House of the week: Wairarapa

Last updated 05:00 16/01/2013
Container house
STEEL MAGNOLIAS: Pockets of garden around the property soften the aesthetic of the containers.

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House Of The Week

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A pair of shipping containers joined at the hip with a covered veranda running along the front: the perfect on-farm home for a woman and her university age daughter in the Wairarapa.

For this crazily busy mum, who daily cuts firewood and then splits it in a commercial business, an easy keep, easy heat home was paramount. Her work day starts early and only finishes when the light dictates, so she needed a homestead that required little upkeep.

And so when she took over the family farm, she wanted to convert the sizeable woolshed into a home, but the council had concerns, and rather than argue and waste time she simply moved to an alternative - containers.

That was nearly a decade ago, and what started as a temporary housing solution has proven a perfect permanent solution. "The house is easy to clean, easy to keep warm and is comfortable living; altogether just right for what we need," says Isla Laing of her containers. "I was going to get a container and put it on top as a second level, but I've never got round to it and we actually don't need it."

There are two bedrooms, each with an ensuite bathroom, two living rooms, a dining and kitchen area and a veranda, half of which is enclosed, the other half covered but open. A compact solid fuel heater keeps the entire container space toasty, and glass sliding doors from each bedroom, as well as opening windows, give a spacious and airy feel. While Isla can, and occasionally does, use the solid fuel heater for cooking, she prefers her barbecue, which is positioned outside but close at hand.

"I looked at containers because I realised they could be a quick answer. I searched around and found a place in Tauranga that seemed to do good things. I worked out everything I wanted, windows, doors, etc, and then measured up and drew where I wanted them exactly," says Isla.

"The first thing we noticed was that when coming inside from working on the farm, with dirty gumboots, walking in off the lime-covered drive, we were bringing dirt inside. There was nowhere to wipe your feet. Every farm needs a veranda to store work boots and gumboots, let alone dog leads."

So she designed and had built a veranda, which is the full length of one 40-foot container and has overhead roofing that's two metres wide. With the need for extended living space, Isla again carefully prescribed door and window locations on a plan and ordered up a second container using a more local company. "But they didn't do what I asked so I had it taken away. It wasn't going to fit with my 40 foot container. In the end I got the second container, a 20-footer, from Tauranga where my first one came from."

In South Wairarapa the wind can prove devastating, and so the low profile of the containers has meant Isla's home is unaffected by the wind while nearby structures have had their roofs blown off.

What started as a quick and easy housing solution has proved a superbly comfortable home. "And the great thing is if we want to go on holiday, we can just load the containers on a truck and move our home to the beach, our 'home' can go anywhere," she says with a twinkle in her eye.

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Build cost: $75,000

Size: 42 square metres, excluding veranda space.

Materials: Steel, wooden joinery, carpeting.

Energy efficiency: Solid fuel fire heater.

Architect: Property owner.

Done right: The house is easy to clean and easy to heat.

Done wrong: I should have known it was a good choice and ordered two containers from the outset.

Unexpected: How easy it is to live in.

Recommend: Containers, such value for money and low maintenance.

Next Time: I'd do it all again.


- © Fairfax NZ News


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