Blending In


There’s more than meets the eye with the design of this low key Central Otago house

As time passes, this award-winning family home in Queenstown Lakes is nestling itself into the land. Now two years old, the considered selection of architectural form, building materials and landscaping ensure it will continue to blend into its verdant surroundings.

That was always the plan for this home by Arrowtown-based Anna-Marie Chin Architects.

“It’s growing more beautiful with age,” says lead architect Anna-Marie Chin.

The site, in the rural lifestyle zone of the Wakatipu Basin, is typified by rolling hills, covered with trees and grasses that change colour with the seasons. Chin was keen to use the natural palette in her design, and to allow the patina of age to work its magic on the materiality chosen.


Nevertheless, there were challenges. Firstly, the trees on the 2.25ha property had to be retained and there were constraints on where to build on the site. Facing north, on a slope down towards the road, the house had to be confined to a patch of land at least 75m from the boundary, to minimise any visual impact.

The owners also wanted their new home to complement the existing stone cottage on the property. Capturing the sun throughout the day and making the most of the spectacular mountain views, which are snow-capped in winter, were also high up on their wish list.

The result is a long, modern 300m2 home that zig-zags around a large oak, creating private spaces to relax and entertain. Chin says the three-bedroom home reflects the shed vernacular of the region, with its dark Eurostyle Spanlok corrugated cladding, the same colour as the roof. This helps the structure blend into its rural surroundings, as well as being a robust and low-maintenance material. Cedar was used for cladding the external recesses, and elsewhere on the exterior to add texture and warmth.


The design impressed the judges so much that it received a 2023 Southern Architecture Award from Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects. The awards’ jury was impressed by how the design respects and reflects the site, commenting that it was “much more detailed than it appears at first glance, evident in the vertical timber posts that give the effect of privatising and minimising the building.”

Three zones are clearly defined within the house: a middle zone for the kitchen, TV room and a study, and separate zones at each end for adults and children. The plan was that as the children got older, they had their own space.

The master bedroom at the front of the house is elevated out towards the Crown Terrace, to capture the morning light and to provide a sense of privacy from the road. The children’s wing is carved into the slope of the site and opens out onto a shared space on the north lawn.

The kitchen, which serves as the heart of the home, features large sliding doors on both sides that, when open, create a continuous flow to the outdoor spaces.


Exposed concrete flooring, which is heated, features throughout the living area, and carpet softens the three bedrooms, TV room and study. Softer tones are used inside to add warmth, with white-painted finishes and bleached plywood cabinetry. The occasional dark panel adds mood to the aesthetic.

“The plywood has negative joints which add crispness and modernity to the interior,” explains Chin. “The interior, which is light and slightly vernacular in its industrial references, provides a comfortable environment and contemporary canvas for the client.”

Unseen details make the house more efficient. To increase air tightness, recessed lighting was eschewed for options that did not penetrate the building envelope, therefore requiring less heating in winter. High-performing glass for extreme climates, which is specially coated, provides added sun protection in the north-facing living room and main bedroom wing. A canopy at the north end of the house provides shade and helps to reduce overheating in summer.


The owners, an Australian couple, were keen to add their input, as one is a commercial interior designer. A bright splash of colour in the children’s zone is an example.

“It was really exciting for the owner to work on her own home, but they both appreciated the input from the team of architects on what options worked best in the locality,” says Chin. “The clients love the home. Now their three school-age daughters are growing up, it is working even better for them.”

Rather than add extra bedrooms to the design of the family dwelling, the original two-bedroom stone cottage, which links to the house by a path, serves as guest accommodation. And a dramatic reference to the cottage is reflected in the striking scalloped stone wall in the main bathroom of the new home, hinting at the jagged edges and minerals chiselled by the region’s wind and rain.




Architect: Anna-Marie Chin Architects
Photography: Simon Devitt