Swapping for a house in Wanaka

A bottle of wine and a contribution towards cleaning should cover your rental for a week.

A bottle of wine and a contribution towards cleaning should cover your rental for a week.

Last rays of the sun: The view of Mt Aspiring from the back country hut.
Mt Aspiring Hut was built from river stone.
The Wanaka Love Home Swap house was designed by Tim Lovell and Ana O’Connell from the Wellington-based firm Lovell and O’Connell Architects.
Gorgeous glassware on display at the Wanaka house.
The dining area and sunny courtyard showing the inside-outside retaining wall with cut-outs to house pots of herbs.
The view of the lake and mountains is stunning.
Chris in the kitchen at Kate and Doug’s house.
The Mt Aspiring Hut was lit with candles and decorated with crab apples in jars.

“SO how much do we owe you for rent on this amazing place?” our friends asked us, expecting a nasty dose of reality at the end of a wonderful week in Wanaka.

“A bottle of wine and a contribution towards cleaning should cover it,” I replied smiling magnanimously.

Their deeply furrowed brows cleared instantly, replaced by a look of utter disbelief.

“So has your old Uncle Alfred finally died and left you his millions?” they inquired, surprised at our generous gesture to shout them a holiday in Wanaka.

“No, we just thought you deserved a treat for being such great mates all these years,” I replied.

In fact the fabulous architecturally-designed, near-new, three-bedroom, three- bathroom house with magnificent views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains didn’t cost us a cent, but I wanted to string them along for a while, just for fun.

I had found Kate and Doug’s house months earlier on Love Home Swap, the international home swap site I joined a few years ago. Now the biggest home swap club in the world with 100,000 homes in 190 countries including 1500 in New Zealand, it’s my first port of call when looking for accommodation these days. Why stay in a bland, cramped, impersonal hotel or motel room when you can enjoy the unique personality and spaciousness of an entire house, for free.

A phenomenally-clever improvement to the original home swap concept in recent years has been the advent of the points system which opens up a vast realm of flexible options.

It’s a form of currency whereby Love Home Swap (LHS) members can earn credits when they have other members to stay which they can then “spend” at LHS houses anywhere in the world, any time that suits them. Gone are the days when you have to negotiate a simultaneous or non-simultaneous home swap. Kate and Doug earned 600 points or six nights for our stay which they can use anywhere, anytime within the club.

We bonded instantly with their lovely cedar-clad home. Although it belonged to another family, the place welcomed us with its warmth and liveability. The artworks, photographs and family mementoes made us feel very much at home.

Careful thought into the design

Having lived nearly four decades in a house that grew like topsy with no architectural input, it was illuminating to stay at a place where such careful thought had been put into every aspect of the design.

Kate and Doug’s son Tim Lovell designed the house along with his business partner Ana O’Connell from the Wellington-based firm Lovell and O’Connell Architects.

The house was a finalist in the 2014 House of the Year Awards and won two architecture awards in 2015.

The visual impact of the house is dramatic. Knowing the gold-mining history of the area from years of holidaying in Arrowtown, I was instantly reminded of the lean-to miners’ huts built into schist rock with a sheet of corrugated iron for a roof, which was precisely the inspiration for the house, as I later learned.

Nestled into the landscape, its bold, dark steel roof is embedded in a concrete retaining wall (a reference to the schist walls of the miners’ huts) which runs like a spine the entire length of the property. I was intrigued by the cubby holes cut in the wall where herbs grow in small tubs, inside and out.

With deep eaves and double-glazed windows perfectly positioned to capture the warming rays of the winter sun but shield against the blistering heat of the summer sun, the concrete floor and substantial retaining wall absorbs solar heat during the day and releases it at night.

Hot water pump

Combined with hot water pumped through a network of pipes embedded in the concrete floor powered by an air-to-water heat pump, the house was so warm, we were peeling off the layers of wool we were accustomed to wearing in Wanaka at that time of the year.

The interior decor was as warm to the eye as it was to the touch. I loved the smoothness of the polished concrete floors, the mellow glow of the plywood walls and cabinetry, the richness of the luxuriant carpet and rugs, the splashes of colour on the doors, kitchen cupboards, guest bathroom, all-weather outside cushions and the gorgeous glassware on a display shelf. The pieces reflected and refracted the sun’s rays, bringing rainbows into the house.

The efficient and clever use of space is a strong feature of the place. I was fascinated by the secret ‘rooms’ concealed behind walls that we only discovered when we inadvertently lent on them and they opened to reveal an office, pantry, wine cellar, linen cupboard and out-of-the-way places to store a myriad of less aesthetic things. The overall effect is one of peacefulness and lack of clutter because items that do not please the eye are able to be spirited away out of sight. Even the curtains have a recessed place to hide when not in use.

The kitchen was a joy for my foodie husband who found every herb, spice and ingredient he needed. That’s the brilliant thing about home swapping. It’s OK to use a teaspoon of mustard, a leaf or two of basil, apples from the tree, and the bicycles in the garage.

Birthday party

Our small Gizzy contingent had travelled to Wanaka to attend the 60th birthday of twins we had all known since our 20s. It was no ordinary event.

My Central Otago heart was bursting with pride as we set off up the side of Lake Wanaka with our North Island friends on an eye-wateringly clear, crisp, autumn morning.

A fierce storm the previous day had sprinkled the first dusting of snow on Treble Cone and Black Peak, refreshing the waterfalls that tumbled off the cliff faces. Resplendent in their autumn gold livery, the poplars shimmered in the lake, distorted and duplicated many times in the crumpled satin waters.

The northerners were suitably impressed and uttered a few ‘wows’ as snow-capped Mt Aspiring came into view just before Glendu Bay. We stopped at a tiny pebbled beach before the camping ground, a special spot where we often cook sausages on willow sticks as the sun sets behind Aspiring.

The 60 minute, 54km drive from Wanaka to the road end at Raspberry Creek follows the gin-clear Matukituki River up a valley, deep into the Mt Aspiring National Park. The region is part of Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage site, known to the original Maori inhabitants as “the greenstone waters”.

Matukituki Valley

After lunch by the river, we hoisted packs onto our backs and headed up the sun-filled Matukituki Valley for two and a half hours to Mt Aspiring Hut where we celebrated the 60th by candlelight and slept overnight in communal bunkrooms. For those who had never stayed at a remote, solar-powered, back country hut without showers or hot water and just a pot belly fire for heating, it was a real education. They were awed by the experience. Some even decided to take up tramping.

The rest of the time we stayed at our luxurious Wanaka house. We did hearty exercise every day, hiking up Mt Iron early in the morning to earn a delicious cheese or date scone at Fed Diner, walking the magnificent lake-edge Millennium Track from Glendu Bay to town and cycling the poplar-lined outlet track on the banks of the mighty turquoise Clutha, one of the world’s swiftest rivers. The autumn colours were dazzling and the temperatures ideal for vigorous outdoor activity. April is a perfect time to visit the region after the intense heat and crowds of the summer have dissipated. We all slept soundly and laughed a lot . . . and our friends were so impressed with Kate and Doug’s house, they have decided to become swappers too.

“SO how much do we owe you for rent on this amazing place?” our friends asked us, expecting a nasty dose of reality at the end of a wonderful week in Wanaka.

“A bottle of wine and a contribution towards cleaning should cover it,” I replied smiling magnanimously.

Their deeply furrowed brows cleared instantly, replaced by a look of utter disbelief.

“So has your old Uncle Alfred finally died and left you his millions?” they inquired, surprised at our generous gesture to shout them a holiday in Wanaka.

“No, we just thought you deserved a treat for being such great mates all these years,” I replied.

In fact the fabulous architecturally-designed, near-new, three-bedroom, three- bathroom house with magnificent views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains didn’t cost us a cent, but I wanted to string them along for a while, just for fun.

I had found Kate and Doug’s house months earlier on Love Home Swap, the international home swap site I joined a few years ago. Now the biggest home swap club in the world with 100,000 homes in 190 countries including 1500 in New Zealand, it’s my first port of call when looking for accommodation these days. Why stay in a bland, cramped, impersonal hotel or motel room when you can enjoy the unique personality and spaciousness of an entire house, for free.

A phenomenally-clever improvement to the original home swap concept in recent years has been the advent of the points system which opens up a vast realm of flexible options.

It’s a form of currency whereby Love Home Swap (LHS) members can earn credits when they have other members to stay which they can then “spend” at LHS houses anywhere in the world, any time that suits them. Gone are the days when you have to negotiate a simultaneous or non-simultaneous home swap. Kate and Doug earned 600 points or six nights for our stay which they can use anywhere, anytime within the club.

We bonded instantly with their lovely cedar-clad home. Although it belonged to another family, the place welcomed us with its warmth and liveability. The artworks, photographs and family mementoes made us feel very much at home.

Careful thought into the design

Having lived nearly four decades in a house that grew like topsy with no architectural input, it was illuminating to stay at a place where such careful thought had been put into every aspect of the design.

Kate and Doug’s son Tim Lovell designed the house along with his business partner Ana O’Connell from the Wellington-based firm Lovell and O’Connell Architects.

The house was a finalist in the 2014 House of the Year Awards and won two architecture awards in 2015.

The visual impact of the house is dramatic. Knowing the gold-mining history of the area from years of holidaying in Arrowtown, I was instantly reminded of the lean-to miners’ huts built into schist rock with a sheet of corrugated iron for a roof, which was precisely the inspiration for the house, as I later learned.

Nestled into the landscape, its bold, dark steel roof is embedded in a concrete retaining wall (a reference to the schist walls of the miners’ huts) which runs like a spine the entire length of the property. I was intrigued by the cubby holes cut in the wall where herbs grow in small tubs, inside and out.

With deep eaves and double-glazed windows perfectly positioned to capture the warming rays of the winter sun but shield against the blistering heat of the summer sun, the concrete floor and substantial retaining wall absorbs solar heat during the day and releases it at night.

Hot water pump

Combined with hot water pumped through a network of pipes embedded in the concrete floor powered by an air-to-water heat pump, the house was so warm, we were peeling off the layers of wool we were accustomed to wearing in Wanaka at that time of the year.

The interior decor was as warm to the eye as it was to the touch. I loved the smoothness of the polished concrete floors, the mellow glow of the plywood walls and cabinetry, the richness of the luxuriant carpet and rugs, the splashes of colour on the doors, kitchen cupboards, guest bathroom, all-weather outside cushions and the gorgeous glassware on a display shelf. The pieces reflected and refracted the sun’s rays, bringing rainbows into the house.

The efficient and clever use of space is a strong feature of the place. I was fascinated by the secret ‘rooms’ concealed behind walls that we only discovered when we inadvertently lent on them and they opened to reveal an office, pantry, wine cellar, linen cupboard and out-of-the-way places to store a myriad of less aesthetic things. The overall effect is one of peacefulness and lack of clutter because items that do not please the eye are able to be spirited away out of sight. Even the curtains have a recessed place to hide when not in use.

The kitchen was a joy for my foodie husband who found every herb, spice and ingredient he needed. That’s the brilliant thing about home swapping. It’s OK to use a teaspoon of mustard, a leaf or two of basil, apples from the tree, and the bicycles in the garage.

Birthday party

Our small Gizzy contingent had travelled to Wanaka to attend the 60th birthday of twins we had all known since our 20s. It was no ordinary event.

My Central Otago heart was bursting with pride as we set off up the side of Lake Wanaka with our North Island friends on an eye-wateringly clear, crisp, autumn morning.

A fierce storm the previous day had sprinkled the first dusting of snow on Treble Cone and Black Peak, refreshing the waterfalls that tumbled off the cliff faces. Resplendent in their autumn gold livery, the poplars shimmered in the lake, distorted and duplicated many times in the crumpled satin waters.

The northerners were suitably impressed and uttered a few ‘wows’ as snow-capped Mt Aspiring came into view just before Glendu Bay. We stopped at a tiny pebbled beach before the camping ground, a special spot where we often cook sausages on willow sticks as the sun sets behind Aspiring.

The 60 minute, 54km drive from Wanaka to the road end at Raspberry Creek follows the gin-clear Matukituki River up a valley, deep into the Mt Aspiring National Park. The region is part of Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage site, known to the original Maori inhabitants as “the greenstone waters”.

Matukituki Valley

After lunch by the river, we hoisted packs onto our backs and headed up the sun-filled Matukituki Valley for two and a half hours to Mt Aspiring Hut where we celebrated the 60th by candlelight and slept overnight in communal bunkrooms. For those who had never stayed at a remote, solar-powered, back country hut without showers or hot water and just a pot belly fire for heating, it was a real education. They were awed by the experience. Some even decided to take up tramping.

The rest of the time we stayed at our luxurious Wanaka house. We did hearty exercise every day, hiking up Mt Iron early in the morning to earn a delicious cheese or date scone at Fed Diner, walking the magnificent lake-edge Millennium Track from Glendu Bay to town and cycling the poplar-lined outlet track on the banks of the mighty turquoise Clutha, one of the world’s swiftest rivers. The autumn colours were dazzling and the temperatures ideal for vigorous outdoor activity. April is a perfect time to visit the region after the intense heat and crowds of the summer have dissipated. We all slept soundly and laughed a lot . . . and our friends were so impressed with Kate and Doug’s house, they have decided to become swappers too.

FACTBOX

*Justine stayed at: http://www.lovehomeswap.com/home-exchange/new-zealand/wanaka-stunning-architectural-cedar-clad-house

Visit www.lovehomeswap.com to view 100,000 properties in over 190 countries.

*Justine flew Air NZ to Queenstown. www.airnewzealand.co.nz

* JUCY Rentals provided transport. www.jucy.co.nz

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