Ryan House: contemporary rural - Arthouse Architects | ArchiPro

Ryan House: contemporary rural

This rural home in Blenheim is a contemporary take on the gable form. Celebrating family life, it was created through a collaboration between Arthouse Architects and Hamish Ryan Construction, which also happens to be the owners.

Ryan House is located on a large 6,500m² plot on the outskirts of Blenheim. “There is a lot of development going on in the Springlands part of the town where the house is sited, and Hamish Ryan had already collaborated with us on a few houses in the area,” explains architect Jorgen Andersen from Arthouse Architects, based in Christchurch.

“He and his family had come from living in a country house in the Marlborough area and wanted something a bit more timeless and sophisticated that would suit the context,” he adds. “We responded with the idea of a timeless rural vernacular, adapting the classic gable form in a modern way with three gabled modules wrapped in different materials, which helps to break up the mass of the 420㎡ building.”

Stainless-steel gutters and downpipes have been deliberately concealed to create clear sculptural forms. “Each form is defined with its own function and can be read as crisp and pure, rather than being confused by penetrations, stacks and vents and so on.”

To ensure that different areas can be enjoyed at different times of the day, the architects modelled the site and the building, then laid out the spaces to follow the sun’s rotation and to understand the directions of the prevailing winds. Two modules are single-storeyed, with the garage in one wing and the children’s bedrooms in another. These are connected by a double-storeyed gable form inbetween, with a flat roof on the first-floor level.

To cater to a busy young family, the exterior was designed to be low maintenance. The roofing and walls utilise standing-seam cladding in Flaxpod, which is softened with cedar or rimu doors, windows and screens, kwila decking and cedar pergolas. At ground level, the main living wing is clad in slim-profile Canterbury clay bricks that have been unevenly laid, plastered and painted in white, providing a nice contrast and textural quality.

“These days, brick can be a lot more contemporary, as well as being low maintenance and good value,” suggest Jorgen. “Fired bricks have a handmade quality and are much more bespoke, retaining unique features, fine details and variation, which helps to reduce the scale of the building. We specifically wanted the bricks to appear quite rough and textural, although, surprisingly, that still requires a very skilled bricklayer.”

Inside, a muted palette of natural materials helps to connect the internal spaces, which are laid out for functionality. The garage is located near the kitchen to avoid carrying groceries too far, and the kitchen/dining area acts as the control panel of the house, connecting nicely into the outdoor areas, which includes a swimming pool and entertaining area, complete with outdoor fire and pizza oven.

Jorgen describes the collaborative process between the Arthouse design team in Christchurch and Hamish’s building team in Blenheim to be very enjoyable and productive. “We sent sketches back and forwards, and it was very easy to work together to achieve the right solution,” he says.  

“Having a client who understands the building process meant that we could save so much time. Instead of explaining and educating, we spent a lot more time on detailed design. The client has an appreciation of good design, they know what they want and where the value is in the design. They came up with good suggestions, were able to procure the best materials at good prices, but they were also willing to pay money for a certain aesthetic or quality, which made the whole process a lot easier.”

In the rural tradition, the driveway is off the road and the property has been designed with privacy in mind. Despite being a decent-sized home, Ryan House has an appropriate human scale with good proportions, a nice balance of light and dark, solid and void, to create that lovely warm feeling that’s hard to capture in photographs but is what makes a house feel like home.


Words by Justine Harvey


Photograhy by Sarah Rowlands Photography

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The street-facing view of Ryan House has a striking presence and is designed for privacy.
The main entry leads into the main living area module, with the master bedroom and ensuite bathroom on the upper level.
Natural light and shade is carefully controlled throughout this home. Here, a recessive courtyard with a pergola provides shade and shelter from the sun and wind.
Vertical windows break up rhythm along the edge of the main living area. The upper storey glazing features a cedar screen to bring dappled light into the master suite.
A swimming pool and outdoor entertaining areas are sheltered by a white bagged-brick wall painted in Dulux 'Dannevirke' to match the rest of the house.
A sliding door leads from one terrace, through the kitchen to the pool area.
View of the pool area from the kitchen.
The kitchen has a modern yet timeless aesthetic through the use of natural materials in a refined neutral palette, with Fisher & Paykel built-in duel ovens.
The kitchen features a purpose-built granite island, benchtops and splashback, along with cabinetry in dark-stained timber veneer, brass tapware and oak flooring.
This low-maintenance kitchen is crisp and clean like the exterior of Ryan House.
The kichen and dining area leads out into the pergola-covered courtyard.
The dining area features floor-to-ceiling cabinetry to match the vintage oak dining table and the kitchen cabinetry.
One of the lounge areas has a fireplace built into the back of the dining room cabinetry.
The other lounge area opens right up to a decked area and features custom-built shelving and an ink-coloured sectional sofa by Trenzseater.
The master bedroom features a custom-built headboard, wardrobe/room divider and a double layer of curtains in wool and sheer fabrics.
The ensuite bathroom features a custom-built cabinet with dark oak veneer and a stone top. 
The 'Egg' freestanding bath with brass tapware from Plumline.
Subtle downlighting emphasises the patterns in the tiling.
The corridor to the children's bedrooms.
Textured bagged brick walls in Dulux 'Dannevirke paint with custom-built timber joinery.
The swimming pool/entertaining space at twilight. The fireplace features built-in wood storage.
A night shot of the courtyard area, which features limestone tiling, kwila deckingand a cedar pergola timber pegola built from milled trees on the property.
A street-front view of Ryan House lit up at night.
Elevations by Arthouse Architects, facing north, east, south and west (from top to bottom).
Ryan House site plan by Arthouse Architects.
Ground-floor plan by Arthouse Architects.
First-floor plan by Arthouse Architects.

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