Always on holiday in Golden Bay
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
Drive up the road above Golden Bay at Pohara and you might spot a red corrugated iron house, apparently submerged in the foliage. It's built amid the limestone rocks, its various levels and structures spread like tentacles over the hillside, backed by a sparkling blue seascape.
Bold colour aside, that's how the owners envisaged their home - unobtrusive, discreet and understated. And once you meet and chat with Shirley and Bruce Turner you realise that the building reflects them - outwardly modest and unassuming but with a wealth of individuality and character within.
The Turners were once horticulturists, growing tomatoes in Governors Bay, but they tired of being driven by a computer that required constant supervision to achieve optimum temperatures and irrigation. So in 2003 they went looking for a getaway bach and happened upon a for sale sign in Golden Bay.
"The section was very overgrown but we poked around and could see these big rocks and thought, that could be interesting," recalls Shirley. "We bought it that week."
They planned to build a holiday house to rent out in between visits, so the immediate challenge was to find an architect keen enough or, as they suspected, eccentric enough to accommodate the limestone rocks they were so keen on. The one they eventually contacted was Christchurch architect Trevor Henderson.
"We'd seen a few of his houses and liked his designs,- says Shirley. "He is a one-man band and was in Christchurch, where we were, so it all seemed to fit. We gave him the brief - you know, the usual three bedrooms and a big games room.
"When he came to the site he said, 'Come with me. This is what we are doing,' and walked us up the site through the rocks saying, 'This is the garage, this is the games room". And I thought, 'Have you gone mad?' as we climbed around rocks. You had to see the site to see what he was working with. It was covered in huge limestone rocks. Then as we walked down the hill he said, 'And that rock will be inside the stairwell'."
For the Turners, getting their heads around having a rock in the house was taking design to a whole new and unexpected level; it required thought and much imagination. To help with getting to grips with the concept, Shirley asked for a sketch of how it would look when completed. "It was no good my looking at floor plans. I wanted to see how it would look as a house, at the end," she says in her pragmatic way.
The architect was persuasive and convincing and he was fortunate enough to have clients who understood that the house had to be different to work around a slope of rocks and the 9m- deep tomo (a chute-like hole) they uncovered when they cleared the section. It took just two sets of plans to reach agreement and even then the second set represented only minor changes.
Says Shirley: "He produced an amazing sketch of the house and to this day it's what the house looks like. I can't believe the man had such vision."
Trevor Henderson himself modestly insists that there were just two options with the site. "Any architect would have done what I did. The alternative was to walk away; there was little choice. The design is about trying to retain the assets of the site. As you walk in the nondescript front door you see old trees and then you migrate around and rise up a level. The spread of the build is to pick up the views, with the tomo as a viewpoint from the dining area."
Golden Bay builder Paul Crockford, who's known in the district for relishing the challenge of unusual designs, was taken on and the build was completed at what Shirley calls 'Golden Bay pace', in two years.
"The build had its challenges," says Shirley. "I wanted the exterior green so it would merge into the native plants and trees, but Trevor wanted bright red. I could have died when he told us."
But the architect had his way and the house is painted a traditional corrugated iron barn red. "It's like a tiger," says Trevor. "When it pounces, only then do you see it. Barn red is very appropriate for the site, it's where I was always heading."
Throughout the build, the Turners recall, Trevor always referred to the house as an umbrella to keep out the rain. "The roof is all one pitch at 15 degrees," says Trevor. "It's simply a big lean-to, really, with some hips. They're a bit mischievous - I'm playing with roof lines - but they work in that situation."
The house is effectively one room wide, running down the slope between boulders, with patios off both sides providing a seascape, views of native bush, the rocks and the tomo.
Being so close to the sea - just a five-minute walk from the beach - the Turners hadn't considered a swimming pool. The house was never intended as a permanent home, simply an escape from long hours in the horticultural business. But a compelling style of living was on offer and the couple had second thoughts, sold the business, packed up and moved north. And when they moved in full-time the question of a pool was revisited.
"I like to swim a lot so we eventually changed our minds," says Shirley. "We got in Canterbury landscape architect Eric Ellis and he proposed a long, skinny pool. Once the digger started work it just developed - 15 metres long, shaped around the rocks."
Inside, recycled and oiled tongue-and-groove totara lines the ceiling and the same totara has been used for the doors and window frames. The kitchen has a mixed media of benchtops in stainless steel and granite and the surrounding colours of nature determined the gold, grey and red palette.
Since they set up home permanently at Pohara, Shirley and Bruce have bought a small boat and have surprised themselves by just how much time they spend in the bay fishing.
"In the first year we got scallops; they were unbelievable. Last week we got our quota of blue cod and often we get snapper and tarakihi. There's no fish shop in Golden Bay so it is a matter of having to fish up your own."
For this couple, life in their red house meandering down a slope between rocks is peaceful and stress-free. They wake to tui and bellbirds and decide their day according to weather and impulse. A newly bought campervan, acquired with the idea of heading off for an occasional sojourn elsewhere, hasn�t taken them far. They�ve found that their favourite camp spot is just 40 minutes down the road at Totaranui.
Says Shirley: "Once in Golden Bay, it really is hard to leave, even on holiday."
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|Story: Jill Wild|
Photographer: Paul McCredie