December 7, 2022


Giving your Home a new Option

Karangahake House by MAKE Architects

When Sarah and James purchased a picture-perfect stretch of farmland in the North Island town of Waihi, the young, outdoorsy couple made environmental stewardship a key priority—and their first move was to commission a prefabricated house with minimal site impact.

To bring their vision to life, Sarah and James asked Auckland-based MAKE Architects to design a prefab home inspired by New Zealand’s minimalist hiking shelters, colloquially known as “trampers huts.”

Located on farmland near the top of the Waitawheta Valley, the Karangahake House overlooks views of the Karangahake Gorge to the north, the Waitawheta River to the east, and the Kaimai Ranges to the southwest.

Curious cows are a frequent sight on the farm. The house is located upslope from a 1900s worker’s cottage that the couple renovated in 2017 and rent out on Airbnb.

“This provided a great opportunity for design interpretation, even when referencing a particular vernacular,” says MAKE Architects director Martin Varney, whose team drew up a simple gabled form with a cozy interior.

The north side of the home opens up to a covered wraparound deck and views of the Karangahake Gorge.

James, an avid mountain biker, with his young daughter. The outdoorsy family enjoys access to the many hiking and river swimming opportunities available on the property.

“Hugged by the Karangahake forests and the Kaimai Ranges, through the last bridge towards Waihi from Paeroa, this farmland home reminds us of the essence of living simply, the importance of our environment, and quiet family moments,” says Varney. “It signifies a humble architecture bravely holding its own on the hilltop, and a return to our collective necessities of shelter, gathering, and freedom.”

The homeowners have joined New Zealand’s One Billion Trees program and plan to regenerate part of their land with native bush.

Working closely with Christchurch-based prefabricators Wellhaus, the architects designed a charming three-bedroom, two-bath home wrapped in sustainably sourced timber inside and out. Following a six-month design and permitting process, Wellhaus prefabricated the floor, wall, and roof panels that were shipped flatpack and assembled on-site in just four days. The exterior cladding, window joinery, and interiors with utility hookups took an additional three months to complete.

The home is wrapped in eco-friendly Abodo Tundra shiplap with a sustainable Sioo:x finish that helps the wood develop a silvery patina over time.

The timber construction is a nod to Coromandel’s timber logging heritage.

Modestly sized at 1,076 square feet, the Karangahake House stretches north to south with a guest suite/office space on the southern end that’s separated from the main living quarters by the “Outdoor Room”—a protected interstitial space with perfectly framed views of the forest on one end and farm vistas on the other. All rooms in the home directly open up to a wraparound deck that spans the length of the north and east sides.

The Outdoor Room divides the main house (on the left) from the guest suite/office (on the right).

The Outdoor Room frames west-facing views of the Kaimai Range. “With timber-battened clear roofing above, it perfectly frames the forest views beyond, creating moments of uninterrupted connection and stillness with nature,” note the architects.

The Outdoor Room is Varney’s favorite feature. “It’s a beautiful transitional space that creates wonderful experiences of connection with the landscape over the seasons,” he says.

Sliding barn doors on the east and west sides close the Outdoor Room during inclement weather. The home’s prefabricated panels were fully insulated to minimize thermal bridging.

The Outdoor Room stores stacked firewood used for the wood-burning stove in the living room.

The interior is wrapped with floor-to-ceiling Plytech Birch Elite finished in solvent-free Woca oil, and cross-laminated timber flooring, for a warm, quiet, and cozy feel.

“The crucial idea of sustainability was further achieved through the carefully selected materials and finishes, weathertight linings, and smart, efficient ventilation systems. These ideas continue our increasing awareness toward an architecture that leaves the landscape untouched.”

The all-timber build helps establish a continuous indoor/outdoor living experience. The interior cross-laminated timber flooring transitions to radiata pine at the outdoor deck.

A long hallway connects the open-plan living spaces to the bedrooms that branch off to the left side, and the Outdoor Room ahead.

The modular, black-steel KXN system by IMO makes for a sleek and minimalist kitchen setup.

A pair of tilt-and-turn windows flank a fixe
d window in the kitchen. All glazing is double paned.

A mezzanine level was built above the two bedrooms. “We wanted to create an intimate and easy family home, complete with mezzanine loft space for impromptu friends and family,” explain the architects.

Karangahake House floor plan

Karangahake House site plan

Karangahake House elevations

Karangahake House elevations

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