Two little rusted cottages have won big at the New Zealand Architectural Design awards - confirming not only can smaller, sustainable homes mean a simpler life, but they can look amazing too.

This year's winner of the ADNZ Resene Architectural Design supreme award were two adjoined townhouses - just 74sq m each - on a 300sq m central city site in Christchurch.

The prestigious awards were presented at a ceremony at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa last night.

The rusted Madras St workingman's cottages were designed by Mitchell Coll of Coll Architecture and described as "an exemplar for urban living", by the ADNZ judges.

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The 74sqm townhouse in Christchurch designed by Mitchell Coll of Coll Architecture.
The 74sqm townhouse in Christchurch designed by Mitchell Coll of Coll Architecture.

The properties also won the Residential Multi-Unit Dwelling Architectural Design Award and Residential Interiors Architectural Design Award.

"Back Country House" tucked away in the bush-clad hills of Puhoi, designed by David Maurice of LTD Architectural Design Studio, won the new home award for 150sq m-300sq m.

The judges described the design as a "clever use of volume inside a primary form".

The property features hidden bathtubs under the deck which overlooks a stunning bush setting.

"Back Country House" in Puhoi, designed by David Maurice of LTD Architectural Design Studio, was praised for its high level of craft.

"All spaces are multi-functional and adaptable. Judicious detailing, demonstrating a high level of craft and conceptual awareness from all involved, allows the primary design proposition to be presented on strong terms," the judges said.

Allan McIntosh of Buildology won the Resene Colour in Design Award for '17 O'Neill', a restoration of a Ponsonby villa. The Resene judges were wowed by its beauty.

"The neutral palette flows effortlessly throughout to create a fresh and inviting space," they said.

"Back Country House" in Puhoi, designed by David Maurice of LTD Architectural Design Studio.

"The brick feature wall, rich timber floors and mustard light fixtures bounce off each other to create a cosy, comfortable and warm space while the soft green hall leads you to the lush backyard."

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Pippin Wright-Stow of F3 Design was awarded for Lyttelton Landing - Residential Compact New Home - up to 150m2 and Jason Higham of Higham Architecture for Green Alterations won the Residential Alterations and Additions Architectural Design Award for a property in Rangiora.

Cymon Allfrey and Don Roy of Cymon Allfrey Architects won Residential New Home over 300m2 for their design showing off dramatic views in Mt Pleasant, Christchurch.