House of the week: Wanaka

00:37, Nov 23 2012
Brewer house
The house is a series of pavilions linked by glassed walkways, sitting in a naturally occurring hollow.
Brewer house 2
The floors and ceilings are Southland beech timber. The central open-plan living space provides an expansive area for entertaining.
brewer house 3
The building form is deliberately non-rectangular to lessen the contrast to the backdrop of the hill behind.
brewer house 4
Views from the home stretch over Lake Wanaka, up the Matukituki Valley to Treble Cone skifield, Black Peak and Fog Peak and the Buchanan mountains.
brewer house 5
The owners find the beech timber gives are feeling of warmth about the interior.
Brewer house 6
Schist and Southland beech are features against the interior plaster walls.
Brewer House 7
The master bedroom ensuite boasts luxury bathing, with a view that stretches from mountain tops to stream.
brewer house 8
The bedrooms have inspiring views.
brewer 9
The jetmaster is a bespoke firebox designed by the architects to minimise visual obstruction of the views.

From the ski fields of Treble Cone to the waters of Lake Wanaka, Sally and David Brewer's house is virtually invisible. The house merges into its environment, forming a part of the texture of the glacial escarpment on the slopes of Roy's Peninsular.

The Tasmanian couple have realised a long-held dream by creating a new home that is "difficult to see, yet well-anchored and taking full advantage of its surrounding intrinsic beauty".

The couple had contemplated the build over a period of years. They bought the land in 1997 after falling in love with Wanaka while working further south. They always planned to make it their permanent home, but it took four teams of consultants and years to get approval for the build on land deemed of 'outstanding natural beauty' and with 'outstanding natural features" in the Queenstown Lakes District Council Plan.

Brewer house
HOUSE OF DREAMS: The walls are polyblock - polystyrene filled with concrete and steel reinforcing and the cladding is stained cedar.

The Brewers concurred with that classification and were keen to ensure their living was a seamless part of the environment. They gave a one-page brief outlining their concept to Sarah Scott and Barry Condon of Sarah Scott Architects.

The architectural solution is a series of pavilions linked by glassed walkways. It sits into a naturally-occurring hollow stretching across the glacial escarpment. A split roof of coloured corrugated steel butterflies across the build, camouflaging the structure below.

"The axes that generate the plan begin in the landscape, flow through the house becoming corridors through the building and re-emerge as views into the landscape," says Condon.


David Brewer describes his home as a trio of entities. There is a residential wing with master bedroom and en suite, a central living area with lounge, dining and kitchen and the guest wing with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

"The building form is deliberately non-rectangular to lessen the contrast to the glacial scarped backdrop of the hill behind," says Scott.

Walls are polyblock (polystyrene filled with concrete and steel reinforcing) with stained cedar cladding and interior plastered walls. Floors and ceilings are Southland beech tongue and groove. The floors are set over a concrete pad with underfloor heating and the beech ceilings are left rough sawn. A custom-made jetmaster fire box was designed by the architects to minimise obstruction of the views.

The palette was kept limited, with steel, glass, weatherboard and schist outside and pearl lustre painted plastered walls inside, with a mix of downlights and wall lights.

A hanging David Truebridge light is a feature in the dining area. Aluminium joinery, used throughout the build, is double-glazed and argon filled.

"It's really a house of windows," says David Brewer. "The views are so magnificent we wanted to maximise every aspect. Wanaka is one of New Zealand's jewels. It's not only beautiful, but it has everything.

"Our views stretch from the Buchanan mountains, up the Matukituki Valley to Treble Cone skifield, Black Peak and Fog Peak, they're panoramic and we even have two New Zealand falcons, passing overhead, to enjoy."

The surrounding 24.5 hectares is largely untouched. A few natives have been planted but the Brewers have mostly left the land in its natural state to grow and flourish naturally.

For this pair of Aussies, their children and grandchildren, the new home is tantamount to living in paradise.


BUILD COST: under $2 million

ARCHITECT: Sarah Scott Architects Ltd, Wanaka

SIZE:440 square metres

MATERIALS: Cedar, steel, glass, concrete

ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Polyblock with concrete walls, thermally broken concrete slab, passive heating in the orientation of the build to the sun, maximising solar gain from dawn to sundown; argon filled double glazing, solid fuel firebox.

DONE RIGHT: The north-facing design of the house captures all the views. A discreet driveway creates an element of surprise for guests arriving at the house.

DONE WRONG: We could have made the three-car garage a four-car one, and should have put a storage facility behind the house.

UNEXPECTED BONUS: The views are more stunning than we could have ever expected.

RECOMMEND: The use of timber gives a feeling of warmth and a rural feel.

NEXT TIME: We'd use Sarah Scott and Barry Condon and builder Tony Quirk of Tony Quirk Builders, Wanaka.