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But for a former Dunedin man and his wife, now living in Singapore, the result has been worth it.
Unable to visit their Wanaka site, Chris Stewart and Vicky Windsor found that online meetings and trust in their architect and builders were crucial. Decisions were made with the help of Skype and email.
The couple were last able to visit their holiday home in February last year, when it was not much more than a shell. The following month, as builders began adding its distinctive shingle cladding, New Zealand entered Alert Level 4.
"Building materials and building works were delayed due to the lockdown but since we couldn’t travel anyway, it wasn’t something we stressed over," Mr Stewart says.
"With my grandma living next door and my family visiting regularly, there was no shortage of updates."
Sugi House (sugi means cedar in Japanese) was built on a part of the 1084sq m section which previously accommodated the cricket pitch and trampoline.
"We were after a simple, eco-friendly lodge, which would complement the main house, but add a modern touch," they say.
"It needed to be something that was cosy in winter, cooling in summer, that would blend into the street and mountain backdrop and be easy to maintain.
"On one of our ski holidays to Japan, we stayed in a little two-bedroom ski lodge for a week. It was very efficiently set out, as only the Japanese could do, and we realised a family of five could comfortably live in a small house if we were smart about making maximum use of the space."
To Condon, delivering on a Japanese aesthetic meant creating something that was simple and unobtrusive.
The 96sq m property is not a "tiny house", but it does contain key elements commonly associated with that style of living, including a simple form, a mezzanine level and clever storage solutions.
Condon says there are no walk-in wardrobes, oversize bedrooms or sprawling living spaces (there is also no television).
"Rooms are compact, yet still make for comfortable living. There are shoe racks built into the walls, storage tucked away behind walls, drawers under the stairs. The bathrooms are small, tiled wet-rooms with a shower."
Interior walls and ceilings are clad in ply which is broken up by negative detailing, creating a linear design feature out of the joins. On the outside, cedar shingles are used on the roof and walls.
"It’s not a typical cladding in Wanaka, but it does tie in with the style of the house and the alpine environment," Condon says.
"Over time ... you’re going to get variation and it’s going to have this lovely dappled quality to it."
Due to the high level of insulation and the small footprint, a wood fire provides enough heating to cut through even the chilliest of winter days.
The board-marked concrete fireplace is thermally broken from the floor slab and from the windows that seem to rise up through the middle.
Initially, they budgeted $500,000 to $750,000 for the build but they quickly realised it would need to be at the top end of that range to get the quality they wanted.
"We tried to make sensible decisions along the way, choosing quality local products and not cutting corners on what we saw was a long-term investment."
"We are absolutely delighted with the result, although a little sad about not being able to be the first to live in it."
Even then, there is no guarantee that their three children will choose to stay
in the home that was more than a year in the making, they joke.
"The kids seem more than happy to stay in the big house next door with their cousins — and a TV."