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The New Starter House? An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners

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The New Starter House? An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners

February 5, 2021

Buying real estate can be a fraught, hair-raising ordeal: After all, a house is likely the most expensive thing that you’ll ever purchase, yet it’s something you can’t return or exchange if it turns out to be a bad fit. Wisely, Josh Fitzgerald and Millie Ashton decided to remove some of the stress (financial and existential) of new homeownership by doing it in stages.

Rather than settling for a less-than-ideal starter home, the couple opted to build a 570-square-foot cabin (they’ve named it Casa Acton), on Millie’s parents’ property in Tasmania, that can be easily transported and eventually expanded upon once they locate the perfect site. “We’re waiting to find the right piece of land somewhere in rural Tasmania, and [when we do] we will take Casa Acton with us,” says Josh, who, as a co-founding director of Archier architecture firm, was more than qualified to take on the design and build of their moveable home.

The cabin, which is nearly net-zero thanks to a well-insulated shell and solar panels, “has bearers that have been specifically designed to be cut away from the foundations, acting as lifting points for the move on the back of a truck,” he explains. Its mobility, in fact, may actually be its most energy-saving feature: “Being moveable and adaptable saves us from ever building again.”

Let’s take a tour of Josh and Millie’s modern moveable home.

Photography by Adam Gibson, courtesy of Archier.

The New Starter House An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners Josh and Millie built their small moveable home in the bushland, on property owned by her parents. Both the landscaping and architecture are meant to blend into the natural environment. &#8\2\20;The uneven flagstones, sourced from a quarry in the Tasmanian Highlands, add texture under your feet and reflect the time of day as the sun tracks past,&#8\2\2\1; says Josh of the front steps.
Above: Josh and Millie built their small moveable home in the bushland, on property owned by her parents. Both the landscaping and architecture are meant to blend into the natural environment. “The uneven flagstones, sourced from a quarry in the Tasmanian Highlands, add texture under your feet and reflect the time of day as the sun tracks past,” says Josh of the front steps.
The New Starter House An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners Texture plays the starring role in the decor of the home, most notably in the choice of sandstone for the floor. &#8\2\20;There’s a sense of weight and time with the sandstone floor anchoring it to the site, challenging the small and moveable nature of the building,&#8\2\2\1; notes Josh, who spent months laying the floor himself. &#8\2\20;The walls are Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) that were pre cut and delivered to site. The panels create a comfortable environment that only requires minimal heating in the depths of winter.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: Texture plays the starring role in the decor of the home, most notably in the choice of sandstone for the floor. “There’s a sense of weight and time with the sandstone floor anchoring it to the site, challenging the small and moveable nature of the building,” notes Josh, who spent months laying the floor himself. “The walls are Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) that were pre-cut and delivered to site. The panels create a comfortable environment that only requires minimal heating in the depths of winter.”
The New Starter House An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners North facing, floor to ceiling windows ensure the open space receives a ton of natural daylight, which has been great for the couple&#8\2\17;s houseplants. &#8\2\20;The house seems to do most of the work. Our plants are super happy with the natural light and don’t take much work,&#8\2\2\1; says Josh. Rosie, one of their two dogs (Frankie is the other), is also happy with the light situation.
Above: North-facing, floor-to-ceiling windows ensure the open space receives a ton of natural daylight, which has been great for the couple’s houseplants. “The house seems to do most of the work. Our plants are super happy with the natural light and don’t take much work,” says Josh. Rosie, one of their two dogs (Frankie is the other), is also happy with the light situation.
The New Starter House An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners The other side of the room. Just beyond is the bedroom. Devil’s Ivy, Monstera, Philodrendron, Ficus burgundy, and even fig and avocado trees blur the line between indoors and out.
Above: The other side of the room. Just beyond is the bedroom. Devil’s Ivy, Monstera, Philodrendron, Ficus burgundy, and even fig and avocado trees blur the line between indoors and out.
The New Starter House An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners &#8\2\20;I worked with Tasmanian Custom Joinery to make the joinery. The countertop is locally sourced Spotted Gum timber with Whittle Wax Evolution oil finish,&#8\2\2\1; says Josh. A Fisher & Paykel two burner gas cooktop is integrated into the counter.
Above: “I worked with Tasmanian Custom Joinery to make the joinery. The countertop is locally sourced Spotted Gum timber with Whittle Wax Evolution oil finish,” says Josh. A Fisher & Paykel two-burner gas cooktop is integrated into the counter.
The New Starter House An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners The Cape Barren faucet in raw brass is from a collaboration that Archier did with tapware boutique Wood Melbourne. The partition between kitchen and bedroom also acts as storage space: &#8\2\20;The partition functions as our wardrobe. In general, we live fairly lightly, and we also have access to shed on site for bikes and tools,&#8\2\2\1; says Josh.
Above: The Cape Barren faucet in raw brass is from a collaboration that Archier did with tapware boutique Wood Melbourne. The partition between kitchen and bedroom also acts as storage space: “The partition functions as our wardrobe. In general, we live fairly lightly, and we also have access to shed on site for bikes and tools,” says Josh.
The New Starter House An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners The sleeping quarters. The bathroom is just beyond.
Above: The sleeping quarters. The bathroom is just beyond.
The New Starter House An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners Textured glass allows privacy in the bathroom. The bathroom sink is by local ceramicist Lindsey Wherrett.
Above: Textured glass allows privacy in the bathroom. The bathroom sink is by local ceramicist Lindsey Wherrett.
The New Starter House An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners Locally and sustainably sourced raw wood board and batten cladding reference the many apple sheds in the area.
Above: Locally and sustainably sourced raw wood board-and-batten cladding reference the many apple sheds in the area.
The New Starter House An Architect Designs a Home That Can Move With Its Owners &#8\2\20;We needed to design something that I could achieve as an owner, which means it had to be a simple envelope with simple detailing,&#8\2\2\1; says Josh. His favorite part about his home? &#8\2\20;That it’s unfinished. I’m really enjoying the process.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “We needed to design something that I could achieve as an owner, which means it had to be a simple envelope with simple detailing,” says Josh. His favorite part about his home? “That it’s unfinished. I’m really enjoying the process.”

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