Kiwi creative, actor and environmentalist Bryce Langston launched his YouTube channel Living Big in a Tiny House in 2013, and a decade later, with partner Rasa Pescud, has more than 4.5 million subscribers and a global following. Here he shares a peek inside two of his own New Zealand-based tiny homes.
Words Bryce Langston | Photos Rasa Pescud & Bryce Langston
In 2019, I finished building my original tiny home in New Zealand.
After many years of dreaming, the project finally became reality. I called this home the Seed of Life, because that’s exactly what it was for me. A new beginning. A launch pad for a whole new life, one that contained everything I needed to be safe and secure. It was also a nod to my love of sacred geometry.
Since its completion, the Seed of Life has been a full-time home for Rasa and me. Roughly 15 square metres, it measures approximately 6 x 2.5 metres.
Despite its compact footprint, I designed the Seed of Life to be almost like a life raft, housing everything that we would need. It has a compact kitchen, living room, bathroom, sleeping loft and plenty of storage.
It’s also completely off the grid, with solar power and rainwater collection, although it also has the ability to connect to services. There’s a wood-burning stove for cooking and heating in the winter, and gas for cooking and water heating during the warmer months.
The home is filled with artistic touches that my friends helped build into it. My favourite is the gorgeous pāua inlays, shaped like seeds, that add a tremendous amount of character.
My friends Jake and Kasia own a company called Variant Spaces, which is dedicated to creating custom, small-space furniture. They helped to design and build all of the furniture and cabinetry inside the home, maximising the use of space while allowing ample storage – something very important when living full-time in a tiny house.
We finished building the Seed of Life on a friend’s farm. Before leaving to travel in 2019, we moved the house to my parents’ home in Auckland, so they could look after it while we were away. We had planned to visit Australia first, before travelling the globe during the majority of 2020.
The world had other plans for us. As the pandemic grounded us in 2020, we were forced to return home to New Zealand. Lockdown provided a unique opportunity to really enjoy our home. There was also the added benefit of multi-generational living. Being on the same property as my parents provided the opportunity to build a deeper relationship with them.
Multi-generational living is common among those who choose to live in tiny houses, as the high cost of land drives many families into cooperative living arrangements. Personally, it’s something I’m a huge fan of. Western culture often idealises self-reliance and downplays the benefits of community and combining resources. Tiny homes allow multiple generations to live near each other, with all the benefits of this, while still retaining a degree of separate, independent space.
As travel remained difficult, Rasa and I relished our extended time in the Seed of Life. I’ve enjoyed planting trees and working in the garden. It’s been wonderful to be a bit more stationary for a while.
Building the Seed of Life cost roughly $100,000, spread over the several years it took to complete it. This includes labour costs and elements such as the solar system. That makes the home about one-tenth the cost of the average home in Auckland, unquestionably making it a really affordable option. Striving to live without debt is one of my principles for remaining financially free. The Seed of Life has helped tremendously to make that possible.
The next phase will be moving it onto our own property to serve as the cornerstone of a homestead where we plan to grow food and live close to the land.
There’s a saying in architecture that you should design your first home for an enemy, your second for a friend and the third for yourself. Getting the design right takes time and practice. And there’s no doubt that you learn a lot through not only designing a home but also living in it.
After selling our Little Zen tiny house in the USA, Rasa and I decided to construct another, smaller, home which we could use as a travel model house in New Zealand. It could also serve as extra accommodation for guests when they came to visit us. We wanted to have the ability to host people who had welcomed us as guests on our own travels.
The Traveller was designed in collaboration with builders from Cocoon Tiny Homes in Auckland. Together we created something special. The home is ultra‑modern and compact (5 x 2.5 metres), yet spacious.
It’s designed to maximise the living experience of a tiny house while remaining as small and travel-ready as possible.
The house is completely off the grid, with a state-of-the-art solar system, as well as water storage tanks. This means the house can remain disconnected from any services while we travel, often for days at a time.
To remain as low profile as possible, we gave the house a slick, almost entirely black exterior, with pops of cedar for interest. The home has an unusual shape, provided by a roofline designed to maximise space, yet also provide a nod to the aerodynamics important for any travelling house.
Inside, we kept the home functional and minimal, yet beautiful. We’ve used a combination of lightweight birch and poplar plywood, with black negative detail (which also hides the home’s lighting). This contrasts with the black-stained ash we used for the furniture and bench tops, created by our friends Jake and Kasia at Variant Spaces.
To maximise space, we placed the lounge loft on electric actuators, which can be lowered during the day, then raised up at night to reveal the queen bed underneath. This means the bedroom remains separate, but does not take up additional floor space.
I’m especially proud of the bathroom. In many tiny houses, the bathroom is often the only space that offers any kind of separation or privacy. For this reason, I’ve always tried to treat a tiny house bathroom a bit like a sanctuary. In this case, I created a bathroom with the look of dark stone or concrete.
This is a tiny house that hasn’t been designed to be a full-time home. It was designed for travelling, or for guest accommodation. For this reason, we were able to be really creative with the space, as we didn’t need to prioritise storage.
Out of all the spaces I’ve had a hand in designing, I’m most proud of this one. In a world where tiny homes are becoming larger, and wheels are becoming more redundant, the Traveller speaks volumes about what makes a tiny home special.
Extracted from Living Big in a Tiny House by Bryce Langston, published by Potton & Burton. RRP$54.99.