Boxing on

This container home is both a cool temporary solution and the pathway to a dream.

When your work sees you surrounded by plans for other people’s houses, you’re eventually going to want to create a place of your own. Interior designer Annique Davey and her builder husband Josh had long mused about doing just that, and the arrival of their daughter Remmi-Lou made them keener than ever to put their ideas into action.
The couple had been renting in Cambridge, a convenient base from which to commute to jobs in Hamilton, Tauranga, Taupo and beyond. Unsure where to put down more permanent roots, as land values spiked their dream of building remained just that — until Annique’s dad stepped in, offering to carve off a site from the family farm in rural Rotorua for them buy within their budget.

DINING The dining nook was going to be a second bathroom, but rather than scrimping on two, the couple decided to focus on designing one beautiful bathroom with everything they wanted in it. The resulting ‘spare’ space is furnished with a table from Soren Liv, chairs by Callagris and a Tripp Trapp highchair from Nature Baby.

The opportunity to jump on the property ladder without getting up to their eyeballs in debt was a godsend. “Building here offered us a way to save over the next five years,” says Annique. “We bought the land off my dad and decided to build a low-cost house with the money we had, so we didn’t have to pay rent while we saved for our next step.” Little did they know, their temporary solution would become the real deal.

KITCHEN Josh made the kitchen cabinets, which were finished with larch, and the pair tiled the benches themselves. “The way the kitchen came together so perfectly was a complete fluke!” says Annique. “The amount of storage I thought I needed versus the small amount we have to work with now blows my mind. Getting rid of the excess stuff we’d accumulated when we had more room has been a really cleansing experience.” LAUNDRY NOOK Tucking the laundry into a cupboard at the end of the kitchen has proved a handy solution. A Fisher & Paykel washer and dryer stacked alongside a sink from Archant with storage overhead is all they need.

The house was designed with budget top of mind, and it was Annique and Josh’s mission to stay within it without compromising on style. “Our deposit was all we had to work with, and if we ran out of money, we were going to be moving into an unfinished house, which wasn’t really an option with Remmi-Lou getting more mobile by the day,” says Annique.
Their first consideration was to economise on size, which led them to the idea of a container home. “I’m probably more of a pitched-roof kind of gal, but Josh is very inspired by minimal modular homes and had always been interested in the creative challenge of building a container house,” says Annique.

LIVING (TOP) This window seat doubles as a guest bed while providing storage for linen and out-of-season clothing. Cushions picked up on holiday in Turkey and from Penney & Bennett, Città, The Design Depot and Homebase Collections are matched with a Nala rug by Armadillo & Co from The Ivy House. The Cross Brass coffee table is from Douglas & Bec and the cane Malawi chair is another Città piece. ABOVE Annique has used plants throughout the house as a way to bring colour and life to the interior palette. The walls in the living areas are in Dulux Okarito. Here, hanging the artwork-like Samsung Frame TV declutters the space and does away with unsightly cords. A credenza from Città houses photos, mementos and candles that are lit in the evenings to create a gezellig feeling, a concept similar to hygge that’s part of Annique’s Dutch heritage — and the name of her business.

Driven by her passion for materials and his decisiveness, they bounced ideas back and forth to formulate a design for a rural hideaway that would blend into the landscape. Not wanting the containers to appear plonked on the land, they had the site excavated so the house would be cuddled by it.
Over the course of the following year, the couple used every spare moment to make progress on their home. Other than friends and family helping out here and there, they built the entire thing themselves, mostly during weekends and evenings.

REMMI-LOU’S BEDROOM This pint-sized space is slotted in around the corner from the living area. Among its decorations are an Orange Bird photographic print by Brian Culy, Toi by Nga Waiata and Peter Baker, and wooden toys from Nature Baby and Raduga Grez. The little Arnoldino stool by Martino Gamper is the perfect size for a child, the cot is from Ikea, and the bedding is from Città, Eddy & Moss and Fictional Objects.

The interior design evolved over time as they came up with cost-effective solutions to create the bespoke effects they were after. “At the start of the process, I basically just drew a kitchen, and everything else was approximated from that,” says Annique. “We were somewhat restricted by the materiality and spatial constraints of the containers, but our budget encouraged us to be brave and experimental in our choices.”

BEDROOM A recessed pop-out was cleverly used in the master bedroom (which is painted in Dulux Half Haast) to make space for the bed and more room to access it. The linen is from Città and Alex & Corban. A Cavern shelf by Powersurge makes a sophisticated alternative to a bedside table, Enna Surface wall lights by Astro Lighting from ECC provide subtle task lighting, and a looped jute rug by Nodi is textural underfoot. BATHROOM The details seen in the bathroom include a mirror designed by Annique and cut by The Glass Guys, tapware by Astra Walker from The Kitchen Hub, a Bucket sink by Alape from Metrix and a Turkish towel by Ottoloom. Brera Off White mosaic tiles from Tile Space line the walls, and a simple ledge takes the place of a vanity. “People think we’re nuts not having a vanity in the bathroom, but we’ve always just found that with more space comes more stuff,” says Annique. “These days, we’ve narrowed it down to our favourite Aesop products, and buy more only when we run out.”

Two years on, their ideas have turned into a light and bright family home. Two containers accommodating the living areas and Remmi-Lou’s bedroom are arranged side by side, while a third housing the master bedroom and bathroom sits perpendicular. Clever pop-outs provide extra space inside and add visual interest to the boxy exterior.
Both Annique and Josh have been pleasantly surprised by how liveable the small home has turned out to be. It works so well they’ve been recruited by a few of their friends to design and build similar places for them too.

EXTERIOR Larch battens line the exterior walls, while the pop-out living room window seat and bedroom extension are clad in Corten rusted steel. In time, trailing plants will grow up the wires the couple have installed over these elements, further integrating the home with its setting — though if need be, the entire structure can be moved off the site to make way for a more permanent home.

Despite the project being a temporary solution for this young family’s needs, they can’t see themselves leaving any time soon. “There are so many benefits that didn’t drive our initial decision to move here but have shaped the life we now lead as a family,” says Annique. In fact, with baby number two on the way, they’re thinking about adding another container to give themselves more room.
“You can add to the existing structure with minimal impact, as the grunt work can happen off site,” says Josh. “That’s the beauty of this kind of build.”   

Words Alice Lines
Photography Larnie Nicolson

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