An Australian Tiny Home Built From Recycled Materials Reaches New Heights With an Expandable Roof
The Brook—a compact, off-grid dwelling by Victoria, Australia, tiny home company Small—looks and feels much larger than its meticulously planned 128 square feet thanks to a number of space-enhancing solutions. "It was essential to us that the space be livable; that the mezzanine level have room to stand and move around," says designer Nick Lane, cofounder of Small with builder Aaron Shields. "So, Aaron collaborated with our friend Murray Adams, a mechanical engineer, to mastermind a collapsible roof."
A telescopic frame for the corrugated-iron roof contracts and expands, allowing the upper portion of the tiny home to fold into itself. A cog system lets the ceiling stretch upward by almost four feet, while panels fold out from beneath the roof to complete the upper-level walls.
The prototype of the built-to-order tiny home is clad in cypress and bands of copper. "Cypress trees are commonly used as wind breaks on agricultural land in southwest Victoria," Lane says. "They typically get thrown onto a pile and burned, but we saw value in repurposing [the material]—there are two tons of stored carbon hanging off the side of this tiny home."
Over time, the cypress will turn a silvery gray tone. As the copper ages, it will also develop a patina, becoming orangish-brown. "We wanted the Brook to feel at home in a landscape of rusted red farm sheds and worn-out coastal buildings," the designer continues.
Inside, Lane and Shields sheathed the cabin’s walls in Baltic pine and spotted gum accents. "The recycled hardwood of the ceiling is from a building demolition, and the spotted gum we used for details was given to us by a mate who over-quoted a job," Lane says. "This design is an exploration of recycled and reclaimed materials and how they can be incorporated into the functionality of a building."
Varied ceiling heights throughout the tiny home give the open-plan interior dimension and breadth. "We wanted to create a bit of a journey through the house while making it feel much larger than it actually is," Lane says. To accomplish this, the duo arranged the bedroom and office on a mezzanine level above the main living area at the entrance. Lane and Shields selected salvaged ironbark flooring for the main living space, which steps down to an adjacent kitchen and dining area.
"We ran short of ironbark for the floor, but used offcuts to complete it," Lane says. "The floor dissolves into smaller and smaller ironbark pieces as it approaches the living room windows. I love the playfulness of that moment—it makes me think of a child writing their name with too-large letters and then squishing to fit at the end."
A steel-and-glass pivot door in the living room opens to the landscape, connecting the interior with the outdoors. The window-lined living area also features custom furniture and a wood-burning fireplace. "We were heavily influenced by Louis Kahn’s Esherick House when designing the fireplace setup," Lane says. "The idea was to create a narrow window that travels up to a skylight, so that when you’re sitting by the fireplace, your eyes can follow the smoke outside, giving the sense of camping."
Lane and Shields laid volcanic bluestone tile cut from Mount Rouse in Victoria throughout the bathroom and kitchen. "The tiles act like a thermal mass, soaking up heat from the morning sun and slowly releasing it during the day," Lane says. "Too often I see city homes littered with Italian marble, and it’s just an enormous waste of energy. Critical regionalism is important to us at Small—we believe in architecture that resembles the place that it’s in."
Inspired by Australian architect Robyn Boyd, who sold home-design plans by prominent architects to the general public in the mid-20th century, Small offers downloadable plan packages for the Brook with step-by-step instructions for building details and engineering specifics, starting from 950 Australian dollars (roughly $678 USD). The tiny home company will release similar packages for its designs moving forward.
Lane and Shields think contemporary housing developments should respond to rising home prices, expanding cities, and environmental pressures. "Architecture is a mechanism that improves the human condition and shouldn’t just be a privilege that the rich can afford to enjoy," Lane says. "The Brook was designed with dimensions that are comparable to an apartment. We believe this is the future of regional and suburban design—by shrinking a footprint, you reduce material need, environmental impact, and cost."
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Design: Nick Lane, Small / @small.not.tiny
Builder/General Contractor: Aaron Shields, Small Projects / @smallprojects.au
Structural Engineer: Travis Greening, Greening Structural & Civil Consulting Engineers
Mechanical Engineer: Murry Adams / @murrayjadams
Lighting Design: Joe McCosh, Southerly Electrical
Furniture Design: Michael Gittings Studio / @michaelgittingsstudio
Art: Madeleine Peters, Egg Dart
Photography: Derek Swalwell / @derek_swalwell
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