This is the house that Francois built

We recently visited a friend and supplier of ours, Francois from Le Workshop, and his wife, Sarah-Lee, in their amazing tiny home that Francois built himself here in Napier, Hawke's Bay. Measuring only 7m x 3m, the house is made from American cedar outside, with plywood inside and American ash on all the trims and the window seat.

The couple share the house with their three gorgeous children, Poppy (8 years), LouLou (5 years), and Francis (3 years). Although the two girls are currently attending a local primary school, Francois and Sarah-Lee plan to homeschool the kids next year. They're excited to take a holistic approach to their children's development and teach them real life skills.

The couple bought the land 1 1/2 years ago, but Francois' has had a workshop on the site for some time, so he was very familiar with the location. The workshop is next to the house, so there was already power to the site. The kitchen has gas hobs, and is cleverly designed to make the most of the small space. The fridge is cleverly hidden behind the ply cabinetry, and the sink has a board that sits snugly on top to create extra bench space when needed.

With such compact living, life is all about every day needs. "We think twice about what we buy," says Sarah-Lee. "The kids blocks are just as important as our special books."

Tucked behind the bookshelves are the kids' bunk beds, with Francois and Sarah-Lee's bedroom above on the mezzanine floor. "Upstairs is like a second living space," Sarah-Lee tells us. "The whole family often watches the sun rise together up there in the morning".

To the side of the kids' space is the tiny bathroom complete with shower, composting toilet, and a little basin. The tiny home has many advantages, including being able to clean it from top to bottom in 10 minutes. The double glazing and wood-burner fire keeps them cosy warm. "We went from having a $400 monthly power bill in our last home, to $25 a month, and that's in winter," says Sarah-Lee.

Francois and Sarah-Lee have created an enviable lifestyle for themselves. Francois is a highly talented joiner and cabinet maker, and he shapes surfboards. He is also a bee keeper; he and Sarah-Lee grow their own veges, make their own honey and wine, and Sarah-Lee is a potter and teaches piano. Not to forgot the kids who help take care of the family's bunnies and sell the babies on TradeMe or by word of mouth. They have a 'rabbit account' which pays for the food and teaches the children about economics - life school.

Behind the tiny house are two large sheds, one is Francois' workshop and one houses the washing machine, bikes, and extra winter gear. This allows the family to keep just what is necessary in the house itself. Francois has built several other tiny structures and has had a lot of interest in his own home. If you would like him to build something similar for you, please get in touch with him, he would love to hear from you. Whether it's your home, your bach, a studio or sleep out, we can absolutely vouch for his superb workmanship.

Square Inch | Smart Small Spaces

I love working with small spaces and often feature them on the blog and Facebook page. There are some fantastic and creative ways to furnish and decorate them, and they definitely encourage you to only have those possession that you love, and to avoid clutter. With the price of houses these days becoming increasingly unaffordable, smaller homes could arguably be more affordable too.

Some others who agree with this are the owners of the exciting new business, Square Inch. Susan and John Frear think it makes sense to live in smaller spaces as the quarter acre dream becomes an unrealistic goal for many New Zealanders. Living in tiny flats in London and Tokyo didn't affect the couple's quality of life. Their spaces were well thought out and designed to squeeze a lot of living into little space, and they were filled with functional furniture that made the size of the space irrelevant.

Back in New Zealand, Susan and John decided it was time to reframe what comfortable living looks like, and in the process take some of the financial pressure off home owners. They wanted to bring multifunctional furniture pieces to the New Zealand market that would address our basic living needs - comfort, safety, plenty of storage, pieces that would allow us to work, sleep, eat, and entertain, all while looking stylish.

Limber 3 Seater

The first Square Inch product range is from young New York designer, Efe Kababulut, who previously worked for BoConcept. When furnishing his first New York apartment Efe was underwhelmed by his options, so decided to design his own range. The range includes sofa beds that are stylish as a sofa, comfortable as a bed (no hard metal bars to interrupt sleep), and offer additional storage.

Empire Sleeper Sofa

As interior designers, Dael and I (Bibby + Brady) are always looking for good looking sofa beds, and in the past have struggled to find any that are comfortable and look good, so we are thrilled with the Square Inch range. A lot of our clients have spare rooms that work as offices or media rooms, but need to function as spare rooms when guests stay overnight, and the Square Inch sofa beds are also perfect for holiday homes.


It's not just sofa beds on offer, there are chaises and chairs that fold down to single beds; side tables that can turn into shelving units; entertainment units that can double as a desk... and many of the pieces are designed to work together. Various wood finishes and fabric options are available so you can customise your furniture to suit your home.

Puzzle Bookcase

The Square Inch vision is to help everyone live large, no matter what space they have. All their products are stored in Auckland and can be delivered nationwide within 2-10 days. The products are flatpacked which makes delivery easier, and allows installation in the room they're destined for - no more nasty surprises when you can't get the furniture through the door!

Chelsea Side Table

Lego Side Table

While most of us are accustomed to internet shopping, if you find buying online a challenge or have any questions Susan is more than happy to answer them. To find out more visit the Square Inch website, and keep up to date with all the news on their Facebook and Instagram pages. If you're quick you can take advantage of the special offer - 15% OFF ALL SOFA BEDS - which runs until 19th July 2015. Go on... think smart and make the most of every square inch you have!

Dispatcher TV Stand

Working with Small Spaces

I have a soft spot for small spaces and I actually think it can be a great way to live as you're forced to eliminate clutter and have only what you need and love around you. If you've seen any of my "Nook of the Month" columns in Your Home & Garden magazine, you'll already have picked up some great decorating tips, but I've selected some of my favourite methods for working with small spaces...

Utilise as much vertical space as possible. Built-in bookshelves are fantastic for storage and display purposes, and take up very little floor space. Hooks and wall-mounted shelves are a clever storage tool also.

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Furniture that is off the ground and has light, elegant legs suits a smaller room. I would advise against solid, heavy pieces. If you can, knock out walls and have a larger open plan space, rather than two smaller rooms. Then use rugs to differentiate areas - they are the perfect zoning tool. A low hung light over a dining table also anchors the table in place.

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Take it one step further with your furniture by using Lucite or transparent pieces, they take up very little visual space. Mirrors are your best friend when it comes to decorating a small space. They reflect light and brighten a room and create an illusion of space.

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Furniture that is multi-functional is brilliant! Add a bench seat to your built-in bookshelf for a cosy reading nook; or add a chair and turn one shelf into a work space. Don't forget that space under your bench seat - maximise the space by using it for storage, either open or enclosed.

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Don't feel like you need to have small art in your small space. To the contrary... a large piece of art and a large rug will help fool the eye into thinking the room is bigger than it is.


I always like to have floor to ceiling curtains wherever possible. They look elegant and add height to a room. The more natural light you can have, the more spacious it will feel.


We Kiwis love our outdoor living, and by blurring the lines between outside and in will greatly increase the sense of space in your home.


So, don't you agree that living small has many benefits?! They're more economical to build and to maintain, and they encourage us keep (and acquire) possessions that really matter and really work. If you're having any trouble with your space, or would like help to maximise it's potential, please don't hesitate to get in touch.