When American advertising guru Fred Mann and his wife Kitty decided to build a Kiwi bach in the Bay of Islands, they picked an Australian architect.

The Manns, of San Francisco, now have a minimalist holiday home, 15 minutes on a sealed road out of Russell, designed by James Grose of BVN Architecture (Bligh Voller Nield) and built by award-winning St Benedicts St-based Lindesay Construction of Newton.

The Manns found Grose from an article in an American magazine and arranged to meet him in Auckland to talk about the project.

Te Whare Hoiho won Philip Lindesay the 2008 Master Builder's House of the Year and Grose an Institute of Architects award.

"This deceptively simple-looking house presented huge building challenges," said Philip Lindesay. "It was built to be functional enough to lock up and leave for months, yet beautiful enough to be considered a sculpture. Features like double glazing, wool insulation and sustainable materials mean Te Whare Hoiho is also easy on the environment."

The house has wide ocean views of Roberton Island and the many islands scattered in the Bay of Islands. It features on the Luxury Adventures website at $500 a night off-peak based on four guests and is on many other holiday home sites.

Te Whare Hoiho is one of a new breed of kiwi baches, far more upmarket than most of the country's 1.4 million dwellings.

These houses are taking style to a new level, resulting in new-builds on Waiheke Island taking out a large section of the Auckland institute awards announced in October and including sailing champion Brad Butterworth's new $3.9 million "bach" on a golden stretch of sand below the island's main settlement of Oneroa.

Even the judges noted Waiheke hideaways this year: Patterson Associates was praised for giving the Butterworths a "theatrical, sensuous, beautifully proportioned" house built of local multicoloured rock with rotating fins on its upper level to open it to the sea.

Mitchell & Stout Architects' Waiheke house was praised as strange and compelling, sitting in a paddock surrounded by manuka, "shifting between landscape, art and architecture". Sumich Chaplin Architects' Waiheke house was described as a shift away from the bach, and Fearon Hay Architects' Waiheke house was praised for being very new and different.

The Mann house near Russell is dominated by steel and glass and Grose acknowledges he drew partly from Australian traditions and a demure colour palette.

BVN has a big reputation here, picked by ASB property manager Derek Shortt to work with New Zealand architectural firm Jasmax on the internationally award-winning C:Drive, ASB's building at Albany. Shortt also picked Grose to design fellow tough box Sovereign House at Takapuna, also for ASB and a backdrop for office scenes in TV One's This Is Not My Life series.

The institute described Te Whare Hoiho as "sitting on the edge of the vast Pacific, this simple house - a kind of primitive platform - succeeds in articulating itself inside and out in the presence of what is an overwhelming, wonderful landscape. In the Miesian Murcutt tradition the structure remains in its elemental state and is enclosed with metal sheeting reminiscent of the original settlers' agricultural buildings."

From his townhouse Auckland office overlooking Upper Queen St, Philip Lindesay, wife Leslie and project manager Hamish Craig tell of the challenges of building this house at Paroa Bay near Russell.

Lindesay cites Grose's words to hammer home the point: "Don't underestimate how making something incredibly simple is monumentally more difficult," Grose said.

"The difficulty was in joining steel, glass, aluminium and corrugated iron together so it looks beautiful and doesn't leak and we achieved that. The corrugated iron was extremely difficult to apply and get it to look nice. Everything had to be absolutely perfect.

"Everything was pre-cut. The holes had to be absolutely perfect within a millimetre so the joinery could fit in.

"This house has a veranda at one end which looks out to sea and one of the reasons Fred was attracted to the site was he could see where Captain Cook first landed in the Bay of Islands," Lindesay said.