Set on the western edge of a new subdivision within Otago’s Millbrook Resort, this home blends traditional with contemporary while its materiality offers a sense of permanence and solidity within striking alpine surrounds.

Designed for a couple who base themselves between Auckland and Queenstown, the brief was for a home that would allow them to enjoy the mountain views, adjacent golf course, and ensure they were able to make use of the outdoors in this beautiful Otago setting whenever the elements allowed it.

Combined with these aims was the need to incorporate the clients’ substantial art collection – an element that helped drive some of the early stages of development.

The Millbrook design requirements are very prescriptive in regards to materiality, roof pitch and the like, so an early challenge for architect Matt Chaplin was to design a home that adhered to the guidelines while simultaneously creating a unique piece of architecture.

With predominantly flat sites, Millbrook has produced mostly single storey dwellings. This site though, was one of the only sloping sections, which led to a slightly different approach. “The slope meant we could step the house down the contour of the land,” Matt says.

Due to the fall of the land, the garages and service areas were buried into the slope, a first for Millbrook. The landscape runs up and over this banked area, leaving exposed a large stone wall.

An arrival court provides a sense of intimacy before entering the house, which is essentially three gabled forms that step down the site, linked by flat roofed stone walls. The house reflects traditional forms reminiscent of the South Island region.

Living areas are wrapped around two courtyards, allowing flexibility for wind, sun and privacy from adjacent dwellings. Natural light is brought deep into the house through large dormer windows.

Overhead, the three gabled structures are linked by flat-roofed areas between which the outdoor spaces were created – one a northern courtyard designed for occupancy in the mornings, and the other a western courtyard designed for use in the evenings.

Each of the gabled structures contains separate areas of the home with the master bedroom occupying the first, and most private area, the guest bedrooms and entry the second, and the third the main living and dining area, which leads out onto the western courtyard.

From the exterior, innocuous dormer windows set into the roof of the gabled forms are given a contemporary twist. “Dormer windows are typical in the character of architecture in central Otago so we utilised them but they were constructed out of steel plate.”

The steel becomes a focus in the interior, where the trusses and posts are also constructed with steel, creating narrow sight lines within the voluminous gabled form. “The dormer windows were used to create light wells that flood the house with natural light,” Matt says.

A contemporary natural aesthetic was achieved inside with black maire timber flooring contrasted with rich chestnut ceilings.

Early on in the design process, it was decided that the flat roofed areas connecting the gabled forms would become galleries of sorts. “The house was, in part, designed to hold this pretty fantastic art collection,” Matt says. The gallery areas, while also circulation routes, are bold in tone and lines with randomly placed Glenorchy schist floors, chestnut ceilings and striking steel joinery.

From the exterior, there is also a clear separation between the gabled forms and the flat roofed areas, with the gabled structures utilizing a plastered facade, which contrast with the Millbrook stone used on the flat roofed walls. The roof is slate, which proffers that sense of permanence while drawing the different forms together as one entity.

The house was the recent recipient of a 2017 NZIA Southern Residential Architecture Award. Sumich Chaplin Architects focus on well crafted, highly detailed one-off residential projects. Based in Newmarket, Auckland, the practice has projects in design and under construction in numerous locations across Australia and New Zealand.

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