uni course is allowing him to live out his ideals – of making nature his classroom and his workspace, of helping educate young people to experience and tread lightly on the world. The tiny house is a big part of that.
The 2.4-metre wide by 7.2-metre long by 3.3-metre high house was built in eight weeks, using mostly salvaged and recycled materials, just under $20,000 and a lot of help from family and friends.
“Ali and I didn’t have any construction experience – I’d built a pencil case in Year nine and that was about it,” Belly says. “The funny thing was trying to convince our family that what we were trying to do would work. My dad was sceptical until I got the Lego out and built a model with him.”
Belly says simplifying a home, space and material possessions has taught them what’s really important. “We don’t need a lot to be happy,” he says. “What we really need is family and friends. We couldn’t have built this without them. It’s taught us that if you live closest to your values, you’ll be happiest.”
They’re living close to the elements, off grid, in a paddock they rent for $25 a week. They’re waking to kangaroos and kookaburras. They’re waking to the sunrise.
“We feel the day,” Belly says. “We are just a few sheets of ply away from the elements and the natural world”.
The second-hand wood stove has kept them cosy through the last of the season’s chill. And come summer, if it gets too hot, the house can be moved into the shade. It’s built on a re-purposed 24-foot caravan trailer. “We knew we wanted it be on a trailer, because being portable, you get past the building regulations,” Belly says.
Also, outdoor education graduates are notorious nomads. They work in some of the world’s most beautiful places, and Belly agrees he and Ali could end up anywhere. But wherever that is, their tiny house will travel with them.
Find out about our outdoor education course here.