Small Living

Small Living with Catherine Foster

Catherine Foster is a renowned freelance writer in the world of small scale design and architecture and has long time been a source of inspiration for Never Too Small. Having written five books dedicated to small living, it’s safe to say Catherine knows a thing or twenty about creating, designing and living in a small-scale abode as well as a few tricks to being comfortable without relinquishing precious space. 

Photo: Catherine Foster

Catherine Foster and her beautiful books showcasing smaller format design-led homes have been on our radar and in our hands ever since she published her first book Small House Living back in 2015. Buying, consuming and mining her books for inspiration, Catherine’s research of pre-validated architects doing exciting things in the world of sustainable homes has been invaluable to us here at Never Too Small. 

Catherine’s expertise in the field of sustainable small scale architecture knows no bounds and is sought out by many. While being an author of five books herself, Catherine regularly contributes to leading New Zealand home magazines including ‘Your Home & Garden’, ‘HOME New Zealand’ and ‘NZ House & Garden’, offering invaluable insights into the small living lifestyle and how to make it work for you.  

Over the years I have become more and more interested in sustainable, small project architecture.”

Living in her own tiny home, Catherine can “cook and clean up after a meal without moving [her] feet from in front of the sink”, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Built in the mid-60s in a faux post-war brutalist style, the studio flat is attached to a larger house that Catherine upgraded by adding insulation and heating which “makes it so comfortable despite its size”. The 28sqm studio comprises of a bedroom, bathroom, living room/sunroom and “a super small but perfectly formed kitchen”.

When it comes to combining efficiency with comfort, Catherine recommends training yourself to “PUT EVERYTHING AWAY” when you’ve finished using it and to utilise every corner, including the often under-utilised locations about doorways and windows. These places are perfect for displaying collections, storing books and other cherished miscellaneous objects. 

Efficiency and comfort meet when adequate storage is provided”, is her philosophy.

Proclaiming that the constraints of a tight budget and a small site bring out the best in a designer, Catherine encourages us to recall the innovative solution to Japan’s post-WWII housing problems with the construction of small scale housing based on the dimensions of the tatami mat. WireDog Architecture’s Nine Tsubo House as featured in Small House Living NZ is a good example of how this translates into “elegant and very clever small scale contemporary architecture”.

Inspired by homes that make the best of a tiny footprint in a good location, Catherine’s favourite places she’s come across include NTS’s Karoot by Nicolas and Lauren Russo, the “pretty nifty” Madras Street Townhouses as featured in Big Ideas for Small Houses as well as The Foster House, set in the rolling farmland of South Gippsland. All homes that emphasise the important elements of light, privacy and flow, which when combined, create a warm and inviting space. 

Catherine’s books are easily found online and in any bookstore near you.

We hope you love them just as much as we do!