October Feature

October Feature

October Feature 1500 1437 The Flyer Magazine

Totally off the grid 


It’s been a labour of love, but 30-year-old Wakatipu-raised Elli MacColl is now living ‘totally off the grid’ in her own tiny house, which she’s helped to build.

An experienced ski instructor who’s used to travelling the globe, fortunately Elli had chosen to stay put this year so she spent most of the year pitching in to get her long-held dream completed.

A self-confessed DIY-girl, Elli learned from the best. Her mum Debbie MacColl and dad Roger Monk are well-known local farmers and she’s grown up knowing how to pretty much rustle all manner of things together using what’s around the farm. “Deb and Rog are two of the most practical humans in the world,” says Elli.

Elli gets ready to apply a few finishing touches to her new home overlooking Lake Hayes.

Passionate about sustainability, Elli first launched her transportable steel-framed tiny house project on family farmland 18 months ago. A not-so-good experience in the original stages of building put the project well behind schedule. However, a friend’s partner, William Guthrie, of Goodwill Building, came to the rescue in February and ever since then Elli has been on hand on her days off working hard as a builder’s labourer. She’s also been regularly burning the midnight oil after a full day working up the mountain, working on the project herself.

“I’m becoming a tradie lady,” she jokes. “I’ve got no idea what I’m doing, but William has been an amazing help. It was a much more positive experience when he came on board and I really enjoyed it,” she says.

Her new 8-metre by 3-metre home, completed late last month (September), features two mezzanine loft bedrooms over a combined U-shaped lounge, kitchen and dining area with a tiny bathroom also on the ground floor. She designed it all herself and the stairs split off to the left and right, accessing the lofts with plenty of pull-out cupboard storage built in beneath the stairs. Pride of place as centrepiece is a large deer antler chandelier that Elli crafted herself out of old metal farm machinery, chains and a set of deer antlers from the family farm which she wired into place. A welder moulded the metal in place for her.

The biggest challenge has been timing – learning how to ensure each task has been completed in time before the next step can begin. “You need to know when to install one section so that it’s ready to go, and you’re not waiting weeks to get the next stage done,” she says.

Dark brown wood laminate flooring and white-washed ply walls set the tone for two large feature planter walls.

Fully solar-powered, Elli’s new house is spring-water fed and she has a fully-compostable toilet which requires no water use. “It’s amazing how it works,” she says. Any grey water is filtered for use on her plants.

While there’s a fireplace built into the tiny house, Elli very much doubts that she’ll need it, even in a good Wakatipu snowfall. “It’s north-facing and it’s like a sauna in here even when it snows,” she says. Well-lined with bats and the standard thermal break required for steel framing, it’s a cosy and cost-efficient wee home. It’s even built on wheels so is easily transportable.

“The best thing is it’s been affordable and creates a smaller footprint,” she says. “I just have less things and more time to do stuff. It’s a lifestyle choice.”

People have been curious about her sustainable new home. For now Elli’s looking forward to relaxing for a while and enjoying the benefits of all that hard work, but she says it’s all been worthwhile and she’ll be happily offering tips to any other tiny home builders down the track.