An architectural designer jumped at the chance to build his young family a fabulous rural home that is gentle on the environment and full of personality
Who lives here?
Kate Perry, 31 (quotation administrator), Josh Newlove, 32 (director/architectural designer of Newlove Browning Architects), Leah, 6, Ella, 5, and Oliver, 1.
It definitely wasn’t love at first sight for Kate Perry when she saw the rural Timaru section her partner, architectural designer Josh Newlove, wanted to build a house on. “It was so steep we could barely get the car up the path,” recalls Kate. “I told Josh I didn’t even want to get out of the car.”
The couple, who met while studying in Dunedin, had recently completed a major renovation of their first home, a 1950s cottage in Timaru. But they were expecting their second child and Josh, who was born on the West Coast, wanted to ensure his kids had a country childhood.
Fast-forward a year and the same 10-acre section was still for sale. Realising it was half the price of land in town, Kate relented and Josh lost no time in channelling the architectural skills he uses to create other people’s dream homes into designing his own.
Their wishlist was clear: four bedrooms, concrete floors with underfloor heating, low maintenance and as sustainable as possible. “It was vital that the house, and the way we lived, related to the environment,” says Josh. That meant using materials such as cedar cladding and plywood, and installing solar panels and a special system to capture rainwater (intriguingly, instead of hiding the 10-metre internal gutter, Josh made a feature of it, covering it in stainless steel and inserting LED strip lighting.
Another striking feature is the wall of old green-painted sarking in the open-plan kitchen and living area. “I got 600 lineal metres of timber from a building that came down in the Canterbury earthquakes, so I decided to make a feature wall of it,” says Josh.
Kate wasn’t convinced. “I thought it was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen. I kept asking Josh when he was going to paint over the green. But now I love the way it fits into the landscape.” The rough boards, scarred and marked by time, also line the adjacent hallway and the three-metre-high door which allows the adult and children’s living spaces to be separated.
For the kitchen, Josh designed the 3.8-metre benchtop as two modular units that can be configured as desired. They’ve since proved a hit at kids’ parties, where they can be wheeled to one side to provide more room.
Josh, however, had some trouble convincing the joiner to use bright yellow. “She thought we were mad! But the colour really pops so I’m glad we didn’t play it safe.”
Next to the kitchen is the formal lounge or, as Josh calls it, the “Whisky Room”. It’s not quite finished but once an open fire and decking have been installed, the couple intend to use it as an indoor-outdoor space, its bifold doors on both sides allowing it to be opened up entirely to the outside.
In the main bedroom, the wardrobe and makeup station is tucked behind a half-wall which also serves as the bedhead. In the interests of a seamless look, the couple repeated the same grey tiles in the main bathroom and master ensuite. Josh designed the ensuite basin around a solid piece of jarrah reclaimed from a Christchurch demolition. Kate has kept the four bedrooms neutral, although she’s been able to indulge her love of styling by repurposing the secondhand bedside cabinets.
Although this hard-working couple are delighted with their home, they enjoyed the building process so much they’re keen to do it all again. “Designing houses is my job – I can’t help it,” says Josh. “I already have hundreds of ideas for our next place.”
Words by: Sharon Stephenson. Photography by: Kate Claridge.