Out of the WOODS
An Auckland couple are building spectacular log cabins in the high hills above the Manukau Harbour.
The frame fits into a standard shipping container, takes only about three days to erect, and costs about $115,000.
The idea of living in a log cabin appeals to many. They can be built sustainably and relatively simply, and come complete with builtin Grizzly Adams/heidi rustic charm. But they can also conjure up images of dusty floors, dark interiors and sleeping with the spiders.
Visit a new eco-development in the small west Auckland settlement of Huia, however, and these misgivings will almost certainly fall away. Here on a site with spectacular views over the Manukau Harbour, John Donovan and his partner Sharon are helping to bring log home building into the 21st century.
The first thing you notice when visiting the development’s show home nestled among young Kauri at the rear of the site is that they may be relatively simple, but these Twin Peak homes are anything but humble abodes. From about $350,000 upwards, depending on the finish you go for and how much work you put in yourself, you get an awful lot of wow factor and 200m2 of well-lit, airy living space. The key to their iconic look, as well as the strength and flexibility of the design, is the homes’ spacious log frame. This is constructed from individually selected Douglas Fir logs, selectively felled just south of Rotorua. The logs are used unseasoned and whole, with their bark stripped with drawknives, creating an incredibly strong and visually stunning natural structure.
To avoid contact with moisture that would eventually damage the beams, the frame rests on a multi-layered concrete pad, with the homes’ unique ‘wing beams’ supported by their own 3m deep concrete footings. The pad also offers the opportunity for passive solar heat gain through the homes’ glass frontage, where heat from the sun during the day is absorbed and released slowly to maintain an even temperature when things cool down.
Although it’s stylish looks means it fits nicely into a development of the latest conventional home designs, the resulting house is incredibly simple and flexible. The frame fits into a standard shipping container, takes only about three days to erect, and costs about $115,000. Put a roof on it, and building consent permitting, you can then spend whatever time and money you have on creating the rooms and facilities you want inside. There’s easily room upstairs for a spacious master bedroom plus two others, or four smaller bedrooms with a little modification.
The show home sports low VOC paint, Kauri boarding to the exterior, engineered European oak floors, and European style turn and tilt double-glazing with western red cedar joinery from Heirloom Joinery in Takou Bay. It’s also fully wired for data, light and sound. This adds to the luxury feel, but the key is that each owner can choose whatever they like, and whatever they have budget for. John is particularly keen to try a more rustic approach next time around, which would come in at the lower end of the price range.
He says: “We had no problems at all with getting consent for this. The inspectors seemed to really enjoy seeing something different. We looked at a lot of other methods, including straw bale and rammed earth, but then this came up and it just seemed to really fit this location. This design sat beautifully, almost magically in this space.”
John and Sharon came to buy the land after returning from many years of overseas travel with a desire to settle near family and friends and “own a little bit of this paradise”. The site has been subdivided, with at least two of the new owners expressing an interest in having Twin Peaks homes built for them. The couple spent three years perfecting the design with expert advice and completed a short log-building course to nut out the finer details of the craft. But, as first time developers, it seems that a large part of the process was pure inspiration coupled with a kind of joyful determination.
John says: “We are green, but not pedantically so, more pragmatically. The house has an aesthetic that is quite aspirational. People see it and get inspired. It lifts the senses. We are really excited to build some more.”
Visit tehuia.co.nz for more information or to arrange a viewing.
Idyllic: log homes in the Waitakeres.