When you sweep up the driveway of this flat rural site, with the hum of the nearby Cardrona River in the background, you’re met with the formidable juxtaposition of a dark barn-like form contrasted against textured in situ concrete. The home represents a striking piece of architecture that belies the careful adherence to a tight budget.

The owners, who had lived for many years in a small cottage on the property, had originally reached out to Johnston Architects about expanding the cottage to accommodate their two young children and frequent visitors. However, after much discussion, a new plan emerged: to create a new home entirely, one that would do justice to the tranquil and scenic location, while still conforming to a modest budget.

Therein lay the key challenge, says Johnston Architects' Matt Jeffery.

“They had the sort of budget that allowed them to do an alteration, not a new build, and that drove a lot of the material decisions for the project; our response was to detail cost-effective materials in a creative and special way, to turn those materials into something much more interesting.”

As such, the plan of the home is kept simple in format. The house is roughly ‘T’ shaped in plan, with the long axis containing bedrooms, living room and generous loggia facing north-west towards the primary view and evening sunshine.

“It’s a particularly straightforward and simple building volume. It uses the same sized trusses throughout the entire roof and there’s only six external corners; there’s a lot of detailing of inexpensive materials to create a good architectural product.”

The home comprises three bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as a guest bedroom, which is located in a separate wing. Within this wing is a storage shed for the family’s skis and mountain bikes, which is linked to the main volume with a porte-cochère, which further elevates the simple form.

Sheltered outdoor entertaining space was also a mandatory requirement of the brief.

“We spent a lot of time analysing the site and ensuring we had communal spaces and outdoor spaces for shelter and entertaining,” says Matt. “In this Otago climate, you need to give people somewhere where they can be outside during the winter months, as well as shade and shelter in the summer.”

To deliver the programme within budget, the inexpensive BB900 metal cladding was chosen in reverse run, while the roof is the same material, not in reverse run. The impressive effect of the dark metal form with its reference to the local rural architectural vernacular is further elevated by the judicious use of in situ concrete, which forms the fireplace.

“The exterior materiality is kept uniform and cost-effective, but detailed in a way that really elevates the products. The in situ board-marked concrete adds a higher perception of overall quality material to a home with an otherwise straightforward materials palette.”

In the interior the budget is kept under control by using mostly plasterboard walls throughout the home, with some special materials introduced, including an ebony coloured stone kitchen island.

Engineered timber flooring is used throughout the living spaces to create a greater sense of space and a premium look, while the bathrooms have tiled floors and the bedrooms, carpet.

Matt credits the clients’ management of the project as key to its success in keeping costs down and timelines in check.

He says the project stands alone architecturally, in spite of the restricted budget.

“All of our projects are driven by the place, and this project was no different. When you’re on site, it’s clear that the home sits really well in the landscape.”

Builder - Bagley Construction

Words: Jo Seton 

Photographer: Jamie Cobel

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About the

Johnston Architects is a design-led studio specialising in high-quality new-build residential and commercial projects throughout New Zealand.

We pride ourselves on crafting rigorously planned and immaculately detailed projects that exceed client expectations. With almost 100 years of combined experience delivering architectural projects of exceptional quality in New Zealand and overseas, our tight-knit team of talented designers will ensure that your project is tailored to suit your quality and budgetary requirements.

Johnston Architects is committed to reducing the environmental footprint of our work. We strongly believe that the creation of well-crafted, timeless architecture is the key to sustainable design and we ensure that sustainable strategies are employed seamlessly into the overall design to enhance the comfort, quality, and delight of your home.

Our work is always informed by a site's physical and cultural setting. Working in some of the most remarkable and scenic locations in the country has resulted in a body of work that responds to its context in a timeless and elegant manner.