When you’re building a home in an area designated as an Outstanding Natural Landscape, the pressure is on to craft a dwelling that defers to the backdrop. That was a given, but this exclusive Wanaka subdivision also has strict covenant conditions around sustainable design.
RTA Studio had designed the original house: a study in schist and totara with a robust form and an eco-soft centre. The stone for the thick walls was locally sourced, the totara which softens the palette was recycled and pebble ballast was used on the roof to augment the insulation. So, when the new owners of this property commissioned a guest house, there was little need for reinvention. A mini-me version ticked the eco-friendly boxes.
Named Tamu (meaning ‘guest’ in Malay), this home is boutique in size but generous in spirit. The 108-square-metre ‘sleepout’ is reached via a pathway through the trees. To keep within the development’s criteria of protecting these trees, the house is wrapped by a kanuka forest that skirts its fringes and even punctuates the deck.
Within the Central Otago environment, where the Southern Alps exert a dominant presence over the landscape, solidity and warmth are just as essential lightness and views. The substance of prettily patterned schist walls on an industrial black-steel skeleton gives way to glazing that frames the outlook over wetlands and the lake to the snow-dusted mountains.
Inside it’s like a timber selections’ box with recycled rimu floors, Southland beech ceilings and joinery in native tawa veneer to bring warmth to the palette. Design elements such as wood stacked beneath the open fire and a tall leather headboard have the feeling of a low-key but high-quality hotel. Outside, a spa pool set on the edge of a wooden platform beneath the high, wide skies, is tempting in all seasons.