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Precision-built down to a screw turn, this distinctive, copper-clad lodge echoes regimented vines and the colour of the sea

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An abiding love of the land might make you anticipate a preference for all things rustic. However, even far from the city, contemporary exteriors and sophisticated interiors can still hold sway.

This dramatic lodge and accompanying guest suites form part of the landscape at the Elephant Hill Estate Winery. Both the lodge and nearby winery were designed to have an identical aesthetic by architect John Blair.

"Seen from above, the lodge and two guest cottages form a U shape – the lodge makes up one wing and the bottom of the U, and the suites and a garage make the other wing," Blair says. "This close grouping creates shelter for the inner courtyard and lap pool.

"The buildings also had to link to the vineyard visually," says Blair. "To achieve this, we designed structures with a strong linear emphasis. The copper cladding is seamed to echo the rows of vines, the lie of the land, and the horizon."

The pretreated copper will not react further on exposure to the salt air and is also non-reflective – an asset for any sunny, wine-growing climate.


However, copper is also a soft, volatile material that reacts adversely when in contact with other metals and can be easily damaged by a wayward forklift. To protect its integrity, the cladding finishes a metre short of the ground, on a contrasting concrete base.

"The solid look of concrete plays its part elsewhere in the design, too," says the architect. "Two substantial concrete forms flank the formal entrance to the lodge."

From the inside, the living spaces act as a viewing gallery, optimising appreciation of the vineyard and the sea, but also providing strategically set wall areas to showcase artworks.

"It was important that the lodge reminded the owners and guests of the setting at every turn," says Blair. "When a couple has several homes around the world, as this one does, the location itself is an integral part of the appeal."

The decor in the living spaces is neutral, again to let the sea, sky and sculptures take centre stage. Limestone floors are used throughout the interiors for continuity.

"Another request of the owners was for flexibility in the interior design," says Blair. "We designed spaces that could be reconfigured at a later date to accommodate this."

Air conditioning is set in upper recesses, blade walls can be removed to open up spaces, and there are no central columns or posts to interrupt the views if a furniture setting is changed.

In a climate that can offer extremes, there are several ways to adjust the temperature of the interiors. Mechanical external aluminium louvres and vertical blinds are used to moderate the sun's rays, with clerestory windows allowing natural cross ventilation. In winter, the air conditioning, underfloor heating, and gas fires bring optimum comfort.

The master suite occupies the rear of the U-shaped footprint. Naturally, this area has a more secluded feel, although the placement gives a line of sight out to the lap pool, past the glass safety balustrade to the sea beyond. The master bathroom is also a room with a view. Here a privacy wall encloses a courtyard designed solely to be enjoyed by the bathroom's occupants.

"The porcelain tile wall forms a large water feature, with water trickling and shimmering down its ribbed surfaces and across the gently sloping courtyard floor," says Blair. "The bathroom structure protrudes from the house just as the dining room does, but its side walls are stone, rather than glass."

Blair says that every aspect of the design was scrutinised by the owner – down to the exact turn of a screw. Overall, however, the effect is relaxed and inviting.

First published date: 25 March 2010

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Credit List

Architect John Blair, FNZIA, Blair + Co (Arrowtown, New Zealand)
Interior design Wolf Schaefer; architect and owner
Builder Linnell Building
Kitchen design Owner
Kitchen manufacturer Schumann, Germany
Landscape designer Ralf Kruger, Morgan & Pollard
Cladding Tecu pre-patinated copper, supplied and installed by Metal Design Solutions
Roofing Dimond BB900; Colorcote in Metallic Gunmetal
Tiling Custom by Firth
Flooring Bleu de Tirrannie limestone from Design Source
Wallcoverings Gibraltar board from Winstone Wallboards
Paints Resene
Lighting iGuzzini; Electrotech; various
Underfloor heating Electrotech
Air conditioning Chubb
Doors and windows Vantage
Window and door hardware Halliday & Baillie
Blinds Sallee
Pool designer John Blair
Audiovisual equipment Electrotech
Television and speakers Loewe
Kitchen cabinetry Anodised aluminium by Schumann
Benchtops Bleu de Tirrannie limestone
Sink Custom
Taps Dornbracht Meta
Oven, cooktop and microwave Gaggenau
Hood Custom
Refrigerator Gaggenau
Vanity countertop, floors and walls Bleu de Tirrannie limestone
Shower fittings Dornbracht Balance Module; Agape Rub 060
Shower enclosure Glass, custom
Bath Matisse by Agape
Basins Vero by Duravit
Hot water heater Chubb