Horse trailer converted into Christchurch home

Chris Stead’s converted horse trailer in Taylors Mistake, Christchurch, is decorated with driftwood from the Pike River ...
JANE USSHER

Chris Stead’s converted horse trailer in Taylors Mistake, Christchurch, is decorated with driftwood from the Pike River memorial and Nepalese prayer flags.

It's perched 50 metres from a precipice, so moving Chris Stead's converted horse trailer onto his Taylors Mistake cliff-top site was a precarious feat involving switchback turns and an extremely steep driveway. 

More challenges were ahead for the trailer, which was tested by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. "The truck was rocked off its props, it broke its guy wires, and virtually every glass and plate and the microwave and fridge all came to grief in a big pile in the middle of the floor," Chris says. 

However, Chris has never felt unsafe in the cosy 40-square metre dwelling, which is surrounded by multimillion-dollar properties.

Eleven handmade porthole-style windows feature throughout the truck.
JANE USSHER

Eleven handmade porthole-style windows feature throughout the truck.

"I wake every morning to look out of my porthole window at the head of the bed to see the sun rising out of the sea," he says.

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Chris and rescue dog Fern.
JANE USSHER

Chris and rescue dog Fern.

Chris bought the converted truck in 2006. Originally it was used as a workshop, but a kitchen and woodburner were added to make it liveable for Chris and his two children Millie and Connor, who have now grown up and left home. 

Chris has occasionally rented the home on Bookabach, and is now waiting for guests after he handed out free accommodation vouchers during a visit to Nevada's Burning Man festival.

Summer's the time for barbecues and a beer on the deck, and Chris enjoys the reaction of visitors: "I can see their minds conjuring up a mental picture of a kooky gypsy number. First-time visitors often say it feels like you are on a boat," he says.

Accessible by ladder, the master bedroom sits above the kitchen.
JANE USSHER

Accessible by ladder, the master bedroom sits above the kitchen.

What's the best thing about this location? There is so much to see. The ships anchored out at sea waiting to berth at the port, the seabirds and the waves hitting the rocks below. I am forever raising my glass to nature for providing me with such an inspiring foreground attraction.

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What's your approach to decorating the trailer? Through my work [Chris owns Christchurch event company Theme Productions] I'm fortunate to come across a lot of interesting things. The Nepalese prayer flags were from a corporate event we did for a computer company. The driftwood on top of the stone retaining walls was taken from the beach at Greymouth as decoration and adorned the stage for the Pike River memorial. Not only did I like the association and the story of it, but it just fits so nicely in the rugged coastal environment.

What are the evenings like? It's incredible. When I drive home at night, and it's a clear night, you can see the Milky Way with no light pollution. The nearest street light would be 200m away. When the moon comes out of the water, it's pretty impressive. You feel like you're at the edge of the world in a back-country hut despite being just 15 minutes from the city.

Built-in seating and a table convert into a bed.
JANE USSHER

Built-in seating and a table convert into a bed.

Is there anything you would have done differently? I'd like to re-clad it. It's got a plywood finish with a frost cloth. I'll have to choose an aluminium sheet product that's more resilient but lightweight so the trailer's not too heavy for being on the road, when it eventually travels again – then I'll get to build on the site.

Mementoes including Chris’ father’s black and white picture of Aoraki (Mount Cook), which Chris climbed last year, and ...
JANE USSHER

Mementoes including Chris’ father’s black and white picture of Aoraki (Mount Cook), which Chris climbed last year, and an old porthole sit on the kitchen shelf.

Coolie chairs bought on Trade Me line the deck.
JANE USSHER

Coolie chairs bought on Trade Me line the deck.

Old telephone poles support the retaining wall; an outdoor light made with a pallet, three bottles and LED lights hangs ...
JANE USSHER

Old telephone poles support the retaining wall; an outdoor light made with a pallet, three bottles and LED lights hangs above the deck.

 - NZ House & Garden

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