A Grand Design in the Waitaki Valley

Featured on Grand Designs New Zealand in December 2023, this project is a great example of how a character home project can enhance enjoyment of the original building whilst creating high performance spaces for modern living.


The original structure was built in 1860s as a stone farm cottage, with another wing added shortly thereafter. There were also two mid-20th century lean-to additions, as well as numerous internal modifications.

The farm has been in the family for more than a century. Our clients’ brief was to create a family home that honoured the integrity of the original cottage whilst also creating modern spaces for living and entertaining and also the daily operations of a farm office.

Our Process

We started out by carefully measuring the existing cottage inside and out. This wasn’t an easy task with the external walls being of irregular stone construction up to 600mm thick, and needless to say nothing was perfectly straight or level.

Back in the office we drew up a computer model of the existing cottage. This allowed us to determine how to best utilise the existing spaces in the cottage, and work out how much additional space would be required.

Preserving the Cottage

Our first decision was that the existing alteration work should be removed so that we could restore the original external appearance of the cottage. Alteration work over the years had been undertaken using the same plaster finish as the rest of the cottage. This made it hard to tell what parts of the cottage were original and which were new.

The first stage of construction was to work on the existing cottage so that it could be stabilised to avoid any settlement issues while work was underway on the subsequent addition.

The cellular structure of the cottage, with its thick walls and small deeply-set windows, was perfectly suited to house the bedroom and study spaces for the new home. While the existing stone walls were generally in sound condition, the floor was uneven and very close to ground level, and had deteriorated in many places.

The decision was made to remove the existing timber floor and insert a new concrete floor slab inside the existing stone walls. This gave the opportunity to incorporate pipes for in-slab heating, and plenty of insulation to the slab edge and underneath. New walls were framed inside the stone walls, the roof structure connects to the new walls and foundations to take the weight off the stone walls.

New bathrooms use traditional tile patterns, but with the convenience of modern frameless glass tiled showers and in-slab heating. This gives a touch of luxury hidden inside the walls of the old cottage.

A Modern Addition

For the addition, our clients were after a modern living, kitchen and dining area that complemented the cottage, with good access to outdoor living spaces.

We decided that the main living room and kitchen part of the addition should follow the scale and proportions of the existing cottage roof. This was linked back to the existing cottage using a smaller flat-roof area housing the dining room and service areas. A smaller glazed passageway provides access to the bedrooms.

The design of the main living space incorporates a beautiful timber ceiling and exposed rafters that echo the timber sarking exposed under the cottage roof. The selected timber was Southland Maple Beech. A freestanding double-sided woodburner site between the living and dining room. Here, 2.8m-high bi-fold doors provide a spectacular view up to the ridge of the adjacent hills, and ample morning sun.

The glazed passageway that leads back from the dining room to the kitchen runs on the outside of the old cottage wall. Here we sandblasted the white paint coating off the cottage walls to expose the original stonework underneath. This is what the cottage originally looked like, though it was subsequently plastered and painted over to protect the walls from exposure to weather. This interior portion that is protected from weather can soak up heat from the sun during the day and release warmth during the evening.

Materials and Finishes

The mixed brown and grey tones of the exposed stonework are reflected in the materials used throughout the house. These include recycled timber joinery. soft grey floor tiles and an oversized pendant light in a weathered grey finish with a stunning gold interior. Over the kitchen island is a linear light that was built using salvaged floorboards and framing from the cottage. Some of the original flooring was recovered and was able to be reinstalled as overlay flooring in a small sitting room in the cottage.

Externally, recycled hardwood boards are used as wall cladding to the addition, to evoke a clear distinction between the form of the cottage and all new work. The timber cladding will be allowed to weather naturally, developing a rustic appearance already seen in the large hardwood posts supporting the covered outdoor area.

Outdoor Living and Exterior

The covered outdoor area off the living area provides much needed shade in summer. There is also a courtyard area that opens off the dining area and is enclosed by the building on three sides and the base of the hill to the north. This ensures that it is sheltered from the winds that can run down the length of the valley.

Viewed from the front of the house, the addition is fully concealed by the original cottage. Thiss meets our clients’ objective of preserving the original cottage that is so important to their family’s history on the farm whilst creating a comfortable and high-performance family home that is perfectly suited to the demands of modern living.

(Photographs 3, 4, and 6 by Chloe Lodge, Photographer)