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Singaporean Designs Her Own Tiny House In New Zealand, Complete With An Outdoor Dining Dome

28 April 2023 | BY

We spoke to a Singaporean living in New Zealand about her experience building and designing her very own tiny home.

Singaporean Designs Her Own Tiny House In New Zealand, Complete With An Outdoor Dining Dome

Tiny homes have been all the rage as of late – while most of us living in Singapore may already feel like we’ve been living the trend, overseas, tiny homes are seen as a more sustainable way to live. 

They require fewer materials to build, consequently require less maintenance, and can be easily equipped with environmentally conscious features such as solar panelling which allow the home to run on clean energy. We spoke to a Singaporean living in New Zealand about her experience building and designing her very own tiny house. Here’s what she had to say:

Built her tiny house as an addition to the main house

new zealand - landThe plot of land Priscilla purchased to build her home.
Image credit: Priscilla Tan

Interior stylist Priscilla Tan (@styledbypt) moved to Wellington, New Zealand with her husband after 10 years of marriage. Wanting to start a new adventure together, the couple saw their chance when they came across an available land section in 2020. There, they decided to build their dream homes: a 124sqm, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house; and a tiny house with an outdoor dining deck.

newzealand- in progress vs after shotThe in-progress and after shot of her main home.
Image credit: Priscilla Tan

Complete with a gable roof ceiling and a calming view of the sea and trees, the home is a haven where Priscilla spends most of her time hanging out. 

newzealand- kitchenAnother view of the home’s dining and kitchen area.
Image credit: Priscilla Tan

There’s even a garden, where the couple grows fresh veggies and flowers. Priscilla shared that it’s “super therapeutic” to harvest fresh produce from the garden, and that the garden is “such a dream” for her.

The transformation of her garden patio.

Building her own home from the ground up meant that every square inch of the space could be customised to her liking; the bathrooms, for one, come with solar-powered skylights that close automatically when it rains. They also have underfloor heating, and marble which she handpicked.

newzealand- living roomImage credit: @styledbypt

Focusing on the “small details” was especially important to her. Installing USB ports all around the home, in typically forgotten spaces like the bathroom and near workspaces made all the difference in terms of convenience. Collecting art from local artists in New Zealand also helped to add character to the home, tempering the functionality with aesthetics.

Tiny house inspired by Parisian design style


On how the tiny house came to be, Priscilla shared that when the couple first purchased the plot of land, they “did not even know” the site of their future tiny house existed. On a walk, they discovered the spot – close to the main house, but still enough of a distance away such that there would still be privacy if they had guests over. 

newzealand- parisianImage credit: Priscilla Tan

The 24sqm tiny house was built along with a huge deck and a greenhouse. The home houses what Priscilla described as “two zones”: one lounge and one bedroom with a work desk and wardrobe, as well as a kitchen, and bathroom with a shower. As the tiny house has no connection to main city pipes, it runs on a septic tank. 

newzealand- parisianImage credit: Priscilla Tan

The home was inspired by Parisian design style, elements of which are visible throughout the space. The scalloped black-and-white awning for instance, which also doubles as a rain shelter, is reminiscent of what one might find at a Parisian cafe. In the kitchen, she also had a bifold window installed that opens up to the native trees outside.

newzealand- bathroomAt 5sqm, her bathroom is tiny, but beautiful and functional.
Image credit: Priscilla Tan

Aside from the Parisian inspiration, Priscilla also made it a point to incorporate elements of the home’s natural surroundings into its design. The botanical-patterned tiles in the bathroom was one of the ways in which she brought the outdoors indoors.

Complete with an outdoor glass dining dome

newzealand- outdoor glassImage credit: Priscilla Tan

What’s perhaps the most unique element of the tiny house is the outdoor glass dining dome. Built as a greenhouse, the dome was constructed for dining under the stars, as well as to hold more guests which the tiny house would otherwise be unable to accommodate. 

newzealand- beforeafterBefore and after.
Image credit: Priscilla Tan

The greenhouse dome is large enough to fit a round marble dining table which the main house has no room for; when the space isn’t used for meals, it also acts as a workspace, studio and greenhouse where Priscilla’s seeds germinate before planting. While it serves many functions, it’s also “super charming”, at night, the string lights strewn on the exterior illuminate the structure.

Though the dome might look fragile, Priscilla assured us that it’s anything but – the dome is drilled into the wood deck for stability, and its doors lock, for security. 

Advice for prospective homeowners

newzealand- outsideImage credit: Priscilla Tan

In retrospect, Priscilla shared that choosing to build a home while still new to New Zealand was the worst decision she made. Nothing could have prepared her for all the difficulties she would face, the worst of which was never-ending delays and escalating costs due to Covid and untrustworthy contractors. 

These factors were exacerbated by natural disasters such as landslides caused by heavy rain. Dealing with the unpredictable nature of such events while trying to manage rising costs was “super stressful”, as she struggled to remain on schedule. Being new to New Zealand meant that she did not have many contacts, and had to rely on word of mouth to engage help. 

In spite of these challenges, however, Priscilla mentioned that the best decision she made was to commit to sticking it out regardless of whatever came her way.

For Singaporean homeowners looking to style their small spaces, Priscilla shares that the best approach is to go for multi-functional furniture. In her home, her storage bed holds luggage and cleaning supplies, while her sofa opens up to a double bed. Most importantly, homeowners should make sure that their “personality must still shine” through staying true to their unique styles.

Singaporean designs her own tiny house in New Zealand 

Though Priscilla’s experience is vastly different from most of us living in Singapore, it’s clear that there are still many lessons to be learnt. For prospective homeowners looking to do the same, Priscilla’s advice is to just “go for it!”. She tempers this enthusiasm with a warning, to “be prepared that it can be the worst relationship” of your life. 

The homebuilding experience comes with plenty of “heartache, joy, pain, sorrow, disappointment and anger all in one”. If all that emotion isn’t enough, there are also plenty of conflicts that tend to arise when undertaking such a massive renovation. In spite of this, if you go into it with a “no quitting mindset”, the result when you come out the other side will be worth it.

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Cover image adapted from: Priscilla Tan

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