Jacks Bay House Photographer: Patrick Reynolds

Jacks Bay House Photographer: Patrick Reynolds

Glow with the flow

March 2 2021 By Richard Naish

When artist Marie Strauss and her husband Everd, an anaesthetist, first showed us photographs of the type of homes they loved, one thing was common: the houses glowed in the dark.

Their site, at Jack’s Bay in The Catlins, feels as though it is on the edge of the world. It faces due east and flows down to the sea so the natural connection to make was that of a lighthouse. RTA Studio set out to create a home that gave sanctuary; a beacon of security in what is often a tempestuous environment.

The couple, from Dunedin, who are in their pre-retirement years, wanted this contemporary crib to reflect the relaxed lifestyle they looked forward to enjoying here. The dwelling may be on a small footprint but it’s high on creativity and just a little quirky.

Working with the motif of a lighthouse as inspiration, RTA has designed a simple outpost – a concrete container for living, with a plaster finish and a monopitch roof. The home sits squarely on the dunes, beach grasses the only device to soften its boundaries. It’s a humble, honest little building mapped out over 100 square metres - 70 down below with a mezzanine of 30 – but elements which hark back to the core theme elevate its architectural magic.

Viewed from afar, the eye is drawn by a deconstructed diamond-pattern glass window on the Northern elevation. Facing the sea, there’s a porthole, and windows and doors that can be covered with timber shutters look like storm hatches.

Access is via a wooden entry ramp that leads over the sand and up past a trio of corrugated water tanks painted red to echo the stripes found on lighthouses. A red door is the portal inside. Here the floors are float-polished concrete and a steel stair with a mesh balustrade is industrial with a nautical flavour. This rugged backdrop is a canvas for the owners who used a counter rescued from an art gallery as their kitchen island and added colour, texture and art of which the diagrid window is an integral part – an artwork that pixelates the view.

In summer, the doors to the deck are open to the landscape and the lumbering sea lions as they leave the sea for a spot of sunbathing; in winter, the fireplace in the indoor/outdoor room becomes a flickering focal point, the wild weather rolling in.