An elegant cabin on the West Coast feels like a platform in the bush, thanks to floor-to-ceiling sliding doors by Altherm.
The owners of this cabin near Punakaiki on the West Coast of the South Island spent years on the property before they asked architect James Warren, of Upoko Architects, to design them a small but sharp cabin in a nikau forest. “When they bought and inhabited the site, they carved rooms out of it, so the 'walls' were already there,” says Warren. “They had a clearing for living, a clearing for bathing and one for cooking, so it was kind of a room in the forest.” Warren’s design had to fit into one of those small rooms: a six-by-six metre cabin, with a solid top for sleeping and an almost transparent bottom level; the top floor looks very much like it’s floating in the bush. “We didn’t want to make a room within a room,” says the architect. “The spaces were already intimate and it was nice to just put the glass in place and continue to live there.” The joinery was manufactured by Altherm Window Systems' local manufacturer Design Windows West Coast. The simple but dramatic design rested on small but perfectly executed details – familiar territory for Altherm, which sponsors this magazine’s Home of the Year award and has a long history of working with architects to come up with innovative design solutions. Downstairs, Warren installed anodised silver APL Architectural Series sliding doors. Thanks to flush sills, they recede to open the living areas up to the bush. Even with the doors closed, the room has the feeling of a platform in the bush. Upstairs, where cedar cladding and plywood linings offer a sense of retreat and enclosure, carefully placed openings using Altherm’s Metro Series (also in anodised silver) bring in staggering views of nearby nikau and distant limestone bluffs. The materials provide durable protection against the coastal and bush elements. The dwelling is a shining example of how the most simple things can sometimes transpire to be the most elegant. “The owners used to have a van and they’d park it there with the awning up,” recalls Warren. “When I sit there now it feels just like that.”