BETTINA RALPH - TINY HOUSES DAYLESFORD
I grew up in Montreal and met my husband Steve, who is from Melbourne, in Canada. We came back to Australia and when we were looking to buy a block of land we settled on Daylesford for its proximity to trees and water, much like my homeland. We spent every weekend at the block decided to move here permanently before our children reached high school age, fourteen years ago.
Steve is a carpenter and I have worked in the travel industry and event management. With more and more people booking their own trips online, there wasn’t really a need for more than one travel agent in Daylesford. Special Touch was created to fill a gap in the market – joining wider services with local venues and specialising in outdoor, off-site weddings and community events. The thing about living in the country is that you have to be adaptable. Most people here have more than one job. Steve is also a volunteer for the CFA.
A couple of years ago Steve decided to build a small caravan. After this we started building our first tiny house and ran a workshop so anyone interested could learn how to do it.
We call the tiny houses Mortgage Breakers because they can break the mortgage cycle. They appeal to people who simply can’t afford today’s property prices, as well as those interested in a sustainable lifestyle. A tiny house forces you to reconsider your belongings; we don’t actually need most of the stuff we own, we just need to be make more efficient use of less. Less Is More. This is not a new concept; in the past, most people lived in much smaller dwellings, especially here, which was once full of miner’s cottages. People who live in tiny houses are able to spend more time outdoors and doing things they like and less time trying to pay off a mortgage.
There are a few challenges involved with this business; people will take a while to commit to a house. Our local and state planning departments need to catch up with what’s happening and make it easier for this evolution of new home owners.
We currently have four different models, three named after clients; the Katie (built on a 6.4 metre trailer) the Holly (blue corrugated iron) and the Olivia (named after a client’s daughter). The Alexandra is named after our own daughter. We can build a tiny house in eight weeks, not including the interior finish. Customers can choose one of these dwellings from our website or have something custom-made. Eventually I would love a tiny house for a studio, but without a loft, as I have dodgy knees!
Looking ahead, we are passionate about tackling the problem of homelessness both locally and nationwide. Even though we are a commercial venture, we know our buildings are an ideal way to address a segment of the problem. Our template includes teaching homeless people to build their own Tiny House, giving them a skill, a safe and dignified place to live, self-esteem and dignity.
Favourite haunts: there so many great options for socialising; from pubs to fine dining, and places to get pampered, as well as places to walk. We are very lucky to have two lakes to wander around. I have experienced most of the pleasures the town has to offer.
If you’re thinking of moving to the region, perhaps rent for a while first. It’s a very beautiful area and the community is diverse and welcoming.