House Of The Week
When Heather Templeton and her trio of daughters decided to build on their family plot of land - which is beautifully nestled in Abel Tasman National Park - they wanted to create something akin to their original family bach.
Heather's dad bought the land from his great uncle, and it has since been the heart of many memorable family gatherings for more than 63 years.
"We'd cook on the fire, there was no fridge, we hung the ham under the tree, heated water in a pan on the fire, washed the dishes outside and then handed them through a window to be stored in the cookhouse," Heather says.
She first went there as a 10 year old and is doubtful she's ever missed a Christmas by the bay since. Her great uncle bought many acres in the area in the 1930s, and she's seen photos of her mother and father holidaying at 'The Bay', wearing a dress coat and button boots and accompanied by a chaperone.
For the new build on the old spot, the family commissioned West Coast architect Gary Hopkinson. "He'd done things at Arthur's Pass, he used corrugated iron, which we liked, and I knew he could work with a remote location," Heather explains.
The budget was tight, but Hopkinson's fuss-free approach suited the family's criteria for a functional house that maximised sun, views and simplicity. "Gary told us it would have cost $100,000 less if we'd had a more accessible location," Heather recalls. "The materials were barged in and then helicoptered from the barge up to the site."
Despite logistical issues, the beech-forest location is one that inspired her forbearers and eventually drew Heather to live there permanently for six years, and she tended to venture out only to get necessities, and all by walking along the Abel Tasman track. The spot provided the peace and solitude she sought after a hectic professional life as a lawyer in Christchurch, her privacy ensured by a section size of nearly three hectares.
The initial build had only small solar panels, but with Heather's permanent move there, a further $50,000 was invested in large solar panels, and a back-up petrol generator to power a fridge freezer was installed. Neighbours are mainly family, while the other plots of land further around the bay are tightly held by other owners.
The 114-square-metre house runs over two levels: there's lower living, elevation bedrooms and a bathroom. Other features include exterior steel, wallboard interiors, larch beams, chipboard floors, huge walls of glass, expansive decking, an outdoor shower and a composting toilet with a second enclosed bathroom for the more guests. The creative design sleeps 12 over four bedrooms, two with bunks and two with double beds.
In fact, the house is so clever in its simplicity that it was recognised by the New Zealand Institute of Architects South Island Regional Award for Architecture in 2000.
The architectural citation on the house reads: "Based on two green monopitched corrugated sheds with an open living space between, the buildings capture the essence of the client's desire to camp in the bush. They have been arranged with a simplicity and directness that is handsomely complemented by thoughtful detailing and basic trims and finishes inside and out. The climb up from the beach adds a great deal to the experience of a holiday house, which truly reflects the Kiwi attitude to the coast."
Build cost: Just under $400,000
Size: 114 square metres + decking
Architect: Gary Hopkinson, Team Architects, Greymouth.
Materials: Corrugated iron, plywood, chipboard, decking.
Energy efficiency: Solar panels for hot water and electricity, solid fuel heating.
Done right: So easy to live in.
Done wrong: Nothing, with no front balcony, the outside comes inside as there is no structure to obscure the view.
Unexpected: The sound of seals below.
Recommend: Using corrugated iron.
Next time: Commit more money to the bedrooms in terms of actual beds.