The Ultimate Indulgence
Hans and Carolyn Schuitman love a project. The fact that they personally handcrafted bricks and many of the finishing details for their 1400sqm home and completed the whole project in just over four years is testament to that – though it would have taken half the time if they’d had their way. “It really took too long,”
Hans and Carolyn Schuitman have built a landmark home they hope will still be standing in 200 years.
Theirs is a story of total commitment and enthusiasm; from the moment they discovered their home as a half-built shell, it was love. Though they were restricted to the previous owner’s architectural footprint for the main house, they quickly set about adding linked buildings and imbuing the property with their own sense of style. That included making 7000 bricks from scratch and handcrafting the staircase, unique door handles and numerous other decorative fittings throughout.
Today, their huge home, twenty-five kilometres north of Christchurch, features a barn, workshops, studio, cinema and wide interconnecting verandahs and courtyards, all of which sit in a 2.8-hectare garden overlooking an artificial lake.
Inside, it feels as if it has been established for decades. The couple has made liberal use of Southland macrocarpa for timber beams and Canterbury clay slurry for internal walls. Despite its large scale, the home has an enveloping intimacy, a rustic loveliness that pays homage to the European building traditions that inspired Hans and Carolyn.
“I was born in Holland and we’ve travelled to Europe for years,” says Hans. “We both wanted to create something with a clear European feel to it, with thick walls, beams and a sense of cosiness – something that felt instantly mature, as if it had been here for fifty years.”
For Carolyn the process was about more than just building a house; it was about creating a home. “What I love most about the finished house is that it has an earthy, aged, lived-in feel to it. It feels loved and it’s filled with all our personal treasures. That’s the essence of a good home to me,” she says.
With their family grown up, Hans and Carolyn’s home is now unashamedly geared to their preferred lifestyles. Hans, an engineer, has a series of meticulous workshops, a cinema and a den (his favourite place) and Carolyn has created a painting studio.
“The ultimate luxuries in life are to waste space and time,” says Hans. “We’ve been liberal in our ‘waste of space’. We’ve indulged ourselves with large rooms, big balconies and spaces for our individual hobbies and passions.”
The main house is around 600sqm and has four upstairs bedrooms. The barn doubles as guest accommodation, workshop space, a “museum” for the couple’s collectables and a large, rustic entertaining space.
Despite its size, the home has plenty of internal spatial variation. It soars to double-height ceilings in the kitchen and entry hall areas and offers an enveloping retreat in the beamed dining and living rooms.
Hans and Carolyn are inveterate collectors. “We’re both totally smitten and out of control when it comes to collecting,” says Hans. “We’re always in search of new things to collect. That’s one of the reasons we need so much space.”
It’s hard to decide which collection makes the biggest impact. From antique powder flasks, clocks and guitars to pokie machines, early tools, microscopes and engineering equipment, blue and white china and interesting wooden furniture, there is plenty to grab your attention. Many of the larger collectables are now housed in the barn, which gives this large entertaining space, complete with bar, the feeling of a small, intimate private museum.
The couple’s dedication to detail – right down to dozens of African rosewood door handles and the sixty light fittings Hans made in his workshop – continues beyond the house. To ensure the large complex looked balanced, a grand entrance was designed, complete with working drawbridge – “like the ones I remember from my childhood in Holland,” says Hans – and surrounded by a 0.6-hectare lake.
“We took out 500 truckloads of dirt to make the lake. Much of that has been incorporated back into the landscape design thanks to our brilliant landscaper, Chris Turnbull, who we have worked very closely with,” says Carolyn. “We didn’t want to spend the next ten years developing the garden, so Chris set to work creating it long before the house was completed.”
Hans happily confesses he and Carolyn are both perfectionists and says they spent as much time planning and building the bridges, courtyards and gazebos as they did every other part of the property.
“We’re dogged. We never give up,” he says. “But it was worth it because it is a wonderful place to come home to. It feels right and we like to think we have created a well-built landmark that will still be here in 200 years’ time.”
This house is part of the Christchurch NZ House & Garden Tour; click here
Please see the photo gallery for more images of this home including some web exclusive photos.
Story: Adrienne Rewi
Photographs: Daniel Allen