In ev­ery di­rec­tion there’s a view of the sea or the moun­tains from this sim­ple Kaikōura bach.

A sim­ple bach built to cap­ture views of moun­tain and ocean is the ideal bolt-hole for a busi­ness­man who loves to surf

NZ House & Garden - - CONTENTS - WORDS SUE AL­LI­SON PHO­TO­GRAPHS JULIET NI­CHOLAS

Mark Browne went to great lengths to avoid build­ing a house on the land he loved. It was as if he didn’t want to scar the spec­tac­u­lar strip be­tween the moun­tains and sea just north of Kaikōura. For nearly a decade, he drove the coast road north from Christchurch and camped, first with a car­a­van, then in a te­pee and later a can­vas yurt. The yurt was ro­man­tic and had pos­si­bil­i­ties of per­ma­nence, but it kept blow­ing down so he re­turned to his car­a­van. “At that point I re­alised I had gone full cir­cle,” says Mark. “I thought, ‘Crikey... I’m 56 and I don’t own a house. It’s time to treat my­self to some com­fort­able quar­ters.’”

Mark con­tacted Nott Ar­chi­tects be­cause he liked their work, and Trevor Wil­son was given the brief.

“My brief was re­ally brief. Less is more for me,” says Mark, who wanted a house that sat lightly on the land but didn’t blow away.

Trevor de­liv­ered an off-the-grid 92sqm glass and ply­wood box that, de­spite its ethe­real sim­plic­ity, is firmly an­chored with truckloads of con­crete and a se­ri­ous amount of steel. “The builders said it would be the last thing stand­ing,” says Mark. They were proved cor­rect af­ter the mag­ni­tude 7.8 quake of Novem­ber 2016 dev­as­tated the area but left him with just a cou­ple of cracked win­dows and two bro­ken wine glasses. >

Mark’s 3000sqm sec­tion at Ha­puku, close to the penin­sula where he grew up, sits on a ter­race with the sea­ward Kaikōura range just a few kilo­me­tres be­hind and the sea di­rectly be­low. “I’m con­stantly in awe of the beauty of the raw land­scape. The views and colours are ab­so­lutely stun­ning,” he says.

The four sides of the house of­fer dis­tinct out­looks to each point of the com­pass and some­times, with re­flec­tions in the glass, sur­real vis­tas of moun­tains seem­ingly ris­ing from the sea. High win­dows frame cloud­scapes and, at night, heav­enly views of starry skies.

The in­te­rior, lined top-to-toe with un­treated ply­wood, fea­tures an open-plan liv­ing area with a long bay win­dow rem­i­nis­cent of a surf­board, look­ing out to sea. There’s a bed­room down­stairs, loft above and bath­room with a slid­ing door that al­lows bath time to be ef­fec­tively al­fresco. (Mark wanted to put the bath on tracks for a full out­door ex­pe­ri­ence but was de­railed by the ex­pense.)

But the pièce de ré­sis­tance is an en­closed atrium on the north cor­ner. Open to the sky, the decked area around the front door has two barn-like doors that can be rolled away or se­cured, giv­ing it the feel of a hill-top fortress.

“It’s Game of Thrones stuff,” says Mark, al­though pro­tec­tion in this case is from the el­e­ments, not ma­raud­ing hordes. “We have some big winds com­ing through here. Camper­vans have been blown over by the nor’wests com­ing off the moun­tains.” >

The sun’s power, how­ever, is not shut out but har­nessed. Two sets of so­lar pan­els, one an­gled for the sum­mer sun and the other to catch the win­ter rays, pro­vide about 4.6 kilo­watts of en­ergy. “It would have been about the same price to put power in up here, which helped make my de­ci­sion,” says Mark, who uses gas to heat the wa­ter and re­cy­cles grey wa­ter for ir­ri­gation.

En­ergy-ef­fi­cient LED lights have been in­stalled through­out the house, which is wired for mu­sic. While he might not tap into the na­tion’s power sup­ply, Mark is cer­tainly not off the grid so­cially. “I love shar­ing this place with friends and fam­ily,” says the fa­ther of two adult chil­dren, Luke and Niko. “The house has got great acous­tics and the ply­wood is like a sprung dance floor. It marks a bit which gives it that lived-in feel, but you wouldn’t want a party here with a whole lot of high heels.”

The founder of a wind­surf store and c0-di­rec­tor of Cheap­skates in Christchurch and Wanaka en­joys the lo­cal surf. “There’s a beau­ti­ful break five min­utes away at Manga­maunu. That’s my sweet wave.” Other times he’s out at sea pad­dling his outrig­ger waka.

Mark, who plans to move here full-time in a year, is glad he re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to build a big­ger pad. Friends can crash on the so­fas or pitch tents on the lawn. “We don’t have to do big and great. While this is quite flash, it’s just a square box and it’s off the grid. Some peo­ple tell me I should have slid­ing doors and a big deck out the front, but I’m used to liv­ing in car­a­vans and tents. I don’t need a big deck. I want to step onto the land.”

For the Kaikōura boy come home, it’s an awe­some place in the real sense of the word. “I spend a lot of time just stand­ing look­ing out. Not a mo­ment goes by when I’m not thank­ful to be here.”

THIS PAGE (from top) Ineke Chap­man, Ruth Stirn­i­mann, Mark Browne and Andy Chap­man en­joy a glass of wine on the lawn be­side the pizza oven. Dawn brings stun­ning colours as the sun rises over the sea.

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