|Fred & Shannon's tiny house|
I'd been looking forward to this one ever since I did a weekend tiny house-building workshop with Fred late last year (reviewed here: How to build a tiny house).
Fred's an inspirational teacher, so it was no surprise that his tiny house is inspirational too. It's so much more than just an overnight stay; it's a vehicle for learning how to live more simply and sustainably.
|Mr Tiny House in action|
What led him into the world of tiny houses on wheels? Suffering from burnout at the age of 50, he decided to liberate himself from rental and mortgage servitude by radically reducing his living expenses - by building and living in a tiny house.
(He now prefers the term tiny house vehicles, THVs, instead of tiny houses on wheels to communicate that they need to be built much stronger than conventional houses to withstand cyclone-like forces in transit.)
Fred's Tiny House is a bit different to the other tinys built as holiday rentals (such as Edmond and Tallarook, both in NSW). For one thing, he built it himself, as his one and only home. And he's not a builder. That was the point.
Because it's a hand-made home, it takes you back to the DIY roots of the tiny house movement, something Fred is passionate about.
|Fred's motto says it all|
"One of the things Henry David Thoreau said was, ‘What is the cost of a thing? Well, it’s how much time you have to give of your life to get it.’ Forget dollars. It’s about time. And when you start to count the time it takes to have the accommodation that everyone else has, well, he questioned that. Then he built his own house.
"It's also about taking this little crack in the regulations, at the moment, that enables us to build our own houses. And I want to help others liberate themselves, to get unplugged."
|Fred & yours truly at a workshop|
Through Fred's Tiny Houses, he runs tiny house-building workshops all over Australia, covering everything from construction tips to where you can legally put your tiny house.
He and his team build tiny house trailers and shells, and they have patented their own Unified Construction Method, a secure way of building tiny houses on wheels, which DIY builders can use for free (and commercial builders can pay a small fee to use). He's developing 3D drawing templates anyone can use to design tiny homes to meet Australian standards for caravans.
He also advocates for changes to local laws, to make tiny house living a legal option for everyone. Earlier this year, Fred launched a free, crowd-sourced nationwide database of council regulations in Australia that determine where you can put or build tiny houses.
In short, Fred's contribution to the tiny house movement runs deep. Naturally, he's won several sustainability awards, most recently the 2019 Flourish Prize for business as an agent of world benefit in the Sustainable Cities and Communities category. Congratulations, Fred!
So, what's his tiny house like to stay in?
|Tiny family in a tiny house|
It's relatively small, at only 5.4 metres, but doesn't feel cramped because of all the storage (something you wouldn't find in a tiny weekender).
"It's more like a boat than a caravan," says Fred, referring to features inspired by boat design such as the self-drying dish rack, nifty storage nooks and cupboard doors with concealed handles (no knobs to bump into).
Because Fred used acoustic insulation (acrylic sound batts) against the chilly central Victorian winters, it's super-quiet and feels more solid than some of the other tinys I've been in.
|Shady summer deck|
It also has two decks, their roofs angled to catch the winter sun and shade the tiny in summer.
|Warm inside (the|
rocket stove bottom left)
I've mentioned in other posts how the high ceilings, big windows and loft beds make tiny houses feel completely different to caravans. Here's Fred's take on the difference:
“Tiny houses are designed to shed water the way a normal house would. With a caravan, it’s made to be lightweight, so it’s aluminium, foam, plastic, wood and it relies on silicon caulk to keep the water out and that’s not a long-term solution. The sun will eventually make it brittle and the water will get sneaky and win and it’ll grow mould and it’ll smell. And as soon as that happens, it’s game over.”
We find Fred's Tiny House at the bottom of the garden, past the clothes line and rows of grape vines and facing a railway line. It might not be as wild as the locations of other tinys we've stayed in, but it's far enough from the main house to give you plenty of privacy and its backyard location is part of its charm - because it shows how a real tiny house looks in situ, one that you could actually live in.
|Chatting to the chippy|
I also love that this tiny is just five minutes from downtown Castlemaine, a creative little town that's brimming with inspiration itself (see below).
But I kinda liked all that. It makes you use the space more carefully, more mindfully. And it's oddly inspiring: remembering that this is a space designed by, and for, Fred and Shannon, sparks ideas of what features I'd like in my own tiny house...
|The real deal|
Just being there - particularly if you get to chat with Fred or Shannon - makes you feel part of a global community of tiny house builders and stirs secret dreams of building your own tiny, or at least finding new ways to live a simpler, more earth-friendly life.
I'll give Fred the last word: "How many times do you hear someone say, 'You know the happiest we were was when we lived in that little place and had nothing'? Even just going camping, when they're outside and reduced to living with just the essentials, people will say, 'Hey, this is great, let's do this again next year'. Well, why not make that your life?"
Resources: Fred runs weekend tiny house-building workshops all over Australia that cover everything from what kind of trailer you need to where to put a tiny house. Here's the link again to my review of the workshop I did last year. More info at fredstinyhouses.com.au
|The Mill, Castlemaine|
Gratitude: Thanks so much to Fred, Shannon and Ben (their marketing guru) at Fred's Tiny Houses for arranging this overnight stay and for the inspirational conversations.