Vogeltown Home - INLINE Design & Build | ArchiPro

Vogeltown Home

A 64m² tiny home is the current dwelling of builder Rhys Doesburg and his family while he plans to construct a larger house on an infill site in Wellington’s hillside suburb of Vogeltown.

A few years ago, Rhys, his partner and friends bought a 1,250m² section in Vogeltown and commenced with renovating an existing 1950s house on the site while, at the same time, lodging a consent to subdivide the property. Once consent was obtained, they sold 540m² of the site, including the renovated house, to their friends; then, achieved consent to build this tiny home on the remaining 710m² section along with a larger home to be completed at a later date.

“I designed the house for my family while we build our new home, but the tiny home will always stay here and will ultimately become a form of passive rental income when we reach retirement age,” explains Rhys, who is the Managing Director of INLINE Design & Build, along with business partner Matt Topkins, who led the structural design on the tiny house project.

The process was a more unusual way of obtaining a new home on what is a bush-clad hillside site and it was not without its challenges. “In Wellington, with hills and ocean all around us, we are running out of land so infill housing makes sense and is a permitted activity under the city’s district plan,” he says.

Strict requirements meant they had to site the houses on the section to a specific size and arrangement, because the property sits within a valley and has Council amenities – storm and sewer mains – underneath. This meant that the family home’s 32m² footprint couldn’t change. “The footprint was set in stone so we couldn’t just add 10m if we felt like it,” says Rhys. “Every council has different rules but the district plan rules dictated the height of the building, so the tiny home needed to work alongside that.”

The tiny home’s gable form arrived from maximising the interior height based on the difference in height plane. “If we had gone with the maximum 4.5m-high flat roof that is permitted for an infill dwelling, we wouldn’t have achieved two storeys comfortably so, by going to a gable roof structure it is allowed to be 4.5m at the eaves but 5.5m at the top of the gable. The stud height downstairs is 2.2m but, actually, it doesn’t feel small. The gable has a 15-degree pitch, so the top storey is 2.7m high at the peak of the internal ceiling,” says Rhys.

The gable end with its expansive sliding windows and a large skylight contribute to creating a lovely light-filled chapel-like feel to the upper spaces, as well as providing ventilation throughout the master bedroom and bathroom suite. “Initially, we considered a balcony on the front, but decided against it as we thought it would block light from entering the downstairs living spaces, but we love opening the window up on summer mornings to enjoy the birdsong coming from the bush.”

All the interior cabinetry was a flagship job for INLINE’s new joinery factory, including the bespoke walk-through wardrobe that helps define the upstairs spaces. When you arrive up the stairs, to the right, the wardrobe cabinets and the wall seem invisible because you look straight out through a window and up through a large skylight. “And when you’re standing in the centre of the wardrobe under the skylight, you stare through glazing in all directions, which makes the wardrobe seem much bigger than it is – and it’s a really nice place to get dressed in the morning,” suggests Rhys.

Downstairs, a 20m² room contains the kitchen, dining and lounge areas, a separate laundry and a single bedroom designed for Rhys’ daughter to stay. “The kitchen design was a hugely important element because, before I became a builder, I learnt to cook and, now I cook every day,” says Rhys. Clearly, it’s ‘a chef’s kitchen’. A rangehood that has been integrated into the bespoke plywood cabinetry with open shelving above to house serving dishes and essential cooking items.

A plywood and high-pressure laminate island incorporates a large sink that is adaptable, with trays and a colander that sit into the sink; a single dish drawer allows room for pots and pans underneath; and pull-out waste and recycling bins incorporate composting for use in the substantial vegetable garden outside. Along the side of the kitchen, a black fridge is recessed into a black-painted wall with flush storage cupboards.

“This black form really defines the room and is super functional,” says Rhys. “The toaster and the coffee machine operate in there, which is something we designed from the beginning so we wouldn’t give up bench space every time we wanted to make toast or coffee. We also drink a lot of wine, so all the shelves above are set up for the stemware.”

The lounge area required a high level of foresight to achieve the desired result. The large entertainment unit in the downstairs lounge – which hosts a large 72” television, bookshelf, turntable and speakers – was the first thing to be built for the site. “As soon as the concrete slab was poured and the frames went up, we lifted the entertainment unit inside and built the house around it, because there was no way we were going to get it inside once the cladding and glazing went on.” Rhys says.

Designing a tiny home with small spaces is all about being systematic. “We needed to emphasise where everything was going to go before we designed and built the house to keep it concise. The learnings Matt and I have gained from designing our own homes, and from the conversations we are having with our clients, is pretty cool. Interestingly, the INLINE projects they reference the most are our own homes, and that’s probably because we had creative freedom to express ourselves.”

“Before we design, we have learnt to say to our clients, ‘The better we get to know you, and the more thought-out you are about who you are and how you want to use this place, then, that’s how we can really maximise the design you’re going to end up with’. Some clients even give us an inventory list and we will design all the cabinetry dependent on what they need to store.”

Living in small spaces often requires stripping household items down to a list of essentials. “I guess it’s a bit like the Marie Kondo movement, where you learn to keep what you love and need,” says Rhys. “But, it provides the most freedom because everything you own brings you joy and everything you get rid of, you completely forget.”

“It’s like we humans have two personalities: the one you have when you’re at home and the one we have when we’re being somewhat nomadic in our spare time – when you go out for dinner or walk down the street on a beautiful evening. That personality is given much more space to live and breathe and develop if the other personality is not worried about so much crap. That’s really the key to it: have the things you want and understand what they are – with safety and assurance – so there is room for your creative side to operate. The ‘I’m still a nomadic person’ personality is given more space to exist.”


Words: Justine Harvey

Photography by Andre Vroon


Visit professional's website
Enquire about the process / fees
Contact details
The gable-form tiny home is cedar on the front and treated pine on the back where its out of view and it doesn’t get much sunlight. The pine cost less than a third of the cost of the cedar. 
A vegetable garden, including a large greenhouse in the same form as the house, provides fresh produce.
A yellow-flowering kowhai tree forms a dramatic neiighbour to the dark stained timber cladding. A low retaining wall defines the boundary of the site.
The chef's kitchen is cleverly designed to host just what is needed in a concise but highly functional manner.
The entertainment centre in the lounge and a black-painted wall incorporate plenty of built-in storage.
The main entrance and stairwell leads up behind the entertainment centre.
In the lounge, the fireplace heats the whole house in 20 minutes. Even if it’s two degrees outside, the house is warm and holds its heat all night.
The full-sized launcry area.
Upstairs, a skylight and a large window fill the walk-in wardrobe with light.
The bathroom enjoys a view of the bush.
The bathroom features artworks and bespoke cabinetry.
On the upper floor, the bedroom features more built-in cabinetry to save space.
A built-in  study desk is nestled into the corner of the bedroom.
A view of the bespoke cabinetry through to the wardrobe.
Site plan by INLINE Design & Build
Ground and first-floor plans by INLINE Design & Build

Products in this project

Professionals used on this project

Also from INLINE Design & Build