Sugi House by Condon Scott Architects

Sugi House is a minimalist vacation house located in Wanaka, New Zealand, designed in 2020 by Condon Scott Architects.

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On a Japanese ski trip, the owners of this Wanaka house came to appreciate the efficiency of small spaces. Staying in a compact two-bedroom vacation home in the mountains, they saw that a small, carefully designed house could be comfortable and pleasant to live in.

Based in Singapore, the family of five took annual trips to Wanaka, usually staying with extended family in an existing four-bedroom house on this lakeside site. The idea for Sugi House was conceived to allow for a degree of separation on their trips.

After seeing the Kirimoko Tiny House by Condon Scott Architects, the homeowners engaged architect Barry Condon to bring their new holiday house to life. To Barry, delivering on a Japanese aesthetic meant creating something simple and unobtrusive.

“The aim was for a refined, precise, and crafted aesthetic. We have used this mindset throughout, allocating only as much space as is required to each function. The timber paneling and alignment have been carefully thought through to extend the sense of indoor space.”

The floorplan is tight but carefully considered. The lower floor contains a double-height living and kitchen space separated from the kids’ bathroom and bedroom by the staircase. Upstairs is a double bedroom with an ensuite, an office, and storage. “Built-in storage spaces were optimized – including shoe racks, hidden cupboards, draws within the steps of the stairs, and built-in shelving in the upstairs loft,” says Barry.

The interiors deliver the requested Japanese, minimalist look, with black fittings and joinery contrasted against the timber linings, a sculptural ceiling fan, and flush cabinetry. The wet room style of the compact bathroom is reminiscent of a Japanese spa with floor-to-ceiling, stone-look tiles.

The house also has strong materiality externally, with a singular cladding and roofing material of warm cedar shingles, which has the added benefit of being low maintenance. As the house faces the street, glazing is restrained and aimed towards views to the west of Mt Roy. The southern facade is free of windows to prevent the gaze of neighbors as they approach from the access way.

“With some judicious planting on the street, we made the outdoor terrace area quite private, an extension of the living space in the summer with the doors open,” says Barry.

Due to a high level of insulation and the small footprint of the house, a Stovax wood fire provides enough heating to cut through even the chilliest of Wanaka’s winter days. The house was constructed using SIPS panels, with some Passive House techniques employed.

“SIPs are taped, sealed, and wrapped in a secondary layer of building wrap plus plywood to maximize thermal efficiency,” says Barry. “The house and the areas of glazing are orientated to maximize solar gain, with minimal openings on the remaining sides of the house to preserve the thermal envelope. Windows are double glazed low-E glass, argon filled and thermally broken to prevent moisture retention and heat loss.”

The result is a relaxing and stylish home-away-from-home for this jet-setting family, a place to comfortably reconnect with their loved ones on the other side of the world.

Condon Scott Architects is an award-winning, Wanaka-based practice that has completed over 600 residential and commercial projects in the Otago region over the past 30 years.

Photography by Simon Devitt

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- by Matt Watts