After living on the high seas for years, Tristan Jongejans and Sarah Farrelly—who met while working on the super-yacht Amaryllis—developed a knack for small-space living and a love for the outdoors. So, when the couple decided to create their first home together on the Tutukaka coast where they had both grown up, they prioritized a close connection with nature over the building’s size.
Tristan reached out to his high school friend, Tim Gittos of Spacecraft Architects, to design a nature-infused home where they could return when they weren’t working on the open seas.
"The primary goal was to make a private, peaceful home that connected to the surrounding native bush," says Gittos. "The dwelling was conceived as a crash pad for when they are back and waiting to reconnect with the locality—it was important that it felt quintessentially New Zealand in design."
To that end, the time-honored Kiwi bach became a major inspiration for the project. Taking cues from the bach vernacular defined by modest interiors and an emphasis on the outdoors, Gittos crafted a simple, agricultural shed–like building with a mono-pitched roof.
"We wanted to create a strong, simple form that was economical to construct," explains Gittos, who playfully dubbed the house Wedgie after its distinctive wedge shape. "It didn't need to be big, but it would need to shelter space for working on boats, cars, and woodworking, and also have outdoor areas protected from the rain and the harsh summer sun."
The property was previously used as a dumping ground for building waste, and the poor soil conditions necessitated drilling timber support poles nearly 10 feet into the ground to support the structure. The exterior is clad in simple, durable, low-maintenance materials including untreated Lawson cypress slats and Coloursteel MAXX Trapezoidal iron.
Though Wedgie only measures 650 square feet, the compact dwelling feels much larger than its footprint thanks to large openings and the emphasis on indoor/outdoor living.
The ground floor includes a carport and indoor workshop on the south end, along with an open-plan living/cooking/dining area and an outdoor veranda on the north side. The upper floor holds the master bedroom, a smaller secondary bedroom, a shared bathroom, and a covered veranda.
Gittos designed the home to follow passive design principles. The roof overhang on the north side extends to mitigate unwanted solar gain in the summer, while allowing winter sun to penetrate the interior.
The couple also immersed themselves in the construction process. Tristan, who is an electrical engineer, installed the wiring and sensor systems. The architects and the couple are also currently working on a small extension to the home.
Builder/General Contractor: RHJ Builders Ltd
Structural Engineer: Grant Stevens
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