Oneroa Views

A modern bach that blends beautifully into the landscape in Russell, Bay of Islands

We love working on homes that are designed to complement the stunning natural landscape that we have throughout New Zealand. When our clients asked us to design their new home in Russell, Bay of Islands, we used every opportunity available to make the most of the views and the terrain.

The Brief

The site here is elevated, on top of a steep hill. While this brings a few building challenges, the trade-off is the incredible views from almost every room of the house. The view to the north is of Oneroa Bay, claimed by many to have the most beautiful beach in Russell, every architects dream. 

Along with the need to design around the steepness of the section and the site access limitations, we also had other considerations. Some parts of the site are protected heritage areas, and other areas are protected due to the location of Māori middens and pits.

So our brief here was to design a new home that ticked several boxes. Our clients wanted a modern architecturally designed holiday home that was large enough to have friends and family visit, while also being appropriate for just the two of them. They wanted to make the most of the almost-360 degree views, while also being somewhat sheltered from the winds they were exposed to high up on the site. And they wanted to make sure that we paid respect to and preserved the protected areas, ensuring that our work wouldn't interfere with the areas that were out of bounds or unable to be excavated.

Being a builder himself, our client was aware of the logistical challenges of building on a steep site and how the budget could easily be exceeded if we weren't careful or organised enough with our planning.

Architecturally designed home in Russell, Northland
Architecturally designed home in Russell, Northland
Interior design n Russell, Northland
Architecturally designed home in Russell, Northland

The Design

Early on, as the design ideas were developing, we consulted with the local marae and Iwi, and our consultative process with them has gone very smoothly throughout the project.

We worked collaboratively with our client to design a structure that incorporated a module that was built offsite and brought in to help reduce the building costs on site. The result is a steel structure with timber infill between the framing and the cladding.

Most of the living is on the upper level, maximising the views and sunlight throughout. You can enter through the front door, heading up the stairs to the main living area, two upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms. The master bedroom with an ensuite is on the eastern side, where it receives the beautiful morning sun. The kitchen, living and dining areas are situated in the middle, with built-in seating for dining.

You can also enter the home through external steps on the left that wrap around the pits that have been preserved, getting narrower at certain points to allow for those protected pits. These external steps take you on a journey as you go up and around, reminding you of where you are and paying respect to the land you're on.

Downstairs there is a guest bedroom, bathroom, garage and access to a covered area with a hot tub.

At one end of the home is a guest wing, which is ideal for friends and family members coming to stay. It can be easily closed off when there are no visitors staying. Alternatively, this end of the home can be rented out as an Airbnb unit as it has its own ensuite bathroom and external entrance.

The house has been designed around the views and the sunlight, with the main living areas opening out towards the north. A covered deck provides a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the view. The living area also opens out towards the grass on the western side, which will get the afternoon and evening sun.

Appreciating that it can get quite windy high up on a section, we designed another outdoor area on the southwestern side where you can sit out back, being able to see right through the glass towards the north towards the sea. You can be sheltered from the wind if it is coming up that way, while still sitting outside and enjoying the view.

The use of a rain screen cladding system has functional and logistical benefits. Once the structure is up, the local builder who is working on the home can begin putting in the windows and start on the interior finishes. The client, meanwhile, will make the rain screen panels offsite and bring them up separately.

This will result in some cost savings on labour, and it will also allow internal finishing and waterproofing to occur while the exterior cladding is being finished. The processes can be happening simultaneously with no bottlenecks or delays.

The external cladding is going to be a thermally treated timber that's going to be oiled. It is quite solid and stable in the sun, and over time will start to silver as it weathers in the sun. It will blend in perfectly in that environment without standing out too much.

The Result

Northland scenery lends itself to amazing architecture and this luxury retreat is no exception. This really is a home away from home that ticks all the boxes. The architecture makes the most of the site location, maximising views and outdoor areas while providing shelter from the elements. It is a bach that can be used for large family gatherings or sectioned off when different groups come to stay. We designed around the protected areas and pits, respecting the land and incorporating these elements into the designs.

As well as an end result that our clients are thrilled with, we've taken into consideration a building process that works well for the client and his professional expertise. He can take pride in being part of the design and build process to create a beautiful property.

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