If there’s a name in New Zealand design we recommend you should bold and underline, it’s Fearon Hay Architects. While their work spans internationally, it’s their local know-how that’s hard to match. Designs that come from their drawing board are proudly embalmed with the nation’s heritage and ever-green landscape; on a mission to not just sit pretty, but carefully coexist. Typifying the distinction of Fearon Hay’s residential work is the Forest House; a genius homestead of timber clad, gabled structures.
The cluster of timber structures rests at the edge of Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges. Here, a family enjoys an idillic rural lifestyle, of summer night’s by the fire pit, or cosy comfort indoors by the grand fireplace. But creating this rural setting wasn’t about starting from scratch. Fearon Hay Architects kept and converted an existing house, removing the old farm buildings that laced it. The concept of close buildings wasn’t entirely abandoned, inspiring a new U-shaped collection. Fearon Hay Architects describe the structures as speaking to a traditional language of “shelter, protection and enclosure – a foil to the surrounding rainforest, the beating sun, heavy rain, and year-round westerlies blowing in from the Tasman Sea”. From the outset, the exteriors pay homage to the steep gable roof with wide eaves and veranda, eminent of rural sheds, barns and farmhouses.
Out of Fearon Hay Architect’s visionary approach, each of the buildings boast a different wing. The original home is for retreating, as a wing with four bedrooms, bathrooms and a winter lounge. Two new buildings connected by a steel bridge are host to the living and dining spaces, a loft study and a games room. In between, a grassed courtyard space is an inviting outdoor living area, and nearby, a large workshop, garage and hay store enclose the courtyard and vegetable garden.
For both client and architect a preference for timber was not just about looks, it was about design longevity. The owner, an ardent cabinet maker, spent years stockpiling timber salvaged from old church halls, classrooms and demolished houses to use throughout. The various timber types — Cedar roof shingles, shutters and battens, French-oak flooring and Totara weatherboards — ensure an ever-lasting character. Offsetting the timber is a layering of rustic concrete, as both a fireplace and wall feature.
When people say they’re escaping to the country, the Forest House is what we like to imagine. Fearon Hay Architects have designed a farmhouse of enviable proportions; a home you’re unlikely to ever want to leave and hard to find a reason to — when you’re on 12-acres of self-sufficient living. We’re going so far to say our New Zealand neighbours have themselves a new kind of national treasure.
‘Forest House embodies a rich and textural design, one that alludes to a rich cinematic heritage and romantic New Zealand identity.’
— Fearon Hay Architects