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Like many a child, Brenda Kelly played houses - but even as a 12-year-old her games were more than mere imaginative play. "I remember loving the idea of being able to live in my own small space, and I spent hours drawing plans and pictures and working out how everything could go together. It wouldn't leave me alone."
"This was a real challenge. Modular building is still in its infancy in New Zealand, and container homes are modular homes, but the result is that we build homes under quality-controlled conditions that arrive on site fully consented."
Kelly's own home is a triumph of ingenuity - it is difficult to believe that two containers, linked together to form an L, could produce a structure as light-filled, spacious and spirited as this one. Crisp white joinery against a staunch dark exterior hints that an unremarkable road frontage may give way to surprises, but it is not until stepping through the front door that the sheer delight of what Kelly has achieved makes itself clear. The interior cannot be described as anything but compact, but bounded almost entirely along the rear with a combination of floor-to-ceiling glazed sliders and generous windows, it is airy and pleasant. The larger structure contains a living area, a fully equipped kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom, and the smaller structure - set at right angles to the first and accessed internally or via the enclosed deck - contains a secondary bedroom that doubles as an office.
Every space-saving trick has been utilised - whether as simple as mirrored wardrobe doors at the foot of the double bed creating an illusion of space, or paying extra for complex multipurpose furniture specially designed to maximise the functionality of every corner, such as a bed that folds into a desk.
"If it's not dual purpose, it doesn't have a purpose in one of my homes."
Kelly may use this as a sales pitch but it's nevertheless a core precept.
Kelly admits that building even a small home to this quality is "affordable rather than cheap". She also points out that converting shipping containers into accommodation is not a DIY job.
"There are many hoops to jump through at every stage of the process, but that is what my business is set up to do. We aim to make compact homes that are a delight to live in - and that have a long lifetime of affordable living ahead of them. I couldn't give up on the idea of living in a small space where you have everything you need but nothing you don't - and living in a container home like this you don't have to."
IQ Container House
Size: 45m2 plus 33m2 covered deck
Location: Parau, Auckland.
Owner-designer: Brenda Kelly for IQ Container Homes.
Site: 2425sq m
Builder: Factory-built under owner’s supervision
Build (including deck) $190,000
Fees and compliance* $40,250
Earthworks, driveway and foundations $40,000
Wastewater system $13,800
*including drawings and plans, professional fees, resource consent, building consent and council fees.
Strategy: Convert shipping containers into units of accommodation under quality-controlled conditions, enabling staged financing and a light environmental footprint.
Win a copy
The Otago Daily Times has three copies of Big Ideas for Small Houses, by Catherine Foster, courtesy of Penguin NZ, to give away. To enter the draw, email email@example.com with your name and day-time phone number in the body of the email and ‘‘Big Ideas’’ in the subject line by Tuesday, October 15.