When the Hay family wanted to add a guest cottage to their remote estate on Great Barrier Island, New Zealand, they called on their two adult children to pull it together: Architect Tim Hay, who alongside his decorated firm Fearon Hay, designed the property with his sister, interior designer Penny Hay. Having spent significant time there, the pair were intimately familiar with the site—Penny calls it “one of the most magical places I have ever been”—and knew immediately that their design approach to the cottage would have a light touch, in deference to the land.
To start, the estate is secluded; the island is located about 60 miles off the coast of Auckland, accessible by small plane or a 4 1/2-hour ferry. There is no central power or water supply on the island, so all buildings are off the grid: “We generate our own power, collect our own rainwater, and process our own wastewater,” Penny says.
Because the estate is surrounded by a landscape of “dark native trees and bush, with shadows of dark foliage,” says Tim, his firm designed the cottage as a “black box that ties into its remote setting.” The interiors, Penny says, “quietly sit in the background, while you can be present in nature at its best.” Let’s take a closer look.
Photography by Patrick Reynolds, courtesy of Fearon Hay.
There is a main family house on the estate, so the cottage serves as a retreat for friends and extended family. “It works well when all the family are staying, with the kids running and playing between both houses,” Penny says.
To Penny, the beauty of the cottage is not its design but its surroundings: The cottage “lets you gently reach out to the beautiful landscapes without being distracted,” she says.“With the understanding that a lot of eating happens outside on the deck,” Penny says, “the wood table often acts as an adjunct prep surface for the kitchen.”
“We didn’t want a kitchen that dominated the space, spilling over with appliances, lights, and so much stuff,” says Penny.
“Though Tim is the architect and I did the interiors,” Penny says, “we worked together on all details without division between indoors and out—that’s how we approach all our designs.”
Both the main house and the cottage are available for rent when not in use by the family. Go to Ihu rentals for more.
“It’s really quite special as a retreat in summer, with all the windows opening out to the ocean,” says Penny. “Or in winter, with the wood-burning stove roaring, reading a book and listening to the waves and just being in the barrier environment.”
Great Barrier Island has recently been designated as one of three Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world, for its minimal light pollution.
For more from New Zealand across our sites, see:
- Object of Desire: A Hanging Laundry Rack from a New Zealand Maker
- Garden Visit: Landscaping for a Modern House in Christchurch, New Zealand
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