Flockhill homestead by Warren & Mahoney Architects

A journey through the Canterbury high country is a series of scenic moments that feel otherworldly. Majestic mountains rise around you, with surfaces of sun-parched screes, tussocks shimmering in the breeze and swathes of deep green beech trees, and perhaps most magical of all are the rocks that rise out of the ground at Castle Hill. When tasked with designing new accommodation for the farm at Flockhill Station — 36,000 acres in the Craigieburn Valley — project principal Jonathan Coote and the architecture team at Warren and Mahoney took all of this in and saved the best view till last.

TOP ”We wanted people to feel the excitement and anticipation of driving up through the valley and arriving at something a little more precise,” says Jonathan. “Coming into the courtyard, you get some containment, which builds as you see the house in front of you while not yet being able to see all of the view.” ABOVE Spanning the full length of the house constructed by Roland Hoogervorst of Hoogervorst Builders, the verandah can be accessed from both public and private zones, and allows for fluidity between the indoor and outdoor living spaces. With a 3.5m cantilever beyond the building, the roof shields and shades through the full spectrum of alpine elements. (Photograph by Barry Tobin.)

Right from the first visit, they knew the spectacular site commanded a sense of arrival. “You drive onto the property, weave your way through a number of farm buildings, barns, an old school house…” says Jonathan. “You’re on the valley floor, crunching over a gravel road, then climbing up the hillside surrounded by this really big, cosmic-scaled landscape to arrive at a view straight across Lake Pearson to Sugarloaf mountain in the distance. I’ve never been so awestruck by such a symmetrical view — it was almost a bit clichéd, really. It put the hairs on the back of my neck up, that this was where the house was supposed to go.”

Warren and Mahoney’s concept was to create a built environment that stretches across that view — a house that hunkers into the hillside, shrouded by a low-slung, pitched roof offering protection from the elements while allowing you to engage with the landscape through a simple means: a verandah. The journey inside plays out with a slow reveal of the show-stopping outlook, the deliberately spare palette of tinted, cast-concrete walls, limestone underfoot and timber to frame it all guiding you through lofty halls, where the haptic quality of the materials compels you to reach out and touch them. There’s democracy in the design, wherein communal spaces for socialising or sanctuary and all four bedroom suites are aligned, so the scene of Sugarloaf rising beyond the lake can be enjoyed from room to room.

ABOVE Custom-made pendant lights by Monmouth Glass Studio are suspended over the main dining table made with rescued river mataī in a collaboration between interior designer Jessica Close and Treology. “I wanted it to be a sleek, sustainable design that tells a story specific to Flockhill,” says Jessica. “The timber can be located and dated via a GPS tag under the tabletop and the fin-like legs were inspired by a topographical map of the station.” The surrounding Tendence chairs are by Tonon, while on the buffet by Treology are a pair of original brass lamps by late German furniture designer and painter Tommi Parzinger, sourced from Mr Mod, and a vase by ceramicist Kirsten Dryburgh. On the wall behind them is Ika by Cora-Allan Wickliffe.

One zone that bucks this trend is the kitchen, which intentionally turns its back on the vista, instead inviting you to share a more intimate experience that places the attention on gathering and eating. “I have wonderful memories of being in farmstead kitchens as a kid, and being tucked away in a secondary part of the house, somewhere a little more insular,” says Jonathan. “The idea is that everyone can get around the table and the focus in the room is on cooking and being together.”

TOP Forgotten Laneways by Matt Arbuckle hangs above one of two sofas made to Jessica’s specifications. The wood basket was woven by Oamaru’s Mike Lilian from willows grown in nearby Kakanui, and putting a Kiwi twist on iconic turned stools by Charles and Ray Eames, the macrocarpa side tables were made by Treology, who also crafted the tōtara coffee table. ABOVE “The design for the homestead adopts an architecture consistent with heavy masonry elements embedded into the landscape,” says Jonathan. “Our approach combines ‘weight to the base’ with a soaring, lattice-structured pine roof that floats above these elements.”

Working with their US-based clients, Warren and Mahoney and Jessica Close (who provided the interior decoration) incorporated a sense of place when expressing their vision for the lodge. Layers of meaning were folded into every design decision, reflecting the specific nature of the Southern Alps and also more broadly representing the essence of life in rural New Zealand — albeit a luxury-accommodation version of it. “Every piece has a story, and the narrative that’s woven throughout the home is a conversation with nature,” says interior designer Jessica.

ABOVE The kitchen is deliberately a more inward-looking proposition. “Being able to get a bit of a break from the view while you’re cooking and eating produce from the local environment is pretty special,” says Jonathan. “There’s really only one little slot window that looks out onto the courtyard and a set of French doors that looks east, and we enjoy the cave-like quality of that. The room is extensively fitted out to allow for big dinner parties, cooking classes, and the managers’ and chef’s walk-in scullery. Then there’s the self-serving zone, which you can duck into to get a coffee or a beer, or make something without getting involved in the fuss of the kitchen proper.”

Acting as a conduit for local craftspeople, her approach honours the handmade — from the tōtara air-dried for 11 years before being cut into a live-edge coffee table by Treology in Ōtautahi/Christchurch, to the fire poker and shovel made by blacksmith Christo in the nearby town of Darfield. Imbuing the spaces with cocooning tactility, the finishes she selected for the furnishings pick up the alpine-themed threads of colour and texture that Warren and Mahoney had already instilled in the building and its interior.

ABOVE For the library, Jessica sourced a rare pair of 1755 walnut armchairs by Ole Wanscher for Fritz Hansen from an Ōtautahi/Christchurch dealer. “They’re sculptural masterpieces,” she says. The curtains in felted wool by Rose Uniacke are undeniably luxurious and divine to handle, and the ottoman covered in Rabanna fabric by Fermoie was custom-made to provide a place on which to play games or prop up a drink from the built-in bars Jessica designed and had lacquered with Aalto Cloak and fitted with Sutton handles by Armac Martin from In Residence. The quartet of artworks are Waitangi Inlet I, II, III and IV by John Eaden.

Individualised living spaces guide guests staying at the homestead towards or away from social situations according to their whims. An extensive wine collection is accessed from the main living and dining space, and bookending this area are a media room and library, where all the finer details have been considered. A curated collection of reading is stacked within easy reach on an oversized, custom-designed ottoman in the library, where a wall is flanked with cabinetry that opens to reveal a swish whiskey bar. Books and drinks alike can be taken back to bedrooms that have ensuites with deep baths to sink into and private patios on which to while away mornings or afternoons.
“Sometimes as designers with this type of opportunity in front of us, we can over-egg a design response,” says Jonathan. “In this case, reducing the palette, clarifying and simplifying, and choosing a reductive approach allowed us to slowly layer up a richer outcome, and I’m really happy that the concept feels intact.”

TOP In the media room, an Arcade sofa by Simon James is finished with the same woollen fabric by Rose Uniake as the wall panels to form a tonal surround. Beam side tables by Ariake, also from Simon James, rest on loop- pile carpet by Bremworth that provides maximum comfort underfoot. MIDDLE Jonathan explains: “We wanted to create a sense of levitating above Lake Pearson when you’re sitting in the pool, so it’s pushed close to the edge and integrated into the tussock landscape.” ABOVE A striking feature of the area surrounding Flockhill Station is the limestone rock formations that jut out of the landscape. For Māori iwi Ngāi Tahu, this was historically an important stopover point on journeys to the West Coast and a seasonal food-gathering place, where the rock overhangs were used for shelter. Limestone tiles feature throughout the lodge and are continued up the walls in the ensuites, where freestanding baths are set in front of large sliding doors that offer the option of an open-air experience.

All told, one can barely imagine there would be a reason to leave the lodge if you were staying at Flockhill, and yet a major restorative component of anyone’s time spent here is getting out into that spectacular environment. Hiking, mountain biking, skiing, fly fishing and kayaking are all for the taking — as is time on the farm to connect with what this property has set out to do for generations: live within the landscape.

ABOVE Sanctuaries in their own right, the four private suites (accommodation for Flockhill’s American owners, and visitors hosted by Sandra and Andrew Cullen) are layered with natural materials. They all share the same outlook, yet feature unique tones expressed in décor including lamps by Monmouth Glass Studio, blankets from Mt Somers Station and custom-coloured rugs by Nodi. Jessica also commissioned the Dreamwool mattresses and bed frames crafted from reclaimed rimu sourced from buildings demolished after the Ōtautahi/Christchurch earthquakes. The artwork above is Te Kupenga II (The Net) by Peata Larkin.

Words Alice Lines
Photography Anna McLeod

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