Although the tiny houses built by Fresh Prince are used in the same, temporary manner as hotel rooms, there’s something less depressing about the thought of living in them. That “something” is actually several things, and they’re not hard to guess at.
The Sydney-based design and construction company is run by partners Alice Nivison (a designer and builder) and Richie Northcott (a builder and eco-consultant), who say they have always been drawn to “the challenge of designing small spaces”, particularly if these spaces are able to strike the balance between sustainability and liveability.
The tiny houses Fresh Prince designed for Unyoked have perfected this. Within a cosy footprint of just 15 square metres, there is contained everything necessary to fit “all the essentials for up to three people”. Not only this, but the design – which incorporates a pitched, 3.2-metre ceiling and two beds with views – allows a sense of openness and loftiness.
“Our main objective was to create a feeling of spaciousness in a mode of living that is inherently space-poor,” Nivison explains.
“The built-in bed is key to creating comfort. Acting as a day bed [slash] lounge by day, it is surrounded by large windows on three sides, making the most of the stunning rainforest views and canopy of stars at night.”
As it currently operates, the Unyoked tiny houses are for holiday-makers rather than home-hunters. Punctuating various pockets of carefully chosen landscape around Sydney and Melbourne, the company catch-cry promises “minimum footprint, maximum chill” in a remote, off-the-grid location. According to Nivison, the vast majority of people who contact them are “young couples or families with an environmental conscience and a love of outdoors, wanting a place to escape to on the weekend that doesn’t cost the earth”. The success of the Unyoked tiny house model is evidenced in the fact that they have a waitlist; an occurrence so frequent that there’s a dedicated button to it on the booking website.
It almost goes without saying that a tiny house whose purpose is to facilitate off-the-grid living is sustainable. For the design of Unyoked, Fresh Prince went for a natural and locally sourced material palette that was heavy on the timber and light on the maintenance.
“Our love of timber has a strong influence on our material palette,” says Nivison. “The exterior cladding is locally milled native Australian Cypress Pine, which is naturally termite- and rot-resistant. The interior is FSC-certified plywood with a natural hard wax finish and the bathroom features exposed Fibre Cement with a micro hand-cast concrete basin and copper fixtures.
“The tiny home is completely autonomous,” she continues. “It includes a small solar system for basic power needs, a composting toilet and passive ventilation. The design also utilised standard sheet sizes to minimise waste and avoided composite materials and plastics where possible.”
Although only temporary escapes from the grid are possible through Unyoked, that does not mean they’d make an unfit solution for home-hunters seeking a more value-driven and cost-effective entry to the property market. Fresh Prince’s tiny houses contain space and amenity enough for three people, including a bathroom, a single and double bed, and a small kitchen with gas stove and fridge. The only thing that is lacking for more permanent occupation is storage – something that can be remedied easily enough.
“This particular design lacks storage as it was always intended as a weekender, but a permanent setup could easily be achieved by exploring the indoor/outdoor threshold, adding a veranda and loft,” she says.
“People are starting to realise that less is more – a tiny home is flexible, autonomous, sustainable and affordable. All these values are intrinsic in the new generation of home-hunters, as well as a sense of adventure.”