I met Olivier about a year ago through the MoesPot Steyls (Potager/Moestuin) urban garden. He is one of the founders of this beautiful place where people can plant their own vegetables and fruits. Olivier is an engineer, but in 2017 he decided to change his career. He studied to become a sexologist and in 2019 he founded the Love Health Center, an NGO dedicated to health education and sexual fulfillment at any age.
When I first met him, he told me about his project of building a tiny house. I was intrigued. A year and a half later, there I was in his tiny, cozy house, built with his very own hands. I wanted to know all about it, so here is an interview about this little wonder- a tiny house.
Olivier, how did this idea come about?
After changing my career, I wanted to choose a life style that goes hand in hand with my work. I believe that the place where you live influences your way of being. I wanted a home that leaves space for the human spirit and not for things, and a place that corresponds with nature.
I lived in studios, apartments, houses. I tried it all and I really think that the minimalist style is what suits me most.
The idea came to me in March 2020 and it took exactly two years for my dream to come true.
Can you tell me more about the construction details of your house?
The interior of the house is 8.2 x 2.24 m. It weights 3,440 kg. It is insulated with Gramitherm grass and sheep’s wool. Gramitherm grass is a Swiss technology based on natural “waste” grass and it’s healthy and 100% eco-friendly. The sheep’s wool improves indoor air quality, controls humidity levels and it gives the house a cozy appeal.
The floor is insulated with cork and covered with cork parquet which has the advantage of being fairly light and again eco-friendly. Cork offers great thermal insulation and feels nice when you’re walking barefooted.
The house has two upstairs bedrooms and on the ceiling you can see the wool isolation.
What was the hardest thing about establishing this goal?
From my point of view, the hardest thing about building a tiny house is keeping it light and under 3500 kg. It was very stressful for me and I really though I couldn’t achieve it, but finally with a few compromises, I managed.
Were there any problems getting the permission to build the tiny house? I heard in Brussels it’s illegal. Is there any progress on this end? Was it difficult choosing the location?
I chose a location 30 minutes away from Brussels. It is still very hard to get permission for tiny houses and authorities need to work on this issue. It’s really frustrating to see that these environmentally friendly housing solutions are still causing problems for authorities. I really hope these matters will be addressed as soon as possible to encourage this type of living style.
How do you get your electricity and heating?
I equipped my tiny house with two systems: electric and diesel (Autoterm). I was interested in a pellet stove, but I would have surpassed the allowed amount of weight and space. I also didn’t choose it for safety reasons for my children.
This is the diesel container placed outside the tiny house
How do you get your water?
The owner of the land allows me to use the water source here.
What toilet system do you have?
I have an indoor and outdoor compost sawdust toilet. It is extremely efficient and doesn’t smell at all. I can’t believe how much water I was wasting before.
The bucket below is dumped into a compost each day.
What do your children think of it? Your partner?
My children participated throughout the entire process, from concept, to design, to building. It is also their project so they are very proud of it. They learned a lot about project management, tools, trusting themselves and the building process of a home. They talk about it at school and show off their lifestyle to their friends.
My partner’s only worry was the smell of food on her clothes. But we had no issue with that whatsoever. If necessary, I take my oven outside and cook there. Otherwise, she enjoys it very much. We both crave a minimalistic lifestyle, so this worked out perfectly for us.
The gas stove is very practical and can be easily rolled outside
How much did it cost to make?
It cost roughly around 50,000 Euros without the work that I manually put into it. I honestly don’t think about the costs. I think more about putting passion into a project rather than money. So, the money issue is irrelevant to me at this point.
These were the main questions I had for Olivier regarding his house. But you really have to be there to understand the concept. The house is submerged in nature. It engulfs it. The house is not the center piece. Nature is.
The moment that I got out of the car, all I could hear were birds chirping. Apparently, they are his alarm clock every morning. When he wakes up, he directly sees the sky above his head and the green forest across. He immediately feels centered.
Next to his house, he has a vegetable garden that he set up with his children and a couple of fruit trees. On his shower window, an apple tree knocks at his window. I could just picture him picking an apple and eating it while taking a shower 🙂 .
Before I left, I picked a bag of stinging nettle. You could see how fresh and tender it was. It was a small souvenir to take home and remind myself of how nature nurtures our body and spirit. After visiting this little wonder, I now understand more than ever the expression: Less is more.