A Merrivale man who is in tune with small-space accommodation
Nerissa Card got her motor running and headed down the highway to Howick to sound out the brains behind an innovative accommodation venture
So you’ve unexpectedly inherited a plot of land from Aunty Mavis and because you don’t have much cash to splash, and believe it will be cheaper to construct, you’ve settled on the very popular idea of tiny-house living.
Forget it, says Steve Walters, pictured below right, it is going to cost you up to triple the amount of a conventional build.
Steve knows his oats when it comes to tiny builds and the costs involved – he and his wife, Mandy, have four of them on their property in Merrivale, one of which is under construction. They intended to produce them commercially.
Steve, whose parents, Gilly and Taffy Walters, started Wedgewood Nougat, in which he had a share, has always been fascinated with tiny houses.
He built his first, Metallica, just after he left the company three years ago to pursue other interests.
“I had a lot of fun building this one, which has the footprint of a conventional container (6m by 2.4m), but it is not commercially viable. Our intention was to build them for others, but in terms of cost the idea failed in principal, so we decided against it.
“Most tiny buildings are built so you can move them again, so you have to use materials that are much more expensive than those used conventionally. Considering the relatively reasonable labour costs in the building industry in this country, it is much cheaper to go the traditional route.”
Explaining the cost implications further, Steve, who describes himself as the “only fool” he has come across to try tiny houses commercially, says: “Container conversions are being done, but converting a container is the first mistake.”
Referring to the tiny house which goes by the name Steely Dan (pictured above), Steve says: “It cost R40,000 just to get the 12m container here. Then you have to consider insulation and rigidity if you want to move it again. Costs creep in with all movable builds. It is also hard to make a container look good if you don’t want that container vibe.”
Then there’s Fleetwood (main picture), the eight-metre commercial flat-deck trailer for which cost more than R60,000.
“It makes what is essentially a very small area very expensive. You can build conventionally with reasonable finishes for R5,500 a square metre. For tiny, movable builds, double or triple that, depending on the finishes.
“People who are drawn to tiny builds often have a low budget and are surprised by how expensive it is per square metre. The middle ground would be to take elements of a tiny build, like clever storage options, and build conventionally.
“So restrict yourself to small and immovable, but use the good side of tiny building, without the schlep and the cost. It is not justifiable.”
That pretty much explains where you should go from here with your newly acquired plot.
And if you want to experience tiny house living, here is the good news… Steve and Mandy have turned their “failures-in-principal” into self-catering holiday units, with stunning interiors and beautiful views over a lush valley.
The two-sleeper Metallica, which was built from scratch with metal, glass and wood, and features a deck, is ideal for a romantic getaway.
Fleetwood, which sleeps three, is a metal and wood-framed abode, clad with Siberian larch. It has a private seating area from which guests can enjoy the view while having a braai.
Steely Dan is a six-sleeper dormitory, with a fireplace for chilly nights and roof-top deck overlooking the farm. It is ideal for friends and family who are on a budget and don’t mind sharing space.
The Cure (pictured above), which is under construction, will be more luxurious and sleep two.
There you have it, people. Now get on to the Lekkeslaap website, search for In-House Camp and check out what is a truly unique, lekker spot.
The first two pictures below show the interior of the three-sleeper Fleetwood. Below the mezzanine sleeping area is a bathroom and space for a fridge. The third picture shows the interior of Steely Dan, which sleeps six on bunk beds. The last three pictures give an idea of the interior of Metallica. It has a bathroom on the left, sleeping/sitting area on the right and kitchen in the centre. Guests can always raise the bed to where the bean bags are and put those in the kitchen area. The possibilities with clever small-space interior are endless.