A New Zealand couple spent $14,000 creating a submarine-themed tiny home out of an old grain silo, hot tub, and spare parts

Insider
Insider
Feb 27 · 5 min read

Keith and Jen Lovelock built their two-story Yellow Submarine tiny home using spare parts from around their farm.

The previous silo (left), the finished tiny home (right), and the couple in the bottom right corner.
Keith and Jen Lovelock built a two-story tiny home shaped like a yellow submarine using spare parts from around their farm. Photo: Courtesy Keith Lovelock

By Melissa Wiley

A New Zealand couple has built a two-story tiny home shaped like a yellow submarine.

Measuring 33 feet long and 16 feet high, the tiny home is made entirely from upcycled materials.

The idea to build the unusual tiny home came to Keith Lovelock, a retired radio technician, in 2016 when he was sitting in a yellow cafe. Six months later, his wife Jen Lovelock helped him put the idea into motion.

The Yellow Submarine.
The Yellow Submarine is a two-story tiny home located on a farm in Marton, Zealand. Photo: Courtesy Keith Lovelock

While browsing Trade Me, an online auction site, Jen found an old fiberglass grain silo listed for $1.

Intrigued, the pair hired a local company to pick up the silo and transport it to their farm in Marton for around $230.

After power washing the silo, Keith decided that he would use it as the body of the submarine. True to his vision, he painted it yellow.

Next, he assembled spare parts from around his farm to build out the shape of the submarine: radar domes to create rounded sides, a fan for the propeller, and an upside-down hot tub for the conning tower.

Keith doesn’t “throw anything away because it might be useful,” he told Insider.

Once the spare parts were painted, he rolled the silo onto the bed of a tractor to transport it to its final destination: a patch of redwood trees in front of the house.

He thought it would be fitting to build the submarine among trees since the lyrics to the Beatles’ hit song “Yellow Submarine” say that it floats in a “sea of green.”

In the redwood patch, Keith secured the silo between two trunks and got to work transforming it into a tiny home. He “had no idea how it was going to turn out,” he told Insider, but forged on with the project regardless.

Working from sketches in his diary, Keith used sheets of plywood to create the shape of the main cabin and upper deck.

He placed the upside-down hot tub on top and turned the hot tub jets into portholes to emulate the experience of being under the sea.

Keith estimates that he spent the better part of each weekday afternoon over the course of a year on the build. The process included “a lot of welding,” he told Insider.

Left: A hot tub flipped upside-down forms the roof of the conning tower. Right: Boards are installed in the the sleeping area. Photo: Courtesy Keith Lovelock

Once the structure of the home was set, Keith and Jen went to work sourcing decorations from second-hand marketplaces like Trade Me and eBay.

Their finds ranged from a mannequin outfitted to resemble John Lennon to wartime submarine signs and Steampunk-era furniture. “There’s no logic to this project at all. It’s just purely whimsical,” Keith told Insider.

By early 2018, the Yellow Submarine tiny house was complete.

Painted a bright shade of yellow, the radar domes, hot tub, and silo now resemble an underwater vessel. The Yellow Submarine has 22 portholes in total, and a motorized front hatch covers the entrance.

Lovelock added parts of old solar panels and satellite dish mounts to the pointed end of the silo so that it resembles the stern of a submarine.

Visitors are always surprised to find that inside is quite spacious, Keith told Insider.

The first space they see consists of a small galley kitchen made from an old dresser and a Chesterfield leather couch for lounging. In a side area created by one of the radar domes, Keith and Jen fashioned a desk from an old oak headboard.

Upstairs, a commander’s seat and steering wheel look out over the front of the submarine.

Left: Stairs ascend to the tiny home’s upper level. Right: A guest sits in the captain’s chair.
Left: Stairs ascend to the tiny home’s upper level. Right: A guest sits in the captain’s chair. Photo: Courtesy Keith Lovelock

Past the lounge area toward the back of the ship is the crew’s quarters. It consists of two full-size bunk beds and can comfortably sleep four.

At the rear of the ship is the bathroom consisting of a toilet, sink, and hot-water shower.

The bathroom seen from the doorway to the crew’s quarters.
The bathroom seen from the doorway to the crew’s quarters. Photo: Courtesy Keith Lovelock

The Lovelocks originally intended the Yellow Submarine to be a place for their grandkids and family to stay but decided to open it up to visitors on Airbnb in May 2018. They’ve since hosted around 1,000 guests.

One of the most rewarding parts of building the tiny home has been reading comments in the guest book, Keith told Insider. Some guests are able to disconnect for a few days; others feel transported back to their childhood.

The Lovelocks have even hosted former submariners who feel transported back to their days at sea after staying in the Yellow Submarine, Keith said.

Keith estimates that they spent around $14,000 in total on decorations, paint, electrical, and plumbing, but the gains have far superseded the costs.

“I gained a year of my childhood back, and I can return to it any time,” he told Insider.

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