We don’t have much of a house at the moment. It’s more of a compound of buildings. We live in a cabin with a kitchenette. We have a bathroom in a separate building with an awesome shower and a composting toilet. There’s also a caravan if we need some extra space, or for guests. It feels a bit closer to really comfortable camping, than like living in a house.

My focus is really on the land here. I want to be able to live here too – obviously – but most of my plans and schemes are about planting trees, and getting around the place. The living standards have been less of a concern.

But recently my thoughts have turned to what a house here might look like here. I have a site in mind, which will have great views and a northern aspect, while being sheltered from our major winds. I don’t feel like I need anything too flash in a house, but when you have the opportunity to do pretty much anything, where do you start?

I know I want something small – under 100m². My takeaway from living in large houses is you only really spend more time cleaning them. For the two of us, anything larger feels like too much. The good news is smaller houses are often cheaper to build, so that’s helpful.

Top of my list, after overall size, is that I want the house to be accessible. An accessible house will mean we’ve future-proofed it for as we age, so we can enjoy it for as long as possible. Any extra expense could easily be justified by the savings from delaying a move to a retirement home later on. But I also can’t think of a reason not to build an accessible house. New Zealand doesn’t have many, apparently. With good design, it won’t make a difference to an able-bodied person, but it could mean the world to someone with mobility issues when our time here ends.

I would like my house to be powered as much as we can from the sun and wind. We get some good gusts through here currently, and there’s heaps of sun. We have a mains connection already, so maybe we can sell excess back onto the grid. But I’d also like my house to use less power in the first place. There are people out there who know things about using building materials and positioning to hold heat, especially in winter. Talking to one of them is absolutely on the cards. Wherever possible, I’d like to make this house low-maintenance and low-energy.

It’ll need a couple of big water tanks, and roof collection. That’s going to be very important. One day, I would like a shower that lasts more than 4 minutes.

The room I have the most thoughts about is the kitchen. I’d like it to be part of the action of the living area – not closed off by itself. I’d like a kitchen island with good lighting, useful storage areas, a big pantry, and a dishwasher. I want to be cooking on gas. And most importantly, I’d like my kitchen to have a big bay window with views of the trees, and enough room for some plants on the windowsill.

View from my preferred house site

View looking North and West from my preferred house site

Something important to me is where our bedroom is positioned. I want it to be warm in the morning, and cool in the evening. That means it’ll need to be on the east side of the house. I’ve had bedrooms that get afternoon sun and I hate it. I love a good afternoon nap, and if you wake up hot and sweaty it makes the whole thing less enjoyable. I also wake up early in the morning anyway, so morning sun (especially in winter) is nice.

In the bathroom – if I can get away with it from a regulatory perspective – I’d like a modern composting toilet system. Something that involves less frequent work than our current system, but which still turns our waste into compost to support our native planting efforts. I think I actually prefer a composting toilet now that I’ve been using one for a while. The amount of water it saves is pretty incredible. In a region where drought is only predicted to get worse, I like that we’re not polluting such a scarce resource with our poop.

I want a wet-room too. I’ve seen them on farms all over the place and frankly, I could do with one now. Somewhere to take your gumboots off, with lino and a drainage system in the floor. A sink, some shelves. It would be the ideal place to tidy up whatever I’ve just bought inside from around the property.

I want room for guests and family. And an office filled with books and memories. Maybe they’re one and the same.

At the moment, I have ideas. Not about form, materials or finishes, but about how I want to use the house. How I will live in it. I guess, as far as places to start, that’s not too bad. Hopefully I’ll be able to find someone who can help me take all these ideas and turn them into something I can live in.