Mystee Unwin is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. She calls herself silversmith, painter, tiny house builder and dweller, Superadobe builder and teacher, permaculture teacher and practitioner, regenerative micro farmer, and nature lover. 

I met Mystee when she came into Everything Australian to buy herself a new Akubra and became fascinated with the tiny house lifestyle after following her new build on Instagram. Mystee, her partner and gorgeous Labrador live on half an acre in a tiny house that she built using around 90% recycled materials.

Their impressive garden takes up about two fifths of the property and in only a couple of years is producing almost all of their fresh food needs. Their living practices revolve around regenerating the piece of land on which they live through soil regeneration, nourishment and establishment of perennial food species to create a self-supporting forest garden system that feeds them.  After starting with a dry, empty paddock they now have a lush green garden. They are also zero waste motivated and have not generated landfill in over two years! “I’ve been on a sustainability journey for the last decade, which I now recognize as a regenerative journey. It’s about regenerating the earth, not just sustaining it, and trying to help and inspire others to do the same.”

Intrigued, I decided to ask Mystee a few questions about what its like to live in a tiny house.

 

What do you love the most about living there?

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The freedom we have due to not having a mortgage, which means that we are motivated by doing things we love over doing what we need to pay for an expensive lifestyle. We have been focused on simplifying our lives and expenses so that our money goes a long way, which means we can work less and focus on our passions and interests more.  On top of that living off the garden is one of the purest joys of our little block of land.

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Tiny House Beginnings

Tiny House Beginnings 

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What made you decide to build a tiny house?

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When I was renting, I was tired of moving my stuff around from house to house. I knew that I could never comfortably afford a house. I could not work a fulltime job to pay for a house, as this would mean I would not be able to pursue my art. When I discovered tiny houses, I realised the dream of having and owning a home was an attainable reality. Tiny houses present a very appealing solution to the problems most people face around affordable (and I mean truly affordable) housing.

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When you say made from 90% recycled materials, where did you source these materials?

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I put the word out on Buy, Swap and Sell sites in my local areas for specific materials that I was looking for as I needed them. I also utilised second hand resource sites such as eBay, gumtree and the trading post, along with simply talking to people and asking them if they had what I was looking for. In my experience, if I was not in a hurry for something, I could normally find it for free and if I needed something straight away, I might end up paying for it. There is an incredible amount of excellent building resources available that most people are happy to give away for the convenience of you cleaning them up for them. It’s a win-win. I also would be opportunistic when I saw some wood in a skip at a building site. It’s crazy how much great stuff, like usable offcuts, end up in landfill.

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House and Garden

House and Garden

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Was there anything challenging about building the house?

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I had a background in earth building but very little knowledge when it came to timber frame construction. I downloaded books on building, asked friends for help and watched YouTube videos on things like ‘how to hang a window’. Each element of the build was a new challenge, so it was a huge learning experience.  Having said that, building is not difficult and it’s a lot of fun, whilst also being slightly addictive and empowering.

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Is there anything challenging about living in a tiny house?

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The main challenge for me has been not having a space to stretch out and do yoga! However, the next stage will be to build a screened in porch which will overcome this. Otherwise, I have absolutely loved the transition to living tiny and think it’s an enriching, comfortable and soul satisfying way to live.

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Tiny House Interior

Tiny House Interior

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You are currently also building a Superadobe studio?

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Yes, this will be my art studio; it will also have an outdoor patio area with a pizza oven and sleeping dome area for summer nights. Living inland in the country can get pretty hot, so having an outdoor kitchen and living space makes a big difference in summer along with a cave like studio, which remains cool on even the hottest days as we have experienced recently.

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What do you like about Superdobe building?

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Superadobe building is an earth bag building technique developed in California by Iranian architect and humanitarian, Nader Khalili. His work is being carried forward at the Cal-Earth Institute by his children. The objective of Cal-earth has always been to provide solutions to the worlds housing problems, providing instruction on how to build yourself a home that is safe, affordable, environmentally friendly and beautiful. The technique uses the worlds’ most abundant natural material, the earth beneath your feet, to build strong earthquake, fire, flood and hurricane resistant housing. This technique is perfectly suited to the extreme weather and climate conditions we face in Australia, along with being an affordable and simple way to build. It is also a waste-free form of building and it can be adapted to many different aesthetic styles of building. The studio we have built will be cool in summer and warm in winter and has cost about $5000 to build.

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Superadobe Beginnings

Superadobe Beginnings

What do you think of the tiny house movement?

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I think it is brilliant! It provides an affordable housing alternation that almost anyone can choose. It is especially good for artists as it gives them the opportunity to disconnect from the expensive rental/mortgage cycle that removes them from their arts practices. Artists can step back into their crafts and have warm, safe, lovely homes from where their lives spring forth, without demanding all of their time and money, is a truly exciting prospect. Just imagine what is possible for the quality of our lives when we stop being slaves to our houses and instead just live in them.

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What advice would you give someone thinking of living in a tiny house?

 

My advice would be to go for it. If you have no building experience don’t let that stop you. Start looking up tiny houses, if you’re not already, talk to people and ask for help.  Building something for yourself doesn’t just build a house, it builds community if you choose to ask. Get yourself a trailer and then collect your doors and windows. Then you can draw up your framing based on the sizes of the doors and windows. My build cost me less than $10,000 including my trailer. It could cost less than that. Find what you can for free and then purchase the things you can’t find second hand if possible.

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Superadobe interior beginning to take shape

Superadobe interior beginning to take shape

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Do you miss living in a big house?

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Not at all.  I love ‘The Tiny’ which is what we refer to it as. It’s a cosy, yet spacious, simple yet enriching space. And I grew up in a big house.

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One last thing, what’s your favourite thing you have bought from Everything Australian?

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I love my Akubra Golder Spur, my Blunny’s that I wear everyday, and my new Genuine Australian Bushwear wool flannel top that is so warm and funky.

You can follow Mystee's tiny house adventures on Instagram.

.M

Mystee Golden Spur

Mystee in the Golden Spur

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YoM