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Three discrete shells open up onto a central courtyard, creating a weekend home that offers its owners flexible living spaces in all weathers


A small, rough and ready Kiwi-style bach, where the family retreats from the stress of city life, is a delightfully romantic notion. In reality, however, extended family and friends are more likely to stay at our beach houses than in our city homes. So a well-planned weekend retreat with space to put up a few extras makes good sense.

Architect Nigel Dong was asked to design a weekender for the owners of a 4500m2 rural lifestyle property. The site was mostly flat, but slightly elevated on a knoll above the neighbouring properties, with views towards mountain ranges in the distance.

"The owners wanted a home where the family could relax and enjoy the rural landscape, but which they could also share with friends."

In response to this, the team at DGSE has created a design with a modern vernacular that incorporates three separate pavilions opening out onto an enclosed and sheltered central courtyard.

Other items on the wish list were good natural light throughout the house, generous amounts of indoor and outdoor living space and an easy flow between them. The whole house also had to be constructed from durable, low-maintenance materials.


The design is for two zinc-clad shells containing the private zones – family and guest bedrooms, and a third, clad in white-painted plaster, for the shared living areas. One of the zinc-clad pavilions contains the master suite with its own bathroom and walk-in wardrobe, and the other has two additional bedrooms, also with ensuite bathrooms, and a casual living area. This area is designed to be flexible enough to accommodate both family and guests. Also in this section is the fourth bathroom, the laundry and the garage.

Stairs lead up to the front entrance of the house and open into a long internal gallery along one side of the larger of the bedroom pavilions.

The gallery forms a central spine through the house, and was designed to connect the three wings, and to provide display space for the owners' collection of paintings and sculpture.

Track lighting runs the length of the gallery, and windows along the base of the wall bring in natural light while leaving the walls free for hanging art. Where the gallery meets the main living pavilion it merges into the open-plan space, then becomes separate again where it connects to the master suite on the other side of the living area in the third section of the house.

All three pavilions open through glass sliding doors the full width of the room onto a large, sheltered courtyard behind the house. Providing outdoor living space protected from the prevailing winds was part of the design brief.

"An outdoor fireplace in this courtyard reinforces the connection between indoor and outdoor living," says the architect.

A second terrace on the opposite side of the living room extends the outdoor living options. The orientation of the house, from east to west, means that this terrace receives morning sun and the courtyard enjoys the westerly setting sun.

"The house is designed to enable a flexible lifestyle whereby doors can be opened or closed to create a single, large space or smaller, more sheltered areas. And when it's windy or wet and the sliders have to be closed, motorised windows along the top of the doors on both sides of the living pod can be opened for ventilation," says Dong.

A covenant on the land ruled out built fencing, so to create a secluded retreat for the owners, the boundaries of the property are heavily planted.

"In time, the trees will grow up and provide privacy and protection. However, because of the elevated nature of the site, they will never obstruct the views," says the architect.

First published date: 13 April 2011

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Credit List

Architect Designgroup Stapleton Elliott (Wellington)
Project architect Nigel Dong
Architectural design team Craig Roberts, Chris Gilby
Engineer Spencer Holmes
Structural steel engineer Loader Consulting and Engineering
Interior and kitchen design Designgroup Stapleton Elliott
Builder Bardik Developments
Kitchen manufacturer Trimform Joinery
Landscape designer Boffa Miskell
Roof Metal and Butynol, A & M Parr
Plaster cladding Sto European Plaster Systems from Andersens Ltd
Metal roofing and cladding Euro Metals
Metal cladding Architectural Roofing & Facade Innovations
Tiling Jacobsen Creative Surfaces
Flooring Cavalier Bremworth/Jacobsen Creative Surfaces
Wallcoverings Designers Guild
Paints and varnishes Dulux
Painting and decorating Tony Hearn Painters
Lighting Aesthetics Lighting
Heating Sun Flow underfloor heating
Doors and windows APL by Wight Aluminium
Interior doors Hoults Doors
Blinds NZ Window Shades
Home automation Clipsal C-Bus from Evolve
Kitchen benchtops Granite from Bramco
Splashbacks, glazing, mirrors Viridian Glass
Kitchen sink Mercer Quattro
Taps Grohe
Oven, cooktop, microwave, refrigeration, dishwasher Bosch
Ventilation Smeg
Fireplace Real Fires
Central vacuum Beam Central Vacuum Centre
Exterior paving Horizon Paving