Kiwi woman Brenda Kelly reveals how she built her dream home for under $150k

Six years ago, Brenda Kelly lived in a regular home like thousands of others around the world.

However, the 36-year-old from Auckland said she had always had a "passion for small spaces", which culminated in her finding and building her own 45-square-metre home made from a shipping container in 2014.

"I remember reading my diaries and discovering that even as a teenager I was obsessed with designing small spaces and figuring out where to put the furniture," Ms Kelly told Daily Mail Australia.

Brenda Kelly quit her job at Bunnings to build her dream home. Photo / Supplied
Brenda Kelly quit her job at Bunnings to build her dream home. Photo / Supplied

"I'd always been into minimalist living, and so making my home inside a shipping container hugely appealed."

Before she knew it, the 36-year-old had quit her job at Bunnings Warehouse, sold her terraced home and started designing the tiny house of her dreams - purchasing a plot of land.

Kelly chose to accent the home with pops of turquoise. Photo / Unseen Perspective
Kelly chose to accent the home with pops of turquoise. Photo / Unseen Perspective
Kelly can sleep seven in her container home. Photo / Unseen Perspective
Kelly can sleep seven in her container home. Photo / Unseen Perspective

"I'd fallen in love with the space several years previously, but wasn't ready to buy," Kelly explained.

"When you design from scratch and on a small status, you have to like every inch of space. In my home, there is no cavity that's not used."

For two container shells, Kelly paid around $11,000. She says finding the spaces that would become her home was when "things came to life".

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Kelly said while shipping containers can be picked up for cheaply, she ended up spending around $120,000 on the full fitout. This included framing, insulation, lining, painting, flooring, plumbing, electrical work, a full kitchen and a bathroom. She also put in UPVC double glazed windows and eco-features such as a solar system, rainwater recycling setup and appliances.

Her design currently incorporates one 40-foot container comprising the entry, sitting area, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom of her house. She also has a second 20-foot space containing her office and a spare bedroom.

The bed folds up to make way for a desk space. Photo / Unseen Perspective
The bed folds up to make way for a desk space. Photo / Unseen Perspective
The desk space once the bed is folded up. Photo / Unseen Perspective
The desk space once the bed is folded up. Photo / Unseen Perspective

"When you design from scratch and on a small status, you have to like every inch of space. In my home, there is no cavity that's not used," she said.

Some examples of Kelly's clever usage of the space include adaptable furniture - such as a corner sofa with huge storage beneath the cushions, a sofa that becomes a double bed, as well as a lift-down bed on the wall in the second bedroom - and sustainable features.

"I've learned lots from making my dream home," Kelly explained.

"Namely that it pays to buy your furniture before you buy your house. You can make your home fit around it.

Kelly chose a lift-up storage bed for the master bedroom. Photo / Unseen Perspective
Kelly chose a lift-up storage bed for the master bedroom. Photo / Unseen Perspective
A movable storage space doubles as a versatile divider wall. Photo / Unseen Perspective
A movable storage space doubles as a versatile divider wall. Photo / Unseen Perspective

"For me, this home has given me any number of benefits - it's affordable (I think the sum total of my bills last month was AUD $2), I don't fill it up with junk and it's very low maintenance. I can sleep seven people too!"

With regard to tips for others who might want to have their own tiny home, Kelly said that the most important thing is to have an open mind:

"Think outside of the square box of convention when it comes to design, and have an open mind.

"Get furniture that has more than one purpose and lose all of the junk from your life that you don't need."

Two sets of bifold doors open out to the sunny deck. Photo / Unseen Perspective
Two sets of bifold doors open out to the sunny deck. Photo / Unseen Perspective
Building with shipping containers meant Brenda Kelly could bring her dream home to life. Photo / Unseen Perspective
Building with shipping containers meant Brenda Kelly could bring her dream home to life. Photo / Unseen Perspective

"It's also important to know that while this will be affordable, making a shipping container home shouldn't be seen as cheap - it took me a while to figure that one out."

Kelly additionally said that it pays to adopt an ecological outlook with regard your plans.

Kelly's home is solar-powered, filled with sustainable features and rain water harvesting.

- Daily Mail

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