Why a creative Central Otago couple traded their first house for a yurt

Why a creative Central Otago couple traded their first house for a yurt

Australian film photographer Emily Menzies and her husband Heath Nayler have been living in this yurt in central Otago for more than a year with their two dogs Alphie and Shade. The ink was barely dried on the outdoor home couple’s first home purchase when Menzies found their dream 5 acre plot of land. The only catch? They had no money left to build. Compared to Mikaela Wilkes.

EMILY MENZIES: Heath and I met in Canada. We decided to do a ski season in New Zealand and he originally wanted to go to Queenstown, which was the only place in New Zealand I had already been. We decided instead to Wānaka with the intention of staying for the winter. Eight years later we got married, we got two dogs, bought 5 acres of land, and now we have a yurt.

We met our best friends on our first day in Wānaka, a British couple.

It’s beautiful here. We love the city and have met amazing people. We are both lucky to have jobs we love and there is so much to do. I love hiking and kayaking. I work for myself, so if it’s a good day, I head out to the lake for an hour to kayak.

We bought our first house in Luggate, outside of Wānaka in 2017. When we started looking, prices rose sharply and they have not stopped. We started looking at places 20-30K over budget and in a month they were more than 100K over. We managed to buy a house, but have always wanted land.

I have a bit of an addiction to real estate. I was on the radar of a couple of local agents, so I got sent this section before it went on the public market. We got the 5 acres at a phenomenal price – $ 300,000 two years ago. The sections were sold by a wealthy local business owner who wanted to get rid of them.

We could not afford to build right away, so we looked at options for less temporary housing setup.

I wanted to build a house bus, but Heath was totally against it, small houses and caravans. He likes space around him. I showed him the yurt, and after six months of conviction, we bought it.

Menzies brought his grandparents' bar-carriage globe and furniture with him from Perth, Australia.

Fiona Tomlinson / Included

Menzies brought his grandparents’ bar-carriage globe and furniture with him from Perth, Australia.

We bought ours from Colorado because the largest models sold locally are a maximum of 36 sqm. A yurt is a glorified tent, that’s how we explain it to people. But it serves as a one-bedroom apartment.

We both like open, airy spaces. We have two four meter wide windows from floor to ceiling. The front and rear doors open out, as does the clear dome at the top.

People always ask if we get sick of each other. Not really. We respect each other’s spaces and we’ve spent a lot of time living close to each other. We have lived in hostel rooms together for six months at a time, and we worked for six months in the Hollyford Valley as lodgers when we first moved here.

The section next door is owned by an Aucklander and he gave us permission to roam his 100 acres. We cycle and walk the dogs. We have room for that.

We have divided the yurt into bedroom, living room and dining area. The bathroom shed is outside and we have a storage container and garden shed for all our camping equipment, tools and linen.

We have a shower, plug for kettle and television and a barbecue.

It was pretty cool in August last year, I’m not going to lie. But we’ve got a wood stove and now it’s toasty like.

I feel really relaxed here. You’re sitting under the rafters. We can see the stars through the dome. It took some time to get used to in the summer. If everything is closed, it will definitely bake. If we omit butter, it becomes a pool. We remove all plastic coverings and leave the back door open for several months.

The most annoying thing is not being able to open the windows from the inside, especially when it is raining.

We are starting our construction this month. I’ve always wanted a small house, and Heath is your typical kiwi who wants a four-bedroom, two-bathroom quarter-acre. Since we have been in the yurt, he has made a 180. What we have designed is an 86 sqm two-bedroom, with room for a sleepout if we change our mind.

Menzies stands in his

Fiona Tomlinson / Included

Menzies stands in its “temporary” vegetable garden, which has grown rapidly.

The couple are big on the ground-to-table and pickle the leftovers from their summer garden to fill their meals all winter long.

Fiona Tomlinson / Stuff

The couple are big on the ground-to-table and pickle the leftovers from their summer garden to fill their meals all winter long.

The temporary garden was supposed to be three vegetable beds, but is now eight. We’ll get a chicken house fixed eventually, and I’m learning to hunt.

Everything tastes better once you have grown it yourself. I have no interest in contributing to factory-like farming and would much rather eat meat, as I know exactly where it comes from.

The Globusbar cart belonged to Menzies' grandparents.  It's not an antique, but the sentimental value to her is enormous.

Fiona Tomlinson / Included

The Globusbar cart belonged to Menzies’ grandparents. It’s not an antique, but the sentimental value to her is enormous.

The Globusbar carriage is very much a conversation piece, it was my grandmother’s. She died a few years ago. My little sister, who does not drink, tried to claim it, but I had started asking for it when I was about 5 years old.

Menzies' grandfather's collection of ticket pieces.

Fiona Tomlinson / Included

Menzies’ grandfather’s collection of ticket pieces.

Menzies has kept every single ticket she has had since childhood.

Fiona Tomlinson / Included

Menzies has kept every single ticket she has had since childhood.

I also have cans from my grandfather.

I have been collecting ticket scraps since I was a child, starting with admission Titanic in 97 from Hoyts Biograf. I keep souvenirs from where I have traveled, shows I have also been, trains and planes I have taken – all that. My dad discovered a can full of all these old tickets, and we realized that my grandfather had a similar collection.

The Alchemist is one of Menzies' favorite books.

Fiona Tomlinson / Included

The Alchemist is one of Menzies’ favorite books.

Menzies is the founder of a local book club, and her collection has grown significantly since she has lived in NZ.

Fiona Tomlinson / Included

Menzies is the founder of a local book club, and her collection has grown significantly since she has lived in NZ.

I have always been a great reader. I am one of the founding members of the local book club. We meet once a month and talk about what we read, it’s untraditional.

All my stuff was still over in Australia when we bought our house in Luggate. It had been in stock for five years. I was ruthless. I ended up bringing over 3 cubic feet of stuff, including globe and chair, which were also my grandparents’. I got all my books down to a few boxes, but I’m unable to leave a bookstore without one.

Dogs Alphie and Shade are six year old huntaway husky crosses.

Fiona Tomlinson / Included

Dogs Alphie and Shade are six year old huntaway husky crosses. “They were a bit of an accident on a farm between the working dog and the family pet,” Menzies said.

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