New Zealand Home & Building, October-November 1998
Southern comfort — An Auckland family's central Otago Retreat Carves a strong sense of place from simple forms built of weathered timber, Plaster and Stone
An Auckland family's central Otago Retreat Carves a strong sense of place from simple forms built of weathered timber, Plaster and Stone.
at first sight the location for this Central Otago holiday home was nothing more than an exposed paddock. But with its wide views of snowcapped peaks and rolling pasture, all day sun, and elevated position it was just the environment an Auckland couple sought for a retreat that would transport them far from their normal experience of seaside living.
With grown-up children off their hands and more time to indulge in holidays, Chris and Judy James wanted a place they could comfortably disappear to for long stretches and use as a gathering place for friends and extended family. Most of all they wanted a holiday home that lacked pretension and fitted comfortably into the Central Otago landscape.
Having worked happily with Auckland architect Leo van Veenendaal on renovations to their seaside Auckland villa, it was only natural to involve him in the design of their holiday retreat. van Veenendaal, of the young Auckland practice van Veenendaal Rosnell Architecture, remembers well the day he first laid eyes on Chris and Judy's chosen hill-side site. "It had a wonderful outlook but it was a pretty exposed piece of land." With an uninterrupted view from Walter Peak to the Coronet skifield came exposure to a biting southwesterly, as well as a steep climb from the road to the prime house site. Another constraint was the time-frame in which Chris and Judy wanted to begin building. Having already endured a lengthy planning battle with the local council, they were itching to proceed.
From the start, van Veenendaal's guiding principle was to create a house appropriate to his clients, the majesty of the alpine landscape and Central Otago's characteristically simple buildings. More used to designing for Auckland's benign climate than one subject to the extremes of scorching summers and winter snow, he enthusiastically set about responding to the region's climatic challenges and rugged physical character.
Heavy timbers, schist and plaster combine with simple gable forms and a generous layout to create a strong sense of place. The decision on where to position the house was driven in large part by an existing pond. The most spectacular view, however, was in the opposite and most exposed direction.
The double-height guest wing has its own casual living area. A bridge connects a staircase with two upstairs bedrooms.
Generous openings from all the downstairs rooms enhance the experience of the landscape, while the use of plaster, timber and schist lends the house a rugged simplicity in keeping with its alpine context.
The kitchen is at the hub of the house, connecting the main living areas with the guest wing. Its soft sage green cabinetry echoes the colour of dried lichen on the weathered timber ceiling beams.
Recognising the importance of creating a welcoming arrival in such an open landscape, van Veenendaal formed a sheltered entrance courtyard between the house and a garage wing, so visitors would drive in and immediately feel contained. From here they approach the front door, sheltered by a narrow stretch of roof that forms a gateway between the house and garage building.
While the house is a protective force, generous openings provide plenty of opportunities to experience the landscape, even on the coldest winter day. French doors embrace the view on both sides of the main living/dining space, and there are direct connections to outside from all the downstairs bedrooms. Mindful of capturing as much winter sun as possible, van Veenendaal raked the roof on the main body of the house to the north and created window seats at this end of the house for winter lounging.page break
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Inside, the plan is effectively divided in two to allow the house to adapt to different occasions. When Judy and Chris are in residence on their own the double-height guest wing can be closed off, leaving them to occupy just the main living areas and their private bedroom wing. Connecting the two parts is the kitchen, which is also within easy reach of the outdoor living court where a timber and stone table is permanently set up for al fresco dining.
Furnishing a house from scratch is a big undertaking, so Judy and Chris involved interior designer Ron Cox in the selection of furniture, fabrics and colours for walls and cabinetry. Taking inspiration from the massive timber beams and schist fireplace in the living space, he has chosen furniture that is generous in scale and which has a relaxed, homely feeling.
From the weathered timbers and craggy schist through to the choice of upholstery, nothing is precious here - just restful and inviting. HBpage break