Shared values are vital when you’re embarking on a project that will have generational impact. When Jane Cotter and Peter Smith looked at building a holiday home on a piece of land that had been in their family for nearly 40 years, they recognised kindred thinking in the Box™ ethos. The couple had initially approached an architect before those plans proved a little too ambitious and expensive. “We wanted a house that was comfortable and grounded,” says Jane. “Even though we had a big section, we didn’t want to make a huge statement.” The place they envisaged was modest but nice – not a great, loud blot on the hillside.
The elevated site, just outside of Matakana, is within an original beachside hamlet where time seems to have slowed. Not a lot has changed over the decades. Surrounded by pockets of native bush that the couple helped to regenerate, it has lovely views across Kawau Bay and the dotted islands of the gulf towards Snells Beach and Algies Bay. For several years, they enjoyed holidays in a barn they built on the property in the 1990s, the kind of makeshift, no-frills getaways that put life into perspective.
Retaining this essence was as important as keying into its vernacular make-up. “Our brief was for something sympathetic to the 30-year-old cedar barn,” says Jane. Box™ design manager Tony Borland-Lye was on board with this concept immediately. He set about crafting an architectural alignment – a cousin in keeping that would stand in solidarity alongside the barn.
Quiet and elegant, the house takes the form of an elongated rectangle with a singular gable. The material palette, too, is simplicity itself: cedar cladding, aluminium joinery and a corrugated metal roof. That there isn’t a lot to say about its mapping and make-up speaks volumes. This was not the time or the place for fanciful notions. It was the opportunity to practise principles of restraint.
Taking a cue from the clients, the building depth is only one-room wide “We wanted to look straight through from one side of the house to the other so we could enjoy the view wherever we were sitting,” says Jane who found the 3D modelling she was shown of the design made everything so much easier to envisage.
Not that all the ideas came from the owners. When they touted an all-black house, Tony pushed back, opting for silver on the roof. He also suggested skylights and to expose the structural trusses in the main living zone which gives the whole a more elevated feel. Textural touches include the addition of a concrete-block fireplace wall and plywood-lined ceilings to soften the industrial nature of the interiors. Some white fittings in the bathroom and green mosaics were chosen to dilute the darkness.
Working to the budget required some out-of-the-box thinking. Although Jane and Peter initially requested three bedrooms within the house, Box™ convinced them to incorporate a bathroom and kitchenette in the barn, so it became a self-contained space. The 115-square-metre new-build comprises two bedrooms grouped at the western end of the pavilion, and a bathroom and separate toilet are pragmatic for when the couple has friends and family over.
Opting to renovate the barn, meant enough left over in the budget for a deck, with a louvred-roof, on the northern side of the house. It complements the south-facing courtyard at the front, the two alfresco areas working in tandem to provide shelter whichever way the wind blows.
Although Jane was slightly anxious about building, having heard some horror stories about how stressful it could be, she found it “quite fun”. “It’s all about trust,” she says. During construction, she liaised with the builders and visited the site, making so few changes that the final cost came in only slightly above the quote.
In March 2020, the pair had the keys to the door. It had been eight months from foundations to finishing. Jane loves the contrast of her busy city life and the solitude and peace only an hour’s drive north. This house is quietly perfect. With three adult sons who also enjoy getting up to the house regularly, many lifetimes of holidays on the hill await.