Exceeding Expectations

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The rural and rugged countryside of Central Otago is the backdrop to this exquisite family home, designed by Gary Todd Architecture and constructed by PD Builders.

The homeowners of this single-storey, threebedroom contemporary family holiday home first spied the land the home now sits on while cycling on the Otago Rail Trail.

“We biked past it quite often and knew it would be perfect for what we were looking for,” says the homeowner.

What the couple wasn’t sure about was the style of home they would build. Initially they considered a gable-formed house of linked pavilions much like a property they had seen in Wānaka. They liked the idea of a collection of buildings but respected other opinions, too.

When they engaged the services of Gary Todd at Gary Todd Architecture, they liked his interpretive design of a better-suited, long and low-form abode.

“Gary came for a site visit and almost immediately said that the gabled pavilion concept wouldn’t work on the site as well as other options,” says the homeowner. Instead, Gary designed a stepped long linear home with floating eaves that appears to hover above the landscape. “We just love it,” says the homeowner. “It’s totally exceeded our expectations.”

The inspiration for the design came from the prairie house architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the interior design of Tom Kundig and the expertise of Gary Todd himself.

“Architecture is a lot about how you use the light and the spaces,” says Gary. “When I first came across the open paddock, my first inclination was to think of a prairie house. With an expanse of flat land, yet with the ruggedness of the mountains around them, we wanted to design a home that sought to provide indoor and outdoor living to maximise the views, the light and create courtyards to shelter from the wind.”

Extensive use of glazing, extending roof overhangs and varied wall heights create the structure for the overall result. Put simply, the home forms an ‘H’ shape, with open plan living in the centre, and then the owner’s bedroom suite and garaging separated from the guest bedrooms and garaging on either side of the central area.

“We also incorporated an ensuite, dressing, laundry, bathroom, snug, service court and hot tub into the design, so that it served as a relaxed and functional holiday home,” says Gary. “An architectural home is all about durability, utility and beauty, to suit just the owners or guests as required, and I believe we’ve worked all those aspects into this home.”

The construction certainly has a robustness to it, with the timber-framed structure being supported by steel portal frames supporting the roof and windows. The large roof overhangs, passive solar design, thermal mass, high thermal envelope insulation, low-E doubleglazing and LED lighting all mean that there’s a human comfort-level approach to this home. Sustainability and environmental performance add to its durability.

The open plan layout lends itself to indoor and outdoor flow, with high-level glazing providing additional daylight to penetrate indoors.

“This creates light, airy and spacious volumes with an increased awareness of the mountain range skylines,” says Gary. “This is the beauty of the place and its sense of belonging.”

On arrival at the property, you enter a southern courtyard before passing through the living space to the northern courtyard. There’s an informality to the place, with the courtyards providing alternative outdoor living areas depending on the wind direction and strength of sun exposure.

The earthy colours, textures and materials are used to foster a strong bond between the built and natural environment. “Cedar, shuttered concrete and corten steel on the exterior are woven together with dark aluminium joinery, polished concrete, blued steel, and timber in the interiors,” says Gary. “The rough becomes smooth.”

The result is an earthy warmth and rustic country rawness to the architecture and interiors.

“Gary Todd Architecture was worth every cent,” says the homeowner. “We really saw the value of using an architect. The design Gary came up with was a design we didn’t realise we wanted, but if we’d have kept with our own ideas, the shortcomings would have shown up pretty quickly. Gary was very good to deal with. He read us well but listened to our feedback. He’s obviously very passionate about what he does.”

The homeowners were equally complimentary of the builders, PD Builders. “Paul is a great problem solver and is a very easy person to work with,” they say. “We’re actually using him again now on another project.”

Paul Davidson from PD Builders is a fourth-generation builder and claims to have started his building career when he was just 15 years old. “I’ve built a lot of houses over the years. I guess you could say it’s in my blood!”

But Paul had not built anything as expansive as this home and so was delighted to win the tender and get stuck in.

“The centrepiece of the home, from my perspective, is the impressive concrete fireplace,” explains Paul. “We did some old-school boxing to give that wood-effect finish to the concrete and then poured the concrete in situ early on in the build.” Equally demanding were the poplar plywood ceilings with negative detailing and the lack of reveals around the windows and doors. The result is a sleek finish that shows off the precision and attention to detail of the builder.

Paul is proud of the build and notes that he enjoys the comments he hears from people going past the home. “We achieved a high level of finish to a very nice design,” says Paul. “I’ve got a great team, and it was fantastic to work with the homeowners and Gary on this project.”

All parties can feel proud of this inspirational home. The simplicity of the design, the indoor-outdoor flow and the high level of finishings are just some of the highlights for the homeowners. The team at Gary Todd Architecture can also feel proud of its recent New Zealand Institute of Architects Sir Miles Warren award for commercial architecture 2022.

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