Ziski and Ryan had close to zero construction experience, but that didn't stop them from making their tiny house dreams come true. With the help of loved ones, the couple built a gorgeous motor home from scratch.
Meet Ryan & Ziski
Ryan Steven and Ziski Poschl reside in Riverhead, a small town in the northwest region of Aukland, New Zealand. But this couple doesn't live in a traditional house, as they're the proud owners of a tiny home.
About a year and a half ago, the loving partners embarked on what was probably their biggest DIY ever: building a motor home. With the help of loved ones and many YouTube tutorials, they created their dream house. But before construction even began, there was much preparation.
For about a year before the building started, Ryan and Ziski used SketchUp to model the house. The 3D design software makes it easy for amateur designers to put their vision onto paper (or computer). They created many different floor plans before settling on their final blueprint.
The final design was 35 square meters and included a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and lofted bedroom. But before getting their hands dirty, Steven and Poschl thought about what they wanted the building process to look like. The couple came up with two "guiding principles."
Their Guiding Principles
The New Zealand residents wanted their dream home, but not at any cost. Conscious citizens of planet Earth, they decided on two main principles that would guide their building process. The first construction fundamental was to be as "environmentally friendly and sustainable" as possible.
The couple also wanted to "involve our community," as Ziski explained. "We want to build this house ourselves, but we also would love to draw on the knowledge of our friends and family," she continued. "And also share our process around what we learned throughout the project."
The Construction Site
Once the designs were finalized, and the 9 by 2.7 meters trailer was purchased, the duo needed to find the perfect construction site. "We had looked at commercial properties," said Ryan. "They were gonna coast anywhere between 1,000 to 2,000 dollars per month, and we were really struggling to find one that would be the right size."
Steven continued, "And so we put a post out onto the community pages around where we live, and we were inundated with updates from people that wanted to help us out." They ended up renting a piece of subdivided land for about $200 per week. Building outdoors was a great solution - although strong winds took apart their first tent!
Ziski and Ryan ultimately had no choice but to build outside. The indoor construction sites were way too expensive, especially ones that were big enough to house a motor home or had doors tall enough for the house to be moved in and out. The land the couple found was at a great price, and they could get power from the neighbors.
The pair put up a 12 meters by 6 meters wedding tent around the trailer. While New Zealand winds took it down once, Steven and Poschl rebuilt it with "reinforced wooden poles and lots of duct tape." With the tent now providing proper protection, they got started on the home's floor.
Ryan and Ziski looked as happy as can be when they finished putting in the wooden subfloor. But what the previous picture didn't show is what's lying under those pieces of wood. "We used recycled real estate signs as a way of protecting the undercarriage of our trailer and for our insulation to sit on top of," the couple shared.
The duo said that part of their guiding principle of environmental friendliness was "looking at the kind of materials that we're using, ensuring that we're using as much as possible recycled materials, and also materials that have a low environmental impact." Repurposing old signs was a creative way to do this.
With the real estate signs placed to protect the motor home's carriage, the insulation installed, and the subfloor put on top, the tiny house's base was complete. Next, the wall's steel frames needed to be installed. The hard-working duo got it done in a whopping 24 hours!
"We've got all of the walls up in one day," said Ryan in a Facebook video the couple posted. "It's been an amazing, very, very tough, and long day. But it is now starting to take shape. This is gonna be the tiny home. How cool is it?" It only got even cooler from there.
The Building Wrap
Ryan and Ziski then put up the building wrap and cavity battens on the house's steel frame. The wrap is a synthetic material intended to protect the tiny home from things like rain and extreme temperatures and can make the home more energy efficient.
"Today we started fixing the building wrap and cavity battens to our @steelhausnz steel frame," the couple shared on Instagram. "We held it in place with magnets... then screwed the battens in place with galvanized self-drilling screws. Unfortunately, they don't actually drill themselves. Who knew."
Raise the Roof
The next stage of construction was the roof installation. After a "couple of whoopsies," as Ziski referred to them, the building partners had part of their roof up. "We used a ratchet and a piece of wood to keep our walls straight so that we could keep our roof in line," Poschl shared.
The roof panels the couple chose weighed only 20 kilograms each, a lightweight solution for the motor home's top. "This design is great for our space because the panels provide great insulation without bulk or weight," Ryan and Ziski explained of the material's benefits.
The Last Panel
Try as they might, Ziski and Ryan couldn't finish the roof all in one day, nor by themselves. But there was no need to worry, as the happy couple had a great group of friends and family willing to help out. Pictured here are two of their loved ones finishing the roof installation.
"Putting our tallest friends in the smallest loft as we put the last sip panel in!" the tiny home-owners said. "So fortunate to have such helpful humans around." When the ceiling was complete, the duo even hosted a pre-housewarming housewarming party inside the construction site!
A Special Arrival
When Steven and Poschl created their motor home on SketchUp, they didn't leave any stone unturned. The house-owners paid attention to every detail and even designed their own stained-glass window! Ryan and Ziski then sent the design to a company and got it custom made.
With construction on the walls progressing, the masterpiece was put up. The couple loved their new gorgeous piece and certainly felt pride that their own blueprint and ideas went into it. Steven and Poschl put a lot of thought into their motor home, as it was a personal dream come true.
Two Dreams Coming Together
Even before Ryan and Ziski met, each of them dreamt of one day owning a tiny home. Steven previously served in the Navy for eight years, where he grew accustomed to living in a confined space. When the tiny home movement started, he fell in love with the idea.
Poschl, on the other hand, had already lived in a tiny house for many years before meeting Steven. Still, she was not over the tiny home revolution and kept a Pinterest board with all of her small living ideas. So when things got serious between the lovers, they pursued this passion project together.
Tired of Paying Rent
But the couple was motivated by more than Pinterest boards and a desire for tiny living. They were also tired of paying rent. "When you're renting, you're putting all your time and energy into benefiting someone else," Steven said. The New Zealanders were tired of spending a lot and hardly reaping any long-term benefits.
Ryan continued, "We wanted to put that time and energy into something where we could still be benefiting a year down the track." And so they decided to make their tiny home dreams into a beautiful reality. Not long into construction, the ceiling was already done, and the floors and walls were insulated.
Up until now, Ryan and Ziski, along with their handy helpers, had spent most of the time on the house's frame and interior. But the home-owners had a vision for the motor home's outside, too. They used Palliside material for the outer cladding, which Steven and Poschl installed themselves.
"Even though it [Palliside] is plastic, it is super lightweight and thin, is fully recyclable at the end of its life, and doesn't ever need to be painted, varnished, or chemically washed," the couple explained. They then chose a different material to go next to the white Palliside.
The Iron Siding
The Palliside was a great choice for the environmentally-conscious builders. "It seemed like a good option for us in terms of practicality as well as environmental considerations across the lifespan of the product," they said. Next to the manageable material, Ziski and Ryan installed black iron.
"Over the last few days we have been busy working on the corrugated iron siding," the pair shared on Christmas Eve of 2019. "We are hoping to have the outside done by the new year." The exterior was coming along nicely, and it would soon be time to move the motor house to its permanent land.
Once the exterior was complete, the final product was breathtaking. Just six months earlier, there was nothing but a metal carriage inside a wedding tent. Now, Ryan and Ziski looked at the finished outside of their tiny dream home. And it sure was a sight for sore eyes!
With the outside done and much of the inside finished, too, the couple drove their house out of the makeshift construction site and onto a different rented piece of land. After the move, Steven and Poschl realized they had a lot of leftover materials and quickly put them to good use.
The Dog House
The young couple didn't make the move from home-renters to home-owners by themselves. They had two furry friends come along with them. So when Ryan and Ziski saw all of the leftover material, the natural decision was to make their dogs a tiny home of their own!
"We got the windows from a local demo yard and used up a lot of our leftover building material," the duo shared. On one side, they installed a circular window, while the other wall had two stained glass windows - not custom-made this time around. The finished product was almost a replica of the human home.
The New Tenants
This beautiful dog house is even insulated for all types of weather! "The underfloor insulation is some of our off-cuts, combined with some old couch inner that we had lying around, as well as polystyrene packaging from our washing machine," the builders said.
Scrap timber, leftover corrugated iron, and Palliside cladding were used for the walls. A lovely plant and stringed solar lights were added to make the structure feel more welcoming. "Fingers crossed the new tenants approve," the duo joked. Well, it sure looks like they did!
The Work Continued
The motor home was on its permanent territory, and the dog house looked beautiful. Now it was time to get back to work on the home's inside. Overall, it took Steven and Poschl over a year to complete their home. This was in part because they were both still working during construction.
But another reason the process took over a year may be due to the couple's previous lack of carpentry skills! "Ryan had done a few projects, but I didn't even know how to use a drill," Ziski admitted. "We watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked other people who had done this."
The Gorgeous Floors
Experienced or not, Ziski and Ryan were making incredible progress in their house. "We put the first coat of Tung on the reclaimed Rimu, Matai, and Kauri floorboard in our tiny house today, and the transformation feels really exciting!" they shared on social media.
The couple used native New Zealand timber on their floors. "As our floor is reclaimed timber, there were a lot of knot holes," Ziski said. To deal with this issue, they later put sea glass with red lights underneath into the holes. The upgrade gave the house a warm, seafront vibe.
The Final Price
A bit over a year after their adventure started, Steven and Poschl's tiny home dream became a reality. The construction and decor cost the New Zealand couple about $140,000. But Ryan and Ziski said they spent more than necessary, and a motor house can cost a lot less.
"We have a friend who has spent $200,000, which would be top end," said Steven. "But other people spend around $80,000 to $100,000." These owners ultimately decided to land somewhere in the middle. After all, it was an investment into their forever home.
In tiny homes, space is precious, and residents only have so much of it to show off their interior decor. With details like the custom-made stained glass window and a "feature wall" like the one seen here, Ziski and Ryan made sure the new house showed off their personal style.
Seen above is a shot of the wall that blocks the lofted bedroom from the rest of the house. "This is made out of scrap wood and cut-offs from our reclaimed timber flooring, which we've stained and painted," the couple explained. They also cleverly added a shelf here to store some books.
Bringing Nature In
Above the kitchen counter, the motor home designers hung a DIY plant hanger. Using a real branch and gorgeous potted plants, Ryan and Ziski successfully brought the outdoors in. The detail also calls attention to the ceiling, which with a height of 3.7 meters, is quite high for a tiny house!
The structure sits 4.2 meters above ground level, which is still within the New Zealand limits for a mobile trailer home. The high ceilings combined with gorgeous windows that let in plenty of sunlight help the house feel spacious. Yet the structure is a total of 35 square meters, including the bedroom!
The Bright Kitchen
The living room lies on one side of the home, and the kitchen on the other end. The couple chose vertical pantries for part of the cabinetry to maximize space. Additionally, some of the cabinets can be slid back to reveal a large stool, where they plan to install an electric piano.
Despite living in a house about the size of a studio apartment, Ryan and Ziski say that they have plenty of space. "We don't feel confined at all," Steven said. "We've gone from a shelf in a flat to a whole pantry and a whole fridge." Genius storage solutions like movable cabinets and storage under the stairs make the small space functional.
Changes in Progress
Even though the house is technically done, the handy DIYers continue making small changes and adjustments. Since they are actually living in their tiny home, Ryan and Ziski realize what things not in their original SketchUp design are crucial. For example, this railing they added by the kitchen.
"This afternoon we put up a little divider/stair rail," they shared on Instagram. "We will have another similar one on the small mezzanine and in the bathroom to link the spaces together." The stairs featured in this photo lead up to the loft bedroom.
Up the small staircase is the couple's bright bedroom. The bed sits low on the ground, lending to a more spacious feeling. Left of the bed is a small closet with room for hanging and a drawer instead of a night table. So what's the pair's secret to tiny living?
Poschl said she and Steven are not shoppers, so they are not "constantly having to find space for new items." She continued, "We think very hard about what we need, and we try not to buy things that are new if we can help it. We are looking to be as sustainable as possible."
"Little Finishing Touches"
The duo's sustainability values were evident throughout the building process and continued to show as they added details like this refurbished old belonging. "It's exciting being at the stage where we can do little finishing touches," the pair shared.
"Like reupholstering our headboard in this lovely mustardy linen," they continued. "Originally we wanted to paint the whole end wall yellow to keep the loft bright, but then we really liked how the white reflected the sun so a yellow headboard was a perfect option."
More earth-friendly details are found in the tiny home's bathroom. Just like the wall blocking the lofted bedroom from the rest of the house, Steven and Poschl added a "feature wall" in the restroom. The piece is made of stained and painted scrap wood.
Aside from the eye-catching details, the bathroom contains the average set of appliances. Ryan and Ziski installed a 1-meter by 1.5-meter glass-walled shower, an odorless dehydrating toilet with a fan, and a washing machine. Air-drying their clothes saves space and the planet.
Christmas - Tiny Home Edition
The tiny-home-owners are beyond happy in their new place. "It feels so homely, and it's such a nice place to return to at the end of the day," Poschl shared. "Work can be emotionally draining, but we come back to the house and get our energy topped up."
She continued, "We underestimated just how comfortable it would feel." But the move didn't come without compromises - like being able to fit a real Christmas tree in the house! But the innovative couple made do with this Christmas tree outline made of string lights.
The Beautiful "Parking" Spot
So, where is the gorgeous home located now that it's not under construction? In New Zealand's countryside, where the home-owners pay $200 a week. The price includes water, the land their house sits on, and the 40 square meters the deck takes up. Plus, unlimited running space for the dogs.
"It makes sense for the landowner," Steven said. "They have an income that is higher than they would get from leasing it out for grazing, which is sporadic." But that doesn't mean the couple is staying put. "Maybe in five years, we will think about a move," said Poschl. Why not? They can take their motor home with them anywhere!