Consistently calm

August 29, 2021

Tucked away in a knoll overlooking Tai Tapu, with a 360 degree view, is a family home that epitomises relaxation. Comfy yet stylish, homely yet spacious, this place is the perfect place for owners Claire and Joe to call home. Everything about it exudes calmness and peace, from the courtyard entry to the refined palette of materials used throughout.

“We knew we wanted somewhere elevated,” says Claire. “And this place has a natural, outstanding landscape and beauty. We just fell in love with the place.”

Comfy yet stylish, homely yet spacious

Moving from Auckland, the couple now revels in the views of Lake Ellesmere, the Alps and the Canterbury Plains. “And with the city being just 20 minutes away, it’s a dream for us,” says Claire.

After locating their piece of paradise, the couple set about making plans to design a home for themselves. It needed to be a place where the couple could entertain their extended family of 38 and also create a calm sanctuary for the two of them.

“It had to accommodate lots of people easily,” explains Claire. “And this home does that perfectly.”

It was Claire’s love of mid-century design, coupled with the inspirations of her travels through Asia, Europe and the Middle East, that led to the idea of creating a courtyard, a key feature of this home, with the house built around it.

“I like the concept of a ‘safe place’ as part of the house, and the courtyard idea certainly harks to mid-century,” says Claire. “Jarrod [the architect] was amazing. I talked, and he heard. He fully understood my desire for a courtyard, where you look through the house to see the view.”

Jarrod Midgley of Rural Workshop Architecture can be rightly proud of his design for this home. It’s been recognised as the Winner of the 2021 Canterbury Architecture Awards, and is now shortlisted for the national awards jury to appraise in an upcoming nationwide jury tour happening later this year.

“Claire and Joe’s home is on an exceptionally windy hilltop site,” explains Jarrod. “On our first site visit, we had trouble standing up! But having recently completed a couple of courtyard houses on exposed sites in Hawkes Bay and Marlborough, we knew Claire’s idea would be a success.”

The courtyard allows the house to be opened to the outdoors even on windy days and also offers opportunities for a central lush garden ‘oasis’ in an otherwise exposed rural property. The design also allows morning sun directly through the courtyard into the main living spaces.

“We were also conscious of the very prominent spot in the visual landscape, so we wanted to make the house ‘settle in’ as much as we could,” says Jarrod. “So we stepped the design to follow the shape of the hillside, and the roof is the same pitch as the hill on which it sits.”

What this creates is a beautifully slim and low-slung building form. This, again, provides a calmness and natural sense to the place.

Claire also comments on the calmness of the architecture team. “I think Jarrod is quite an intuitive person. He loves to use natural materials in their raw forms, such as wood and concrete. It makes the place feel very authentic and real,” says Claire.

The combination of light and heavy materials makes for an earthy, grounded home. The light material is a cedar cladding in a modern, crisp-edged take on the traditional ‘rusticated’ board. The heavy material was in-situ concrete using off-form rough-sawn timber boxing.

“We use the ‘heavy’ sparingly and use it to provide an anchoring element and a real sense of permanence and connection to the ground. The ‘light’ provides warmth of feel – and relative economy,” says Jarrod.

This combination of natural materials and an organic, collaborative approach helped create this beautiful home. As Jarrod summarises, “We are interested in creating quality buildings, which, in the words of Marie Kondo, ‘spark joy’. It’s important to us to uplift the spirit and enable our clients to live their best lives in the properties we build.”

This place has a natural, outstanding landscape and beauty

All of this design would not have been possible to bring to reality without John Creighton Builders. Coming on board early with the project meant everyone had an equal voice and passion, rather than the traditional model of the architect being the one in charge.

John’s skills were needed from the outset, in the form of the placement of a double-sided fireplace on each side of a massive concrete wall structure in the middle of the main living space. That in itself was a huge project for James Kearns, project manager, and his team.

“Claire and Joe wanted a rustic concrete board look,” explains John. “You only get one chance with concrete. We had to pour it all in one go, as concrete doesn’t join. We spent several weeks building a mould, which was then craned into place.”

At six metres high, the mould then had to be held in place perfectly straight, and the concrete needed to be poured without bubbles or defects. Getting it wrong would be a very costly mistake. But John and his team took the job in their stride and created a fabulous feature wall, with a cast-iron double-sided fireplace settled within it.

The fireplace has a lovely ‘rawness’ about it and performs exceptionally well in the home. Claire and Joe only have to light one fire in the evening as they move between the living room and the snug, an area Claire describes as her favourite part of the home.

With close to 30 years of experience in the trade, and the only builder in Canterbury to receive the New Zealand Master Builders’ Sapphire award, John loves early involvement with homeowners and architects. “That’s where you get the best results,” he says. “Our job is to look at how we can achieve the result required and do it seamlessly.”

Over time John Creighton Builders has built up loyal suppliers and contractors and a fabulous team who loves a challenge. Claire agrees with John, saying, “Even the youngest employees at John Creighton Builders were great communicators. They give you time to ask questions, and John has clearly built a great culture in his business.”

Without a doubt, it’s the involvement of client, architect, builder and subcontractors, working consistently and respectfully together, that has brought this home into its calm presence and being.


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