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."
"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.
"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."
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.
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 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.
"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."
Builder/General Contractor: Wellhaus
Structural Engineer: Kirk Roberts Consulting
Civil Engineer: GDC Consultants Ltd
Lighting Design: Mr. Ralph Lighting
Interior Design: MAKE Architects
Cabinetry Design/ Installation: IMO Group
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