Flat pack home offers fast, affordable housing

On a bush block at the back of Bald Hills is a newly constructed, flat pack home.

Flat no more, the freshly minted house soars in sympathy with its gum tree peers, looking right at home and settled in.

Called the House of cupboards by its designer/builder/owners, Sunny Wilder and Nick Coyle, they are delighted to be finally living in their long-held dream.

“We nicknamed it ‘The House of Cupboards’ because all the storage is integrated into the house,” architect Sunny Wilder said. 

“So much for being married to a carpenter! Nick built a house once before and it took seven years and I had no storage. I thought if I design a house where the cupboards are integral to the structure I’ll get storage straight away.”

The house is a prototype for what the couple hope will become the bread and butter work for their Pambula based business, The Timber Trip.

The Timber Trip has, until now, specialised in sourcing Australian timbers which Nick - a furniture craftsman of sublime talent - and his two apprentices, craft into bespoke furniture for the home, office and commercial markets. 

With Sunny’s design skill, that work extends into interior solutions for restaurants, bars, offices and homes, whether they be staircases, sliding doors, tables and seating, windows, cabinetry, storage, even board tables. 

Now, they have designs on being in the business of making and erecting affordable, flat pack homes and expansion into the Sydney and Canberra market place. 

“I’ve always wanted to do a low cost house,” Sunny Wilder said.

“There are so many houses that cost $500k plus and a lot of my friends and contemporaries can’t afford that. We couldn’t afford that.

“I also think there’s a social need for lovely, affordable housing. This has been ticking over in the back of my mind for a long time.

“We bought a block of land when we came here and we didn’t want to over capitalise and borrow a lot of money so we brought our skills together,” Sunny gestures around her.

“We used our architectural skills to build a flat pack. We put the frame and everything up in a week, including the roof.

It’s up and we’re living in it,” she beams.

Nick Coyle is no newcomer to house building but this time around, it was lightning fast compared to before.

“I’ve built a house before but it took seven years to complete. It took forever to actually build the cupboards,” he said.

Their version of the flat pack home in Bald Hills is two-bedroom, but larger homes can be designed and additional rooms added, depending on what a client needs.

The walls are rather special.

“The cupboards are one part of the flat pack, then there are the walls that are made of fridgeboard (sandwich panels), what they make cool rooms out of. It’s an insulated sandwich panel that’s bushfire rated,” Nick says.

Clients of The Timber Trip’s flat pack home work with them to tweak the design to their needs, and the client is also responsible for providing the foundation, either a concrete slab or raised timber floor (brick and pier). 

The roof is zincalume with the house clad in timber seconds which they will let fade to a natural silver.

“If someone orders one of these, they prep the floor and we come in and construct all the frame in a weekend then a builder comes in and puts the walls and ceiling on. They could do an owner builder, our scope of works is the cupboards and the roof.

Having made the final push to get their home ready, Nick says his focus now has to return to the business.

“I want to try and build that up a bit more. I would like to do about two or three of these (flat pack homes) a year and do more of the finer furniture,” he said.

The Timber Trip has been located in Toalla Street, Pambula for three years but the business has a much longer history, having been started by Nick over 20 years ago in Melbourne.

Nick and Sunny decided to move the business lock, stock and entire extraction system from Abbotsford in Melbourne to Pambula when the factory they were in was sold out from underneath them.

Having holidayed on the Far South Coast over many years, the couple were drawn to bringing up their young son Otis and daughter Lyla in an environment offering the childhood freedom of both bush and beach.

Watching the kids play around on the bush block around their new home, it’s clear the effort has paid off.  

However, Nick’s clients are still largely Melbourne-based.

“In terms of local work, it’s few and far between because when we got here we still had and have so much Melbourne demand,” Nick says.

The couple have an impressive client list including La Luna Restaurant in Carlton, Bar Lourinha and Gerald’s Bar (also in Melbourne), speciality wine and oyster bar Barlotta in South Melbourne, Casa Cuccio in Gertrude Street Fitzroy, OXFAM Australia’s staircase in their Melbourne headquarters, the solid jarrah boardroom table for the Melbourne School of Sport and Recreation, and the list goes on.

The Timber Trip also works with architects to design and create solutions for interiors.

“We have architects that we work for,” Nick says. “They do rough drawings, and ask us to resolve things.”

In February 2014, Sunny and Nick will have been in Pambula for three years. They are in the process of making the front section of their Toalla Street factory into more of a showroom, a setting fit for the furniture staples that Nick lovingly crafts every week.

If you are thinking about building a home locally or are in the market for some outstanding Australian hardwood, handmade furniture, venture into The Timber Trip at 7 Toalla Street, Pambula. Or call them on 6495 6008, 0419 111 250, www.timbertrip .com.au

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