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Natural materials, and a design that respects the landscape, enhance the sense of retreat in this secluded lakefront property


When you have a building site with a spectacular view there is little sense in designing a house to compete with the outlook – the view will always win. The trend is to opt for the opposite – a house that respects its surroundings and blends in with the local landscape.

Such was the case for the property featured on these pages. It occupies a double site on a lakefront peninsula. Following a design concept produced by Bangkok architect Pat Chatermpanth, the house was designed by Barry Willison, in conjunction with co-owner and builder Ray Cook, and interior designer Gretl Lukas.

"As the site was so special, we wanted a design that would maximize the views without being too obtrusive," says Cook. "The house needed to fit in with the environment, yet still convey a sense of quiet luxury."

Willison says local council regulations also determined the look and style of the house.

"The regulations applying to lakefront properties provide very strict guidelines, which were a challenge for the design team," he says. "They not only specify particular materials and colors, but also apply to the height, size and site coverage."


To meet these requirements and make the most of the views on both sides of the property, the house was designed in a boomerang shape. Two wings extend from a central hub, which forms the apex on the roofline and accommodates the entrance foyer. The sense of symmetry in the design provides a visual balance to the house and helps achieve a harmonious feel, says Willison.

New Zealand South Island schist features extensively on the outside walls and pillars, and helps create a sense of arrival at the main entrance.

"The house, which we have named Okareka Lakehouse, is also used as a lodge, so the entrance had to make a strong statement," says Cook. "For this reason also, the lake and mountain views can be glimpsed from the entrance foyer through the dining room."

As well as the dining room and entrance, the central part of the house includes the kitchen and casual dining areas. A master bedroom suite, library and guest bedrooms are positioned on the floor above.

The wing to the left of the entrance contains two living rooms on the main floor, with a home theater, wine cellar and garaging on the lower level. The other wing houses additional guest bedrooms on the main level. All the living rooms and bedrooms have lake views and balconies with large overhangs and cedar-lined soffits that add a Balinese resort feel to the house.

In keeping with this look, solid kwila flooring was specified throughout the house. New Zealand South Island schist was also introduced to the interior, surrounding a large, double-sided fireplace that serves the two living rooms. Other natural materials include the stone flooring that features on the terraces and in the bathroom suites.

"These tiles come from a geothermal area and incorporate a silica deposit," says Cook. "We felt it was an appropriate material for this house as it is reminiscent of the former, spectacular pink and white terraces that existed before the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera – the mountain we see across the lake."

Gretl Lukas says New Zealand furnishings, contemporary artwork and accessories were incorporated throughout the house.

"The color scheme for both the interior and exterior was based on the natural surroundings," she says. Lukas also says using natural fabrics was a way to introduce texture into the furnishings. Chunky, custom-designed rugs feature in many rooms. Fabrics include the cocoa-colored linen that covers furniture in the more cozy and intimate living room.

Subdued colors are also a feature of the master bedroom suite, which includes sofas and chairs upholstered in a raffia-textured fabric.

"We didn't want to theme the room, so opted to combine natural tones with punches of color," says Lukas. "To add visual interest we have included cushions from Bangkok and a plaited, mock-leather bed head."

First published date: 08 October 2004

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Credit List

Concept architect Pat Chatermpanth, KTGY Architects
Local designer Barry Wilson, R&B Consultants
Interior designer Gretl Lukas
Landscaping Bill Holden and Stuart Dennis
Siding Cedar
Flooring Kwila
Televisions and home theater systems Philips
Kitchen countertops Granite