Yardstix Delivers Modern, Compact "Backyard Architecture" Made From Cross-Laminated Timber

Tiny home entrance with covered porch
Michael Wee

This company creates modern, energy-efficient versions of the backyard 'granny flat'.

The tiny house movement isn't just about building your own small dwelling and living alone out in the woods; it is also about finding ways to make under-utilized urban spaces like back yards and laneways useful and habitable. Not only might it help some people achieve more financial freedom -- perhaps by renting out the main house while one lives in a smaller house out back -- it could also mean intergenerational living arrangements where granny is living close by in a so-called "granny flat," rather than in a seniors' home.

But these granny flats don't have to be pokey little sheds, as Australian architect Nicholas Gurney shows with the Yardstix. Started up as a collaboration with builder Alex Ogjnenovski, the company builds modern structures in three different sizes (20, 40 or 60 square metres), built with strong, locally sourced, sustainable cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels, and manufactured with precision using computer numerical control (CNC) techniques. Here's a quick tour of one Yardstix via Never Too Small:

Exterior of tiny home tucked in the corner of a backyard
Michael Wee

Seen here is the 20-square-metre (215-square-feet) studio model, which includes a multifunctional living/sitting/sleeping area, kitchen, storage, bathroom, and a sheltered outdoor porch of 5 square metres (53 square feet). Elements of these 'self-contained' living spaces (such as window placement) can be modified according to the site, in order to optimize natural cross-ventilation, and therefore reduce the need for air conditioning. Says Gurney:

A Yardstix house is designed with Passivhaus principles; low-energy buildings that require little-to-no energy for space heating or cooling. CLT is a very sustainable construction material. Timber is renewable, fast growing and stores carbon to help save our planet. We chose CLT due to its speed of construction and because it out performs conventional framed construction in air tightness, thermal insulation, internal moisture management, acoustic insulation and fire resistance.

A lot of thought has gone into making the space feel less cluttered visually and spatially: for instance, the cabinets use unobtrusive cut-outs as handles, rather than conventional pulls. The energy-efficient LED lighting has been recessed. The kitchen is full of space-saving ideas, like the compact sink that can turn into extra prep space; the peg board cabinets that would allow for the hanging of utensils.

Kitchen area with a sink, stove, and cupboards
Michael Wee 
Sink with a cutting board cover
Michael Wee
Sink with open storage cupboard above
Michael Wee
Pegboard kitchen cabinets
Michael Wee
Shelves and storage next to an open door
Michael Wee 
Hidden storage under a removable countertop
Michael Wee

The seating alcove has storage built in underneath, and it looks like it could potentially double as a guest bed. Above, the sloped ceiling means that is more storage space above.

Seating alcove with a small round table
Michael Wee

Here's the bathroom, which has been tiled in pale colours to help reflect light around the interior.

Bathroom with sink, toilet, and shower
Michael Wee

The sleeping area here also looks quite generous, and could likely be converted into another use if a fold-up bed unit were installed.

Sleeping area with bed and ceiling fan
Michael Wee
Shelf next to the bed
Michael Wee

Yardstix units are designed to be modular -- meaning that extra modules can be added if one needs an enclosed bedroom or extra living space to be added on. They can be installed almost anywhere using a crane, and outfitted with off-grid options like solar power and rainwater catchment off the roof. In addition, Yardstix can be erected in the space of about two weeks, rather than a few months, saving clients time and money.