Liv­ing the sim­ple life in an ar­chi­tec­tural beauty high on a Pakiri hill


Scott lawrie has a se­cret. He’s kept it close for some time. It’s liv­ing sim­ply: just him and his dog Skippy, on top of a hill with a view of Pakiri beach be­neath. “When you make the de­ci­sion to live like this, it is a good se­cret to keep be­cause oth­er­wise ev­ery­one would do it,” he says. “Although it would prob­a­bly help lower blood pres­sure rates in New Zealand.”

One night four years ago, Scott was sit­ting in his small Syd­ney back­yard looking up at the stars. But alas, the high-rises on ei­ther side and a par­tic­u­larly large fence left only a small postage stamp of sky to gaze at.

“I thought, is this it? Ev­ery­one tells you to work hard and suc­ceed and this is what you get? There’s got to be more.”

So, hav­ing al­ways felt more at home in New Zealand than his home coun­try of Scot­land, he picked a spot on top of a hill in Pakiri, 85km north of Auckland, and built his dream house.

“I wake up every morn­ing and think I have died and gone to heaven,” he says. “It is the hap­pi­est I have ever been. There isn’t ac­tu­ally a lot you need to live com­fort­ably. To be iso­lated and so close to na­ture is re­ally nice.”

Although he lives a sim­ple life, his house is any­thing but. De­signed by ar­chi­tect Paul Clarke (s2a.co.nz), it’s mostly con­structed with­out any right an­gles. The apex of the house faces di­rectly north, in line with the Hen and Chicken Is­lands, and Scott chose a site where the views can never be built out. With an outer shell of steel and lined inside with French cedar, it’s a hard-wear­ing house that ref lects the el­e­ments.

“A lot of peo­ple think the an­gles of the house are just a de­sign quirk, but they are ac­tu­ally de­signed to mit­i­gate the wind,” says Scott.

Sit­ting 225m above sea level, the house can be sub­ject to 100kmh winds. “My bar­be­cue ac­tu­ally flew away dur­ing a storm; it was lucky the house didn’t get dam­aged,” he says.

The build stretched Scott’s bud­get to the limit, leav­ing noth­ing for land­scap­ing. But that turned out to be just fine, as Scott loves the unadul­ter­ated look. “I can step off my deck onto the moun­tain. There is noth­ing more beau­ti­ful than a paddock that feels un­touched, the way the cows see it.” >


The soli­tary life is not at all lonely for Scott, who is very self­suf­fi­cient. “I like the feel­ing of iso­la­tion but also know­ing that I have neigh­bours around me in case I chop a fin­ger off,” he says.

This is not to say he doesn’t like hav­ing peo­ple visit; in fact he loves it, but the quiet re­treat can some­times be hard to leave. As a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, Scott made sure the guest bed­room didn’t have a wardrobe “to en­cour­age peo­ple not to stay too long”.

His house, named The Cross­ing be­cause of its place­ment on the stretch of land where the cows used to cross, was de­signed purely for the way Scott lives. “You shouldn’t adapt your life to your house, but build a house to suit your life,” he says. Dur­ing the de­sign process, Paul would ask him questions such as, “What side of the bed do you sleep on?” and “Do you get up to pee dur­ing the night?”

Scott runs his brand­ing busi­ness from home, which meant he needed a writ­ing stu­dio. Work­ing at home comes with perks, he says. He can sit in his undies and work, take a long break in the mid­dle of the day to go to the beach, then con­tinue his work at night – with a glass of wine, of course.

This rou­tine meant it was im­por­tant that the house was suit­able for use at all times. “I have a day house and a night house. Dur­ing the day it’s open and airy, but at night it trans­forms into a more the­atri­cal space,” says Scott, a self­pro­claimed “night thinker”. >

The care­fully con­sid­ered light­ing and breath­tak­ing views are not the only vis­ual el­e­ments in this dra­matic house: it is also filled with art. A col­lec­tor for more than 10 years, Scott wanted the house to be de­signed around the art­work. “We knew ex­actly where each piece would go and there­fore could de­sign enough space for each item,” says Scott. “Art is a se­ri­ous pas­sion of mine but a lot of my friends hate my art. They tell me, ‘I could never live with what you live with.’”

But Scott’s house is it­self a work of art. There are sculp­tural el­e­ments in the struc­ture of the house, such as the al­ter­nat­ing tread stair­case (a space-sav­ing de­sign) and the an­gled kitchen bench. “The chance of me ever hav­ing kids is re­ally slim, so I wanted to make some­thing that would out­live me. Think­ing that I have achieved some­thing that peo­ple will still look at well after I’m gone is re­ally spe­cial.”

THIS PAGE The far wall in Scott’s bed­room has a three-de­gree in­ward lean; the large paint­ing by young Bri­tish artist James Collins hangs on the slant­ing wall; the cow hide is from Ikea. OP­PO­SITE (clock­wise from top left) The black tiles in the en...

THIS PAGE The yel­low paint­ing and sculp­ture are both by Bren­dan Hunt­ley; the grey paint­ing is by New Zealand artist Euan Ma­cLeod; Scott de­cided early on that black walls would be a feature in his house, mixed with wood, steel and con­crete. OP­PO­SITE...

THIS PAGE When Scott Lawrie was plan­ning his Pakiri home, north of Auckland, he was ini­tially ner­vous about hav­ing a wall made en­tirely of glass: “The prob­lem is not be­ing too cold, but be­ing too hot – the glass heats up the house so quickly that the...

THIS PAGE The house, which was filmed for Grand De­signs New Zealand, is clad in steel: “It had to be hard-wear­ing be­cause I travel a lot and didn’t want to be clean­ing it every time I came home,” says Scott, who also finds the win­dows never get dirty...

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