Weekender: Forthside sisters hitch their wagon to tiny house trend | The Advocate

Weekender: Forthside sisters hitch their wagon to tiny house trend

Entrepreneurs: Tamika and Kylie Bell inside Compass Hut their off-grid tiny house tourist accommodation. Picture: Scott Gelston.

A couple of entrepreneurial Forthside sisters with big ideas have hitched their wagon to the sustainable tiny house movement.

Among Tasmania’s small band of eco-tiny home, pioneers are the enterprising and impressive Bell siblings, who set out to design and construct transportable houses as a vehicle to be able to afford their own home.

Kylie and Tamika Bell built their original tiny house three-years-ago and went on to construct several for clients around the country.

Recently the Bells opened their first luxe off-grid tiny house accommodation Compass Hut on Bellamy Road not far from the family home.

Wagonhaus Co

The only other small home tourist accommodation in Tassie is Tiny house under the Cradle at Staverton near Mt Roland.

The first glimpse guests have of Compass Hut is through a stand of trees driving through the gate and up to a hill into a corner of the Bells’ picturesque organic farm.

Big Impact: Compass Hut is located on the Bells’ organic farm property at picturesque Forthside. Picture: Scott Gelston.

Inside the light-filled hut is a plush double-bed snuggled between windows with views of undulating pastures. It has a well-equipped kitchenette, a bathroom with a full shower and a fancy compost toilet. The sisters say taking moonlit showers feel special because of how the light dances off tiles.

The hut is solar-powered and has a detachable deck where the trailer connects to a vehicle for transporting like a caravan.

The Bells want their tiny houses to be sustainable and reflective of their design style.

“We designed the hut to focus on health and wellbeing within the space and to connect with nature,” Kylie said.

Sister Act: Kylie and Tamika Bell on the Compass Hut deck at Forthside. Picture: Scott Gelston.

The Bells want travellers to switch off and reconnect with each other and the natural world.

Tamika, 21, works part-time on the farm as well as partnering with Kylie in their tiny house building venture Wagonhaus Co.

Kylie, 24, studied at the University of Tasmania’s School of Architecture in Launceston.

“I was halfway through my last year for my Bachelor of Architecture, and I was complaining to a friend who had a tiny house about how my generation was going to afford ever to get a house,” Kylie tells.

“She said, ‘why don’t you just do the tiny house thing’?”

After she graduated Kylie decided to do it.

“I started by roping my family into the idea,” she said.

Upmarket: Tamika Bell styled the interior of Compass Hut utilising a French-inspired colour scheme of darkest blue and mustard tones. Picture: Scott Gelston.

She decided to marry her love of design with creating tiny home accommodation but had to convince the others.

“We talked about it over a cup of coffee, and everyone was on board,” she said.

When the Bells first started Wagonhaus the planning approval was granted for Compass Hut to go ahead.

However, Wagonhaus had already created a lot of interest after the Bells attended a sustainable living day with people from around Australia, calling wanting custom made tiny houses.

“We built our first tiny house ourselves, and we did every bit of it to help us better understand how it all works and figure out what doesn’t work,” Tamika said.

Today the girls design the houses and work with three different engineers and contract builders.

Their first tiny house cost about $50,000 to complete but you can add thousands these days.

“Some people possibly start out thinking a tiny house will cost $10,000 or $20,000, but it costs more, especially when you start getting in contractors. If you want a good trailer you will pay at least $10,000, to begin with before you even start on the structure,” Tamika said.

Style and Function: Compass Hut’s upmarket compost toilet and full rain shower make for a beautiful bathroom space. Picture: Scott Gelston.

“With Wagonhaus, we have built about seven or eight tiny houses for others, and we finally got the opportunity last year to do the first Compass Hut for ourselves.”

Kylie added a double diploma in tourism and business to her qualifications which has been handy to launching the business.

“There’s good energy to the Tasmanian tourism sector,” she said.

“This part of Tassie is a little bit challenging because we don’t get the tourists through, but we’re a little bit excited to see what kind of impact we can have.

“We want to encourage our guests to participate with local attractions, and we want to promote others as well as what we’re doing.

“We grew up in this area, and we feel there are some pretty amazing things to offer, but people don’t necessarily know about what’s here.”

The Bell sisters plan to build more of their tourist, tiny houses and scale back to making one or two houses a year for others.

“Because Wagonhaus was the vehicle for Compass Hut we want to focus on this now,” Kylie said.

The Bell sisters said the final figure was being calculated but estimate Compass Hut to be worth about $80,000.

The sisters said the freedom of tiny houses being off-grid is appealing and something they would like to achieve at home.

“We are passionate about using the hut as an example of sustainable design or passive design for the climate,” Kylie said.

“Compass Hut has a full off-grid solar system and is set-up with a grey-water system that breaks down waste before it travels down to a large garden soakage bed.

“The split-system compost toilet collects and stores waste in a chamber under the house. We have a smaller water tank and another one going up the hill to gravity feed to the house.”

The solar system is being increased and already cost $16,000.

“There’s a price tag, but it’s worth the investment,” Tamika said.

She said thorough planning in the design and construction phase is essential with tiny houses.

Weekender: Big plans for tiny houses

Compass Hut mixes a Scandinavian barn house style and has double-glazed windows, universal insulation, cross ventilation and faces north for the climate.

“We love the Nordic style because their architecture focuses on personal health and how you feel in space,” Kylie said.

“I think there is something nice about the timber, and even though it’s very modern, it brings people back to that cottage idea.”

Tamika took the lead on some of the big decisions for the interior.

“I was influenced towards a traditional French style with the rich dark blues and yellows,” Tamika said.

The Bells said the tiny house accommodation trend was getting bigger interstate.

Kylie said even though Tasmania had more space compared to big cities, it comes back to housing affordability.

“There is such a crisis point for my generation who feel like they cannot afford to buy a house and people are looking at alternative housing and sustainable housing,” she said.

My friend who inspired me, in the beginning, was in her fifties struggling to find a home she could afford.

Wagonhaus tiny homes are considered caravans.

“They have a registration number and full insurance, and not everyone does that,” Kylie said.

“The council encouraged us with our application, and we had no problems.”

Their smallest tiny home measured 2.4 metres by 3.5 metres.

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