Earnscleugh Ridge Retreat - Johnston Architects | ArchiPro

Earnscleugh Ridge Retreat

Dramatic promontories of schist and pale clay are naturally occurring wonders in Earnscleugh, Central Otago. Peppered with pine trees and poplars, the area has a unique and striking scenery, unlike any other in the country.

One site in particular, elevated on a schist hillside, takes in a rather exceptional panorama of the area.

“This is an incredibly special site, located at the top of the Earnscleugh River Valley, hard up against an area of outstanding natural landscape where the schist is scattered in promontories across the site,” says Johnston Architect’s Matt Jeffery, who were engaged by the clients to create a serene retreat, where they could entertain and accommodate family and friends.

The elevated building platform was chosen to take in the views, yet it was important not to dominate the setting with a large, conspicuous home.

“Working in such a pristine and rugged environment, we wanted to make sure that the house wasn't dominant within the landscape. So what we've done is we've broken it into three smaller volumes.”

Each volume is a gable form and is offset around an external courtyard at the rear of the house. The garage and utilities sit under the bedroom/guest wing for family and friends at one end of the house, while the master suite and entertainment lounge/study create a resort-like space at the other end. The central gable form is the living space and connects the bedrooms and master wing.

The journey to the home builds suspense, as the low-lying entry point to the site takes visitors up the hillside on a long, winding driveway lined with poplar trees to the recessive, metal clad home.

Cleverly, the forecourt doesn’t offer visitors the full scenic view and the stairs on the back side of the home leading to the front entry, which are offset from each other, further extend the sense of taking a journey through the landscape.

The front entry space is humble in scale, yet teases the first glimpse of the jaw-dropping views of the majestic valley below.

But to the left and right of the entry, the living spaces and bedrooms feature almost entirely glazed walls to allow maximum views of the valley landscape, creating a crescendo moment in that journey.

The dramatic entertainer’s kitchen sports a bold granite benchtop and a recessed storage space to one end, with black tapware and dark timber veneer cabinetry.

The interior materiality was chosen to reflects the setting directly, with oak floors, granite, and schist drawing the external environment inside, ensuring synchronicity with the views.

Directly adjacent to the kitchen sits the external courtyard with schist open fireplace and louvred roof for year-round outdoor entertaining.

The sedimented layers of the hillside behind are banked against the external courtyard, making it a cosy and protected space to dine and relax outdoors.

On the other side of the kitchen the open-plan rooms spill out onto a quila deck that wraps right around the front of the home. Matt says sheltered outdoor spaces were an important part of the brief.

“There's always somewhere to retreat to, to find the sun and enjoy the views, depending on the time of the day or the season.”

But for Matt, the real success of the home is how it sits in the setting.

“My favorite aspect of this property is just the way it integrates with the landscape –being able to almost surgically insert it and have it part of the landscape, not just sitting on it was a fantastic opportunity.”

Words: Jo Seton

Photography: Larkin Photography

Builder: CDL Building

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Earnscleugh | Johnston Architects | ArchiPro
The home, built by CDL Building features three gable forms and schist chimneys.
The outlook over the Earnscleugh River Valley with its schist promontories and poplar trees is nothing short of spectacular.
Matt says the home was "surgically implanted" into the site, and is integrated through the use of schist retaining and chimneys.
The journey to the home takes the visitor through a winding driveway of schist and poplar trees up to the left of the house, which contains a garage tucked under the bedroom wing.
The winding journey from the road below up to the house builds a sense of suspense.
The three gable forms feature large expanses of glazing so that each space takes in the view.
At the rear of the house, adjacent to the kitchen, an external courtyard with schist fireplace and operable louvred roof provide a sheltered space outdoors to enjoy year-round.
The deck outside the master suite provides the perfect spot to take in the last rays of the day.
From a distance, the house is barely discernible from the mountain landscape as the material palette is so sympathetic to the setting.
A limited palette of robust, low maintenance materials was selected to clad the exterior of the building including exposed structural steel, reverse-run profiled metal cladding, hardwood decking and large expanses of glass.
The interior features a palette that takes in the hues of the landscape and a biophilic materiality that includes schist, granite and oak.
The dramatic granite kitchen island synchronises beautifully with the schist chimney in the covered courtyard space directly behind the kitchen.
The open-plan kitchen dining enjoys panoramic views of the valley below.
In front of the schist fireplace in the lounge is the perfect spot to relax in the evening and watch the sun set across the valley.
A media room adjacent to the master suite is a flexible space for family to watch movies, or to use as a home office during the day.
The master bedroom enjoys uninterrupted views through floor-to-ceiling glazing.
In the guest/family wing, a sumptuous bunkroom is perfect for the kids to pile into.
A large bedroom above the garage in the guest/family wing has a perfect picture window next to the bed that takes in a snapshot of the forest beyond.
The master suite's freestanding bath enjoys an idyllic view to the lawn and views beyond.
Peeling back the sliding doors in the master en suite, you can bathe in plein air.
The spacious master en suite lit up at night.
Dark oak laminate cabinetry and double sinks bring a dramatic yet earthy element to the master en suite.
The family bathroom takes light in through a skylight and features dramatic monochromatic floor-to-ceiling tiles.
The large guest room's en suite features a dramatic granite countertop.
The family bathroom's shower is recessed into a private nook.
The laundry/utilities room is tucked downstairs behind the garage.

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