Big plans afoot in West Cork musician’s tiny home

With unaffordable rents and skyrocketing housing prices, the current housing crisis in Ireland is leaning heavily on Ireland’s young people, many of whom are struggling financially and have lost hope of ever getting on the property ladder. Facing such a predicament four years ago, unable to afford buying her own home, Cork musician Áine Duffy, 41, decided to take matters into her own hands, building her own tiny home for the grand sum of €12,550. Perched at the side of her parent’s driveway in Bandon surrounded by lush green vegetation, this tiny and beautiful one-room home, which has settled snugly into the landscape, is where Áine –  a musician, singer, songwriter and performer – lives and works. A force of nature shortly about to release a new single, present a new radio show and build a mobile music unit to take on the road, Áine takes some time out of her busy schedule to show Mary O’Brien around a home that she says is just the right size for work, rest and play.

Passionate about creating a platform for Irish artists, Áine is busy in her little house which doubles as her work studio, getting ready to present her new radio show ‘Blás’ due to launch on ‘Over the West’ online radio station from June 7. According to Áine, the show (airing on the first Friday of every month at 8pm) “will be a a beautiful mix of curated Irish-based artists including the likes of King Kong Company, R.S.A.G., Strangers with Guns, Junior Brother, The Pale, Marc O’Reilly, Roisin Murphy, Bleeding Heart Pigeons, Dynasty, Post Punk Podge and The Technohippies, Katie Kim, Talos and many more.”

The following week, on June 14, she releases her first single ‘Tits Up’ from her album ‘Keep her Lit’.

She has also just launched a GoFundMe campaign to professionally convert a van into a multifunctional mobile music unit, which will provide accommodation, cooking and toilet facilities to keep the costs of a touring musician to a minimum. The vehicle will have an inbuilt stage, as successfully trialled with her prototype ‘Duffbox’ during the pandemic. She’s hoping that any communities or venues who would like to host the Duffbox for performances will reach out to her.

“It’s a very tough scene for Irish artists, a  hard graft,” says Áine. “Would you believe that I have received more airtime in Argentina than on Irish radio,” she adds. “I don’t think my friends and family realised how hard we musicians have to work to make a living until I moved into my tiny home here and they could see it firsthand,” she says.

In 2019, forced to move out of her rented accommodation in Kinsale, Áine spent some time couchsurfing at the homes of friends before deciding to take the bull by the horns and build her own home. Single and with a small amount of savings, she was determined to prove that with a little creativity and some elbow grease – small, sustainable and affordable could be achieved. When a tree fell on her parent’s drive, she asked if she could put a small moveable home in its place. “Thankfully they agreed and I took a small loan out of my local credit union,” she says.

“I’ve always been fiercely independent, a trait nurtured by my amazing parents,” she says “and my hobby has always been building and making things, so this project didn’t daunt me at all. I also really wanted to prove that it could be done on a small budget.”

After picking up some window seconds from Munster Joinery, Áine drew up the plans for her one-room home on her iPad, working around the measurements of the windows. She constructed the timber frame with fibreglass roof, measuring 11ft high and 16ft by 10ft wide, at a friend’s workshop, before mounting it on a steel base.

The foundation was dug out with the help of family and friends and the shell of the house was dropped onto concrete blocks, ready for finishing.

Áine cladded the outside of the house with timber (which she charred to preserve it) and corrugated iron sheets, before insulating and wrapping it in an airtight membrane, then double slabbing it and plastering the walls with help from her dad, a professional plasterer.

While she got an electrician in to connect it up, Áine wired the house and put in underfloor heating herself. A small Swedish air heater provides extra heat when needed, which is rarely, as Áine explains laughing, that it just takes boiling the kettle most days to heat up the space. “I feel guilty sometimes when my friends are telling me about their huge electricity bills,” she says.

“I got lucky with the water,” she says “there was a garden hose nearby, so I was able to connect the water from that. I don’t love plumbing but I’ll do it,” she laughs.

She fitted a small compost toilet.

Eventually she hopes to create a system to harvest rainwater that can be piped into the house.

Atop the house, the green roof has been created using a series of layers that Áine put together herself after finding out the cost of buying one ready-made. “It would have cost me €8,000 to buy a green roof, so I looked up what I needed, got some hessian bags from a friend who’s a coffee roaster in exchange for moving his old washing machine with my van, and my lovely mother, wielding a bucket tied to a rope, helped me drag the soil up onto the roof,” she says. “It’s a mix of hessian, soil, stone and old wool blankets.” Planted up with grass and clover seed and wild plants, the roof serves as the perfect outdoor recreation space, even hosting one of Áine’s gigs for TG4.

Inside, the white-walled cosy home is flooded with light and decorated with plants and a small number of personal effects. There’s room for comfortable seating, a loft-style bed, wardrobe created using a broom handle, fitted kitchen with small hob and fridge and shelves of spices, Japanese tub and sink, as well as Áine’s selection of guitars. She regularly has friends over to hang out or watch a movie. 

“I can fit everything in and I’m losing less,” she says. “And being able to watch the moon travel all the way around the house and feel surrounded by nature while indoors is really special.”

Outside, she has planted herbs, willow and hazelnut trees and raspberries right by the window. She’s in the process of constructing a fence out of branches to double as screening and a nesting place for birds.

“My dad isn’t well so it also means a lot that I can be close by to my parents without having to move in with them,” she says.

The space has if anything exceeded Áine’s expectations of tiny home living. “I think it would be easy for a couple to live in a space like this,” she says. “Well if you love and fancy each other,” she adds laughing.

Recently featured on ‘The Great Inspo Home Adventure With James Kavanagh’, Áine says she is happy to share her house plans, and in fact has already offered them for government use.

“I can’t see why anyone would want or need to spend hundreds of thousands of euro on building a house when you can do something like this. It’s small and sustainable without the stress of a mortgage, didn’t take long to build or cost much, can move with you wherever you go and is a very comfortable home.”

Follow Áine on Instagram @aineduffymusic. Email

Mary O'Brien

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