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Presented with a need to have somewhere close to unwind, Jane Rennie and her husband Stephen set out to find the perfect spot. ‘We wanted a place within an hour of Christchurch where we could escape whenever the mood took us,’ she describes.

The ‘somewhere’ was found in the form of a dramatic section at Charteris Bay. With a challengingly steep gradient, a private and picturesque site at Black Rock provided the opportunity to achieve their vision.
As a local interior designer with insideout design, and known for interiors that balance natural materials, colours and textiles, it is unsurprising that when building for herself, Jane created a relaxing and warm ‘weekender’ sympathetic with nature.

‘We had renovated but never built before,’ shares Jane. ‘So we needed a firm we could trust with the skills to build on the difficult site, and were fortunate to enjoy a very successful relationship with Bushnell Builders who professionally managed the project for us,’ she says. Brad Austin from Bushnell Builders still delights in receiving confirmation that they would be the ones to translate the Rennies’ plans into a reality. ‘We had a relationship with Jane and this was a project that was, and still is, very special to us,’ he explains.

And looking at the finished result, there is no disputing why.

Their son Nick, who was an architectural student, came up with a concept sketch of what they could achieve on the site. ‘We wanted less house and more outside using large sliding doors to provide protection from the weather and usable outdoor space.’ A space that would give ‘us privacy and allow friends and family to enjoy their stay without us all being on top of each other’ recalls Jane.

The ‘concept’ of two living structures (plus a garage) cut into the site was then given to Dunedin architect and friend Richard Shackleton to develop and refine. ‘Richard made the concept a reality,’ says Jane.

Fondly referred to as Shed 1 and Shed 2, each pavilion-styled unit sits on its own terrace, connected by a stone-clad stairwell made from stone recovered from the site. Sitting atop the section, Shed 2 is only 80 square metres in size and acts as guest and family accommodation with two bedrooms and a bathroom, providing guests with their own private retreat.

The larger of the two structures, at 150 square metres, Shed 1 then houses the master bedroom, bathroom, wine cellar, and the exquisite open-plan kitchen/dining/living area, that effortlessly opens up to the breathtaking views and outdoor entertaining deck.

With a passion for ‘pursuing perfection’ in the interiors, Jane and her insideout design colleague, Sam, drew on the surrounding natural environment to create a space that appears effortless and timeless. ‘It needed to be functional yet personal,’ describes Jane, ‘while embracing the surrounding landscape.’ Timber, stone and natural fibres are hence found inside and out, with the honesty and raw elements of the materials adding to the success of the property.

For Bushnell Builders, the use of these natural materials is what makes the property stand out as something special. ‘What the owners have achieved with the connection to the surrounding environment is incredible,’ continues Brad.

The most prominent natural material utilised in the surrounding walls is the volcanic rock. ‘One of the biggest challenges of the build was the steepness of the site and the large volume of black rock that was removed as a result,’ recalls Brad. ‘The Rennies made the decision to retain as much of it as possible onsite which was great.’ The result being that the exposed retaining walls (which form aspects of the stairwell) are clad in the volcanic rock creating that sense of connection with the site from the moment you step onto the property.

Taking just over a year to complete, Brad concludes, ‘It was a hard build but the end result is incredible.’ Jane, Stephen and their three adult children are in complete agreement, ‘the end result is better’ than they could have hoped and the location perfect. ‘It is so easy, it’s only 40 minutes from Christchurch,’ comments Jane. ‘We get here as much as possible and consider we are very lucky to have this only a stone’s throw away.’ 

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Words Lucinda Diack     IMAGES Charlie Jackson