A lakefront haven for the ages - Spaces NZ
A lakefront haven for the ages

A lakefront haven for the ages

The new-build Bay of Plenty getaway that’s both serene and social.

Words by Cassie Doherty

“The brief was to design something that would stay in the family forever,” says Evelyn McNamara of Evelyn McNamara Architecture of this new-build on the shores of Lake Rotoiti.

“Part of the initial concept was really just to make sure that it looks like it was established and had been there for a long time. With their passion for design and beautiful things, the homeowners didn’t want it to stand out, certainly from the lakefront. We knew that out on the water you can look at all these baches, so that was really important. It isn’t too ostentatious.”

The site is right on the lake, says Evelyn, so the design anchors the house to the hill behind with board-formed concrete. “It has this bunker feel. The upstairs blends into the New Zealand landscape with lots of browns and greens. It’s a big house, around 440sqm, but it doesn’t look it when it’s sunken into the hillside.”

This area has a special connection for the homeowners, Sam and Fiona Fillmore. Sam’s parents owned the bach right next door so he spent much of his childhood here.

Fiona says the family, including two teenage boys, is obsessed with watersports. “The house was built for groups of boys. The way the whole community works is that we have a huge shared lawn and the kids from all the houses hang out. They are the children of Sam’s friends that he grew up with down there.”

Sam and Fiona Fillmore’s lakehouse on the edge of Lake Rotoiti was designed by Evelyn McNamara of Evelyn McNamara Architecture. The ground-level glass doors open completely to welcome and provide a connection to Sam’s childhood bach next door.
“Everyone walks along the lake,” says Evelyn. “We put the sunken firepit here so people can see you and wave out. It’s really social.”

Evelyn says as a holiday home that’s used year-round, it has a different feel to a beach house. “There’s a slightly brooding aesthetic. The dark concrete actually makes it nice and cool and in summer we’ve got an overhang for shade. It’s just as successful as a summer house as a winter one. It’s very sheltered but it does get freezing cold. They don’t get snow but proper frosts and a really icy crunch. We wanted to make it cosy and to feel like a retreat where you shut the doors up and stay inside all day with the fire on.”

Everything is able to be used in both seasons with a real focus on entertaining. “The sunken firepit outside is like a magnet for people at night time, you just gravitate towards it and it’s a kind of entertainment. And the best part about it is it can be used in summer and winter.”

As owner of interior styling business Source and Style, homeowner Fiona collaborated with Evelyn on the interiors.

“Durable finishes, lots of texture and deep, rich tones. Nothing is precious,” she says.

“In summer, it's nice and cool,” says homeowner Fiona. “And in winter, we wanted to have a sort of cocoon. We try to spend as much time here as we can, there's so much to do.”
The living area floors and ceilings are by Forté Flooring. Fiona designed the sofa and it had it made, and the bean bag is Wilson & Dorset.
The steel kitchen by IMO Group is a favourite, says Fiona. “There are no fingerprints on it. The kids can bang things around. It's indestructible.” The stools are from Corcovado.

Fiona says there was originally an old house on the site that they looked at renovating but the process proved too difficult. Once they decided on a new build, Evelyn was an obvious choice.

“We got on straight away. She's so relaxed and open. And she understood the images that I showed her because they related exactly to the volumes and the spaces that she was already creating. We worked through some different options with her and it wasn't long before getting the final concept.”

Says Evelyn: “I do end up having quite a lot of collaborative input from homeowners once I've come up with something that I think is a really good starting point. Because ultimately, we all have different needs. And I think you've got to be quite clear when communicating; it's not always easy for people to see what you're seeing in your head. When you go back with a first design, there’s this level of excitement around something feasible. It's tangible. Equally when you get 3D renders done. It's a huge moment.”

Layout was very important in this home, says Evelyn.

“It suits a family of four that loves entertaining. There are two bunk rooms with four queen-sized beds so there’s actually huge capacity to sleep other families. At the back there’s a media room, which works really well for the teenagers who have lots of friends at the lake and they can occupy that space separately to the parents."

One request in the brief was that the house had access to run all the way around it, for late night games of Spotlight and Go Home Stay Home.

“They intend for the boys to grow up there and have the same experience as their dad. The aim was to provide a sanctuary and I think that's been quite well achieved through the materials and the layout of the home. It has a very relaxed feel. You get there and breathe out.”

The spacious bunk rooms are upstairs. Fiona chose the Sallée carpet to fit the surroundings. “We've got the green bush all around us. And then across the lake the hills are a really lush, khaki green.”
One of two master bedrooms that are both oriented to the views. The side table is from Made of Tomorrow.
“We oriented the vanities in the ensuites so that the mirrors reflected the view behind,” says Evelyn. The lighting is from ECC.
The outdoor shower. “There’s a double wall of concrete and the doors slide into a pocket between them. It looks easy, but actually building it is a real challenge,” says Evelyn. She mapped out the gardens, and Flora and Form designed and planted them.
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