House of the week: Gibbston

Last updated 05:00 16/10/2013

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When Matthew White embarked on the restoration of an old stone cottage in Gibbston, Central Otago he was starting with just three deteriorated stone walls.

The site had no roof, no floor and was listed as archaeological.

Undaunted, he researched and determined what was the likely original, defined the history and set about the project.

"The first record of rates being paid on the cottage is in 1874 by a Samuel Warbrick, a gold miner. Mr Warbrick lived in the cottage for about 30 years, we found his death notice dated 1897, he was 76 when he died. So, he built the cottage and lived in it, 30 square metres of cottage, for 30 years."

White used his expertise as an architectural designer to restore the cottage its original state using a stone mason to rebuild the 500 millimetre thick walls.

"The three stone walls that did exist had deteriorated because there was no roof, and they had probably been exposed without a roof for maybe 60 years. So the stonemason restored and repaired the three existing walls and we used schist from around the cottage that I'd uncovered, as well as two trailer loads of schist from the neighbour's property, to build the fourth wall. "

White spotted a disassembled one lane bridge when off skiing in the Cardona Valley, rang the contractor and bought some hardwood bridge beams that he has now used in the cottage.

"There was never a front wall so I had to estimate the original by looking at other similar cottages. The windows are recycled sash windows, the door cedar, a stable type door."

The interior is just 36 square metres, at one end there's a living area with the old open fire, and at the other a bedroom. White concluded that within the existing footprint area, they just wanted enough room to include a bathroom.

"There was evidence there had been a lean-to at some stage, so using standard construction we added a lean-to for the bathroom. 

"We couldn't add on behind the cottage because there's a stone bank at the other end the chimney, so there was only one way you could make it larger and keep the structure looking like a cottage while retaining the important front elevation."

A 'back to back' wardrobe and kitchen space was positioned centrally along the southern wall. This feature protrudes to provide a partial room divider between the living and sleeping areas.

In the bathroom the previous external stone wall has now become an internal wall within the bathroom.

The raking ceilings are lined with off-white grooved plywood.

These ceilings are illuminated with up-lights to boost light which adds a subtle modern feel.

The restored Warbrick cottage is now being used as a successful holiday let for visitor accommodation.


Renovation Cost: About $2000 per square metre.

Size: 36 square metres inside area, 49 square metres outside/footprint.

Architectural Designer: Matthew White of Remarkable Architectural Design Ltd

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Awards: Winner regional award and finalist in national award, Architectural Designers of New Zealand Awards.

Engineer: Steve MacKnight & Lou Robinson - Dunedin

Builder: Trevor Baldey

Materials: Gibbston schist, recycled hardwood bridge beams (ex Cardrona), plywood, recycled wooden joinery,  iron roofing and wooden weatherboards.

Energy efficiency: Reused existing building fabric and recycled materials.

Done Right: The off-white painted plywood sloping ceilings.

Done Wrong: The recycled windows used in the northern stone wall: "we should have spent the money on two new windows."

Unexpected: 100% positive comments form all our visitors and guests that stay in the cottage.

Recommend: Save more old buildings and history.

Next Time: Have more time for more hands on work.

- © Fairfax NZ News


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