Faraway cove: intrepid global explorers build a romantic tiny home - Spaces NZ
Faraway cove: intrepid global explorers build a romantic tiny home

Faraway cove: intrepid global explorers build a romantic tiny home

Intrepid explorers on a global expedition were stopped in their tracks when Covid-19 hit, and returned home to New Zealand with a new mission: to build a tiny home overlooking the sea in the Bay of Islands.

Words by Jo Seton

On their second date, Bridget Thackwray and Topher Richwaite decided they would travel the world together. Within months, their plan had a name: Expedition Earth. The pair concocted an itinerary that would see them take in some of the more intrepid parts of the globe and with little hesitation, they set off together.

Their travels were recorded on their Instagram account @expeditionearth.live where they have amassed a following of more than 300,000. But what had initially seemed like an outlandish plan to their friends and family, became a driving mission to not only explore the world, but to uncover and highlight the threats to our global environment.

That mission began five years ago, and the first two legs of the trip took them through North and South America; Africa and Asia and through to Eastern Europe. Then, Covid-19 hit, throwing a spanner in the works.

At the time, the pair were at the northernmost tip of Russia, on the Yamal Peninsula, camping with a family of nomadic reindeer herders.

“Yamal actually translates to ‘end of the world’,” says Bridget, “we got a call from the Embassy on the SAT phone saying that all the borders around us were closed and we had to get out and go back to New Zealand.”

The simple home nestles into the landscape on Bridget's family farm on the Cavalli Coast.

It was an intrepid eight-day drive to Moscow Airport through snowstorms and over frozen rivers, and from there they flew home to safety in New Zealand.

Glad to have narrowly escaped, the pair were disoriented at their displacement back home. Uncertainty about their ability to continue their expedition overseas forced them to set their sights on a new goal: building a tiny home on Bridget’s family farm on the Cavalli Coast in Northland.

Inspired by the resorts in Namibia and Kenya that they’d had the chance to stay at, as well as making as little impact on the environment as possible, the pair planned a romantic tiny home that spans just 50sqm.

The building site takes in the rugged, dramatic coastline north of Kerikeri, and a small peninsula juts out to the coast nearby, offering an idyllic coastal view.

“We didn't want to encroach on the natural landscape and we were working to a budget so we basically said ‘What can we do with 50sqm on this property that doesn't interfere with the natural habitat?’”

The solution was a pair of pods that are joined by a deck and louvred outdoor living space between them.

The kitchen and living space is located in one pod, while the bedroom and bathroom is located in the other.

The living space is located in one pod, and the bedroom and bathroom in the other.
The serene tones of the bathroom compliment the overall material palette.

The materiality of the exterior is predominantly black steel juxtaposed against cedar cladding, which is also reflected in the interior, to bring continuity and the outdoors in.

“The colours of the house definitely represent us. We like, black and white, and natural, neutral colours. We also wanted to hide the cabin in the landscape, and if you look up at it by boat, you can hardly see it at all.”

The timber elements and the cosy fireplace give the interior a cabin-like and warm feeling, without resorting to the cliched log-cabin aesthetic.

The kitchen space offers flexibility, so that the pair can both dine and work at the bench, while communal dining with friends and family is done outside, either in front of the twin-flued outdoor fire, or under the sheltered louvred space between the two pods.

While some warned the pair about the heat of a dark louvred roof, they say that this is actually one of their preferred features of the design, and it helps unify the two pods in the landscape.

But Bridget’s favourite aspect of their new home is the bedroom.

“It's so nice that we sleep with all the doors open every night so we have all the stars, and because we didn’t install curtains, we wake up when the light naturally wakes us up and there's just something special about waking up to this stunning view.”

Now that their home is complete, they have their sights set on new goals, ones that tie into their learnings from Expedition Earth.

They’re heavily involved in replanting natives in the area, as well as promoting pest control, and they have a new eco tourism business plan under wraps that they will soon share with the public.

But for now, the top secret plan is being carried out from the island bench of the stunning romantic retreat they like to call Faraway Cove, and the pair are excited to use what they have learned on their global adventures to benefit the place they call home.

Topher and Bridget lounging in front of their outdoor fireplace at the far end of the home.
Entry to the site is down to the central outdoor dining space, under the louvred roof.
Bridget enjoying the outdoor bath overlooking the view.

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