Novice builder thinks big for life in a small space

16:00, Jan 24 2014
Lily Duval
HOUSE ON WHEELS: Lily Duval's miniature house, under construction.

Her previous construction experience may have extended to only a bookcase, but that has not stopped Lily Duval from embarking on a project to build her own miniature house.

The 27-year-old is two months into the build, and is on track to have most of the construction finished in another couple of months.

Around a mixture of part-time jobs, including tutoring and retail, Duval manages to find about three days a week to work on her house.

Lily Duval
HOUSE ON WHEELS: Lily Duval, 27, is building her own miniature house, despite having no previous building experience.

Using a piece of communally owned land in the central city, she is building her house directly on a trailer. At 5.5 metres long, 2.5m wide and 4.2m high, Duval's house fits under the New Zealand Transport Authority's definition of a light simple trailer.

It requires no building consent.

By current estimates, her house will cost $30,000 all up, which includes $8000 spent on the heavy-duty trailer on which the structure sits.


The house is a medley of free and cheap materials, with rimu flooring from an old working men's club, stained-glass windows bought from Trade Me, and American redwood cladding bought cheaply after it sat unwanted in a lumberyard for years.

Duval was left money after her father died 10 years ago. She decided to put it to use, rather than run the risk of frittering it away, and said he would "definitely approve".

"For me, the big motivation was doing something worthwhile with my money, but also challenging myself to not keep acquiring things.

"Every single thing I ever pick up, I have to say, ‘do I really want this?' "

Houses such as Lily's are part of a "tiny house" movement in the United States. Bryce Langston and Melissa Nickerson are working in Auckland to raise awareness of the movement in New Zealand.

The pair have been documenting the design process of their own tiny house at, and are about to start the build.

Eventually, they hope to provide full designs online so people have a starting point.

Duval has had an offer for building work when she finishes her house, if she wants to keep it up.

The Press