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Home Stories: Sarah McDougall

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This week, Ashley and Cass explore one of Canberra’s cutest tiny homes alongside winemaker Sarah McDougall.

Ever since I started this series, I really wanted to do a story on someone that owns a tiny house. I got pretty close a few times, but one ended up just being an old caravan, another never got finished and the third was stolen a few days before the visit. Yep, there was definitely a tiny house curse.

However, that was all broken when winemaker Sarah McDougall reached out a few weeks ago and, like the Good Witch of the North, said “your wish is my command!”.

Actually by “Good Witch of the North” I mean a supremely lovely human being and by “wish” I mean she texted, inviting Cass and I over to check out her tiny house. Even though this was going to be a story about a tiny house, Cass and I were actually in for a grand adventure.

To begin with, there was a biblical downpour that weekend, so when we drove out toward Lake George we weren’t met with the usual dry plains, but instead a huge body of water that looked like an ocean.

Secondly, my expectation of the tiny house location was a small paddock containing a shed with a tractor. But what presented itself as we turned off The Vineyards road, was a grand farm set at the bottom of towering hills, with a restaurant, a homestead, a number of sheds and the tiny house right at the top of the view like a prized possession.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Cass as excited as when she read out “Lake George Winery!” from the entrance sign. Good thing I was the designated driver.

Sarah has done plenty of things in her life, from being a breakfast radio producer to a shopping centre marketing manager to working in construction and property, as well as public relations.

However, her love of wine, as well as her love of entertaining, was ever-present, waiting for the right moment to erupt. Cue her partner Anthony.

When Anthony walked into Sarah’s life 10 years ago, the spark was lit and within six months they were bidding on their first winery—Summerhill Road Vineyard. Fast forward seven years and a lot of work later, and the pair swapped to owning and rebranding Lake George Winery.

Two years later, Sarah was proudly presented with a plaque in New York City that reads ‘Owner Operator of the year, Australian Women in Wine Awards’. A few months after that, Sarah began drafting up a tiny house for fun, which of course ended up being a big project.

Her ideal tiny house had to have true home comforts but also had to be mobile, off the grid and sustainable. As any tiny house fans will tell you, the goal is not to be uncomfortable, but to use space so efficiently that it stands up to standard houses in functionality and it makes up for the rest in character and cosiness. So, Sarah approached a tiny house enthusiast and builder from Serene Tiny Homes and together they got clever.

Now a reality, Sarah’s tiny home seems much smaller on the outside than it is on the inside—mostly due to the modern, dark and clean external panels.

Within, the cute living space with a couch, shelves and rugs transforms in under a minute to a bedroom and dining or office space through the use of folding mechanisms.

There is a kitchen running down the side of the tiny house with a standard-sized fridge (you’d need that for all the wine, of course) plus a full bathroom with all its showering conveniences run from stand-alone tanks.

The space inside feels uncluttered and welcoming, not only in terms of the bright styling but also the through the airiness created by the high-angled ceiling.

However, the grandest aspect of the house is its view from the main window. There in front of us was the sweeping Lake George ocean (for now) framed like a piece of art by the window’s edges.

Being inside a tiny space yet looking out onto such vast views only magnified the contrast. Just then I understood why the tiny house was perched at the top of the farm and why tiny house enthusiasts love the element of surprise their dwellings provide to the unexpected visitor.

When we headed back down the farm to the restaurant, I learned that Sarah’s winery is small by most accounts, yet it produces not only a great amount of wine but plenty of national awards. The function centre is also moderate in size but then has an actual wine museum underneath in a dungeon-like cellar. The tiny house started as a fun project and now takes guests and their pooches regularly. Can you see the pattern here? Small starts, big finishes. Small expectations, big experiences. Promising less and delivering more.

I think I get the tiny house movement and I think I really get Sarah too. Oh, and after we left the cellar with two bottles of red, I also now get Cass’s initial excitement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving on in? ActewAGL is your home for moving home.

For energy plans big and small, connect with Canberra’s local energy experts.

Read all of Ashley’s Home Stories series here 

Photography: Cass Atkinson.

Home Stories is brought to you in partnership with ActewAGL.

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