In January 2021, Hannah and Dave Bullivant posted a flyer in every letterbox along their village’s main street. The note asked residents of Oare, East Kent, if they could move their cars on a particular day to make way for a large load that would travel through the village to a field behind their friends’ house.
“There were two or three incredibly tight corners with very, very old buildings on either side,” says Dave. “We knew it was going to be tight.” Moments after the flyer lands, Dave’s cell phone starts ringing. “He caused such a fuss,” he recalls. “People were coming out on the doorstep to express their concerns. It took all my appeasement skills to calm everyone down and explain that everything will be fine. “
For Dave, Hannah and their children, Frankie, 10, and Auden, five, this was just the beginning of their downsizing journey: a two-year plan that would see them abandon their long-term rental, buy a second-hand mobile home. hand, turn it into a “luxury lodge” and, finally, save for a down payment on their first home together.
In 2020, the family received six months’ notice to rent – a three-bedroom house in nearby Faversham. “At the time, we couldn’t find anything else suitable,” says interior designer Hannah. They were talking about their situation with friends who live nearby on the edge of the Oare Nature Reserve. “We camped a lot in their camp during the summers,” says Hannah, “and we were joking when we asked if we could have an extended camp in their camp to save some money and think about our plans …”
As the conversation deepened, both families realized they could make this a formal and mutually beneficial arrangement. Hannah and Dave would buy and renovate a static trailer and live rent-free on their friends’ land, during which they hope to save for a mortgage deposit. At the end of the two years, the Bullivants would move in and the lodge would become an accommodation for guests visiting friends and family.
For both families it was important that the friendship remained intact, so they drafted a contract stating that the Bullivants would move in in 2023 and that the £ 20,000 budget would be split equally between the two families.
Their first purchase was the trailer, which came from a rescue yard in Sandwich. “It was £ 150 including delivery,” says Hannah. “Basically, he was a piece of shit. Our mission was not to make it look like a static caravan ”.
At the end of January 2021 it was brought into position with a winch 100 meters from the main house; Dave, a commercial music video director, had until May to make it habitable. He would do most of the work on his own, learning on the job, with input from his friend (the owner of the field), who comes from a family of builders. “We benefited a lot from learning about him and his power tools,” says Dave.
What started out as a cosmetic repair job turned into a full-scale renovation when they discovered a leak in the bathroom that had damaged much of the floor (“it was mushy, just like Weetabix”) and some interior walls. They decided to gut the interior, which led to the decision to add a bathroom extension. This has created space for two bedrooms, a freestanding bathroom, a utility room and a “luxury composting toilet”, as well as a living, dining and kitchen area.
While Dave got into the physical work of the remodel, Hannah was sourcing the materials. “Once word got out that we were doing this project on a tight budget, friends and acquaintances got in touch to offer us something,” remembers Hannah. The kitchen carcasses, double glazing and waste wood were donated. Other stuff was bought locally via Facebook Marketplace.
At the same time, Hannah was responsible for the drastic downsizing of their rental home. “We had to get rid of half of our assets, so we came up with a classification system,” she recalls. “It was pretty brutal. If an item didn’t have a rating of 10, we had to get rid of it. “Hannah, who also teaches online decluttering and home-styling courses, enjoyed this task.” There were a few things I was sorry to part with, but I couldn’t tell you what they are now. “What hasn’t been sold has been donated to a local sharing community or left in boxes outside your front door to allow passers-by to rummage and go home.” It’s very liberating not to have a lot of things. ” , says Hannah. “Plus, we can clean and tidy the whole place in about an hour – that’s what I like.”
Most of their furniture has been sold, apart from a few precious pieces: a poster from the Rambert Ballet, a small chest of drawers and a couple of vintage lamps that have been temporarily stored in Dave’s sister’s loft. “We brought very little with us: just a few small works of art, a bench, a ladder and the children’s bunk beds,” says Hannah.
Canny storage features all over the place. In Hannah and Dave’s room, the bed was raised to make room for deep storage. These were hidden behind a repurposed linen table runner. Raising the bed had the added benefit of bringing them closer to the view of the Oare marshes: “The sun rises right behind those oaks,” says Hannah.
In the children’s room, the space has been cleverly divided in two, with each child choosing their favorite color for their bunk space. Built-in shelving, cork boards, hooks, and a plush hammock allow them to hold on to just enough of whatever they find, and moss green curtains enclose each bunk, giving them alone time when they need it.
The bright space of the living room, dining room and kitchen is in soft pastel shades that connect with the colors of the exterior. Again, Hannah was clever with storage space by raising the corner sofa legs to create space for toy boxes to slide in and out. There are also small concessions to luxury throughout: an engineered oak floor; William Morris wallpaper in the toilet, a dingy wood stove and a boiling water tap.
“There’s enough separation and space between us, so we never feel like we’re living on top of each other,” says Hannah. “But we are able to live in a fairly common way: we grow vegetables and gardens together, we eat together a couple of times a week at their home or in the field. The kids go to school together, so we share childcare and school elevators. In the summer there are many kids running around in the field overlooking the sea and the swamp. It is truly idyllic ”.
On the outside, the fragile outer shell has been heavily insulated and lined with wood so that it no longer shakes when the wind blows through the exposed estuary. The wood is gradually becoming silver and disappearing into the surrounding landscape. “We feel very blessed to live here,” says Hannah, who is looking forward to a summer of play dates under wide, rosy skies.