After two-and-a-half years living and working in Melbourne, Sam and Tania Blatch returned home to the small fishing village of Moeraki on the North Otago coast to take over the running of the local pub, the Moeraki Tavern, from Tania’s parents. Soon after returning, the couple decided to investigate the possibility of adding value to the tavern, both in terms of functionality or potential resale, by building owner’s accommodation on site. The tavern and its car park sit on the level area of the site at the foot of a hill, just a few metres from the shoreline, so there was no room to develop the land further. Above it, however, a small parcel of land offered the opportunity they were looking for, given the right design.

Luckily, Tania’s brother, Regan Johnston, is an architect. Even luckier, one of his specialities is designing small houses. “We’d seen a bach he’d done down at Taieri Mouth, south of Dunedin, and we liked the simplicity of that, so we asked him to design us something along similar lines,” says, Sam. “We wanted three bedrooms and good views but left the aesthetics up to Regan. I also wanted the house to be made mainly from timber, inside and out, so I could take on as much of the work as possible,” he adds. Sam is a carpenter by trade and, to cut costs, he planned to work on building the house between shifts down at the pub.

“Apart from the earthworks and craning in the aluminium windows and joinery, I figured all I’d needed was the help of a few casual labourers, a plumber and an electrician. I could do the rest myself,” he says.“We started in August, with a five-month build schedule,” says Sam.

“The Christmas deadline was immovable because after Christmas it gets kind of crazy down here.”Sam had never project-managed and built a full house for himself before, but that didn’t faze him.“There were a couple of close calls the day we craned in the two 600kg front windows,” remembers Sam. “We had to pull back a couple of times because of the wind. That was a bit of a nervous day.”

The budget went well, too. Because Regan had detailed such a simple house from the outset, it was a relatively cheap build. The large picture window at the front of the house, for example, uses post-tensioned steel cables to brace the structure. The alternative would have required a steel portal up the wall and across the roof — a far more expensive solution.

Energy efficiency was also considered by the architect. The finished house is heavily insulated and orientated in the right direction — away from the cold southerly winds — and there are lots of windows to the north-east to take advantage of solar gain in the winter. Operable windows at a lower level and skylights in the roof provide natural ventilation in the summer, all of which are double-glazed. Sam can be justifiably proud of what he has achieved here in Moeraki. There aren’t many people who can walk into their home and say, “I built this."

Location - Otago
Architect / Designer - Regan Johnston (Johnston Architects)
Fabricator - Vistalite Oamaru
Systems - Pacific Residential
Products - Eurostacker™ doors, Overwall Euroslider™ door
Industry Sector - Residential

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Since 1973 Vistalite™ have offered practical window and door solutions for the New Zealand landscape.

From the early 1970s, Vistalite™ could be described as the friendly brand of joinery. Its systems are modern in design and meet and exceed all New Zealand standards for windows and doors.

The key difference that Vistalite™ offers is its people. The friendly professionals are more than happy to explain all the intricacies of windows and doors using non-technical language so the customer can be assured that they are getting exactly what they are after. Vistalite™ takes pride in listening to its customers and produces quality products that are customized to meet their customer’s specific needs.

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