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A Hillside Retreat in New Zealand Forgoes Sleek Finishes

“It brings the outdoors inside” is the usual tag applied to a house that has (a) numerous windows, (b) incredible views, or (c) both. A much rarer feat of architectural blending, however, is seen in an idyllic new retreat on the secluded southwestern tip of the Purerua Peninsula on the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. The home’s design team used thousands of basalt rocks excavated from the nearby earth to create the house’s structural spine, a move that not only embedded the outdoors inside the house, but also grounded the structure and lent it weighty authenticity.


“Rather than glossy ostentation, the house offers an enduring luxury, with materials that feel ingrained into the landscape where they have been placed,” says designer Nat Cheshire of Auckland, New Zealand’s Cheshire Architects, the firm that worked closely with Seattle interior design studio Lucas Design Associates to create the home. The house is one of four luxury dwellings at the Landing, a private 1,000-acre complex boasting a winery, six beaches, and dense wetlands. Its design—a contemporary spin on the traditional New Zealand barn—speaks the same environmental and emotional language as the rest of the Landing’s architecture, but at what Cheshire says is a simpler, more modest scale, incorporating materials that are “organic, warm of hue, and slightly rough to the touch.”

Blackened timber on an idyllic New Zealand retreat—created by Auckland’s Cheshire Architects and Seattle’s Lucas Design Associates—demarcates the home’s private space, composed of three bedrooms. The stone wall that runs down the center of the house was built of basalt collected on the property.


The roof of the dwelling—a 2,490-square-foot abode just 100 feet from the rows of grapevines that produce the Landing winery’s rosé, syrah, and chardonnay—is a thick charcoal-gray aluminum-clad slab that rests on the basalt stone wall. Its underside, pale gray Alaskan cedar, has been carved into vaults that resemble wine-barrel staves. To capture the property’s sublime views and further blur the boundaries between inside and out, sliding glass walls by Guyco Kitchens & Joinery disappear into pockets behind the stone when the living room is opened to the surrounding vineyard. A contrast to all that openness is the simple block of blackened timber on the opposite side of the stone wall, where the home’s three bedrooms are clustered together. “It’s almost like a separate cabin,” Cheshire says of the sleeping wing, noting that it’s accessed via a step that clearly delineates it from public areas. “Inside, the rooms have a greater degree of interiority—ceilings are lower, and windows are defined rather than running wall to wall and floor to ceiling.”

In the sunken living room, with its expansive Guyco glass walls opened to create a covered terrace, a custom wraparound kauri-wood console, fabricated by Auckland-based Bremich Cabinetmakers, backs a custom sectional upholstered in durable cotton-blend Holly Hunt Great Plains fabric in a muted shade. Two soda-blasted oak side chairs (also fabricated by Bremich) are upholstered in leather from Toronto-based CC Leathers. Table lamps are custom designs from Seattle-based metal fabricator Mayer Designs Inc., and their forms were inspired by the work of late Seattle sculptor Doris Chase. Underfoot, an Erik Lindström rug adds texture.


To accommodate the landscape’s natural slope, the home’s floorplan includes a sunken seating area, where a rustic solid kauri-wood wraparound console fabricated by Bremich Cabinetmakers anchors the custom sectional sofa and lends coziness to the fireside spot. “Understated, timeless furnishings were carefully selected to match the villa’s calm aesthetic and work alongside the dark wood and stone,” LDA cofounder and lead interior designer Suzie Lucas says. Materials such as the titanium gold granite countertop, with its bold, earthy veining, and the quarried stone wall offer connection to the natural landscape, she observes. “Mother Nature is the ultimate creative. We wanted the space to feel like a craftsperson foraged for its materials in the surrounding areas.”


Enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures is at the heart of the home’s design, Lucas says. “Brewing your morning espresso in the kitchen, you feel as though you’re outdoors, in the fresh coastal air. In the evening, you can light the fire, pour wine, and enjoy the company of family and friends as the sun sets.” We’ll definitely sign up for all of the above.

A custom chandelier hangs from the Alaskan cedar ceiling, which has been carved into half-barrel vaults. Bremich Cabinetmakers crafted the dining table and barstools, both in stained oak with blackened steel accents. CC Leathers provided the upholstery, and the titanium gold granite countertops have a brushed and leathered finish.


The master bedroom nightstands and bed were designed by Suzie’s brother, David, and built by Bremich Cabinetmakers; custom bedding is by Satellite Sewing. The sleek ceiling fan is from Haiku Home; the chaise lounge, tucked into a corner, is covered in Pollack & Associates fabric.


In the master bathroom, a soaking tub overlooks the verdant grounds. The guest bedrooms have lower ceilings than the home’s main areas to create a cozy and private mood. Benches are custom, designed by David and built by Bremich Cabinetmakers.




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