From a room where you can lie on the bed and gaze up at the stars, to a living room where the time of day can be determined by the way the light dances down from a cavity overhead, there are some houses in New Zealand that the owners will be relishing the opportunity to spend days upon end in, safe and secluded from the world in its current state of flux.

These are Home magazine's New Zealand Home of the Year's best houses. And this year, all six finalists are from the competition's retreat category, found in peaceful locales from Northland to Wānaka.

Multi-generational home
Multi-generational home "Light Mine" in Kuaotunu, Coromandel, has won the New Zealand Home of the Year 2020. Photo / Simon Devitt

The Herald spoke to architect Ken Crosson, whose firm Crosson Architects won the supreme award for "Light Mine", a multi-generational home in Kuaotunu in the Coromandel, about what makes the design unique and how this strange period of being stuck at home may change how we want to live in the future.

Light Mine demands a double take with its three modernist, pyramid-like structures rising from the sand dunes on Kuaotunu beach. Designed and built for Bob and Chris de Leeuw, Light Mine's three turrets are a reference to the mine shafts of the area's long-abandoned gold mines.

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While this sculptural triad presents a subtle beacon to passers-by, from inside the home, the turrets are capped with glazing and bring shafts of light down into the rooms.

The interior is awash in soft cedar. Photo / Simon Devitt
The interior is awash in soft cedar. Photo / Simon Devitt

"It's dynamic and always changing," says Crosson. "You know where you are in the day by the way the light changes." And on clear nights, which the area has more than its fair share of, you can lie on the bed in the master and be treated to an incredible view of the stars.

Crosson says the home, which boasts uninhibited views of the ocean, is also a reflection of Chris and Bob, a builder who worked on the construction: "courageous, elegant, modest and humble. It's ambitious in a quiet way," much like his clients, he says.

Auckland firm Crosson Architects won the supreme award for Light Mine. Photo / Simon Devitt
Auckland firm Crosson Architects won the supreme award for Light Mine. Photo / Simon Devitt

Home editor and judge, Simon Farrell-Green, describes Light Mine as "modest but also memorable. It's distinctive but recessive. You see the dance between the horizontal and vertical, a play between wide and tall. It's an extremely clever play – it's just delightful."

The interior presents a soft, band-sawn cedar with timber flooring throughout, although the architect notes the master bedroom is carpeted, a request by the owners so they "can have warm toes when they get out of bed in the mornings."

The supreme home and other finalists were praised for being warm spaces featuring beautifully detailed natural materials and a connection to the outdoors, something many of us are likely craving as we enter week two of a nationwide lockdown.

And it's this unprecedented period that may lead to some changes in how we want our homes to function for us in the future. For example, Crosson notes that 10 to 15 years ago a separate office or study was a common requirement in a home. As technology has developed, however, we've discovered we can easily set up shop on a laptop or phone at the dining table, or from a comfy chair.

But as many of us adjust to working completely from home – experiencing the dichotomy of how interrupted it can be and how much more time we have when we're not required to drive anywhere - Crosson suspects we may see a return to more designated work spaces in our houses.

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"We'll see a definite re-examination. Efficiency will be important going forward."

And while the 80s was a time of excess and large spaces, now "we look at the essence of home, how small can be beautiful," he says.

With a focus on retreat and respite, here are the rest of the New Zealand Home of the Year finalists:

Waiheke Island: Awaroa Bay by Cheshire Architects

Photo / Jackie Meiring
Photo / Jackie Meiring

Mangawhai: Dart by Studio John Irving

Photo / Simon WIlson
Photo / Simon WIlson

Wanaka: Wanaka Crib by PAC Studio and Steven Lloyd

Photo / Simon Devitt
Photo / Simon Devitt

Tutukaka, Northland: Bowden House by Belinda George Architects

Photo / Simon Devitt
Photo / Simon Devitt

Waiheke Island: Waiheke House by Cheshire Architects

Photo / Sam Hartnett
Photo / Sam Hartnett