You can admire finished houses as if they’re works of art.
But it’s the craftsmanship involved and the building challenges overcome that make them even more interesting, and, in the case of five local homes, gold award-winning, too.
In the over-$2 million category of the recent Southern Region Registered Master Builders House of the Year competition, four of the five gold-medal winners – the most handed out in any category – were Wakatipu homes.
Two also won lifestyle awards.
And the prestigious Supreme Renovation of the Year award also went to a local builder.
The over-$2m category & gold winner was Arrowtowner Peter Swain’s Summerhill Construction for a $5m-plus home by a pond at Millbrook Resort.
At 900 square metres, it’s the biggest build in Swain’s 18 years in business.
He notes the schist alone is heavier than the world’s largest airliner, the Airbus 380.
The challenges, he says, were building through two winters and also beside a pond – when building the basement, containing a media room and wine cellar, “we were always worried about waterproofing and what-not”.
Geothermal heating also required drilling down 100m to a ground source.
How Swain got the commission from an Auckland client is quite amusing.
“I built the house right next door, and I had to go back to work one night and here’s this bloke walking through the house, and we introduced ourselves and he said, ‘I want to build next door, are you available?”‘
Swain also picked up the interior design award.
Rooms include cedar ceilings, painted pine and oak-panelled wall linings, while imported items include Italian marble, English bathroom fittings, and flooring from San Francisco.
Another gold-medal winner, not surprising given its award-winning pedigree, was AJ Saville Builder for a $7m, 700sqm, three-year build at Millbrook for an overseas client.
The house comprises a series of small interconnecting buildings with steeply-pitched roofs leading to incredibly spacious interiors.
This house also won the sustainable home award.
Allister Saville, who’s built about 68 Millbrook homes, says he was lucky to have a client who didn’t mind spending money making his home sustainable – “it’s the way we should all be building but probably not to the extent he went to”.
Like Swain’s build, about nine bore holes were drilled about 100m for ground-source heating.
Through a heat exchanger, Saville says the air in the house is changed about every three-quarters of an hour.
Insulation readings, for example for the Italian windows, are also off the charts.
“If people spend a bit more on heating and insulation when they’re building, their running costs would come back dramatically.”
The same night he received these two awards in Dunedin, in Melbourne, Saville’s Cromwell-based Masterwood Joinery won major kitchen and bathroom design awards for a Dalefield home.
Bamford McLeod Construction won gold for a $2m-plus build on what builder Andy McLeod calls “one of the best sites in Queenstown”.
It’s on a steep rocky site in Aspen Grove that made it “extremely challenging”.
“We just carved it out of a side of a hill.”
The 350sqm interior comprises two vast floors of luxury spaces with huge expanses of glass to capitalise on the amazing lake and mountain views.
There’s also an outdoor living room with a schist fireplace, television and fully-retractable roof that can be opened to the sun or closed in inclement weather.
Though not in the original plans, a wine cave was created out of a sheer rock wall.
“Now it’s one of the best features of the house,” McLeod says.
Another $2m-plus award-winner is a pavilion-style home at Dalefield built by John Gavin Construction.
John Gavin says it’s a tastefully-furnished, immaculate house, about 600sqm, built as a holiday home for a Christchurch client “with a view to them coming here to live”.
The foundation and structural steel were very challenging, he notes.
Stunning natural timber ceilings create a warm ambience.
The $500,000 to $1m renovation category winner, Queenstown’s BTP Construction, also won the supreme renovation award for a fascinating Arrowtown project.
While the outside of the house looks new, immediately inside is a cabin-in-the-woods ‘breezeaway’ entrance that looks like an old shed.
The idea is you relax by the fire with a drink straight after coming back from skiing or whatever adventure.
Materials include recycled rimu beams and corrugated iron sourced from two old sheds in Southland.
A lot of other recycled items like reprofiled weatherboards have also gone into the build.
However BTP Construction owner Newell Hodgson says the rebuild also includes an all-new kitchen and bathrooms.
What’s interesting is the clients had a vision of their dream home from their experience with earlier ones, and had posted a storyboard of photos showing what they wanted the interior fitout to look like.
These five Wakatipu builds now join other gold medal-ranked ooo0homes around New Zealand in being rejudged.
The top 100 then become finalists for the national awards announced on November 23.