Forest House by Fearon Hay | Form and Function
Auckland, New Zealand

Simon Wilson & Amelia Holmes

Nestled at the foot of the Waitakere Ranges, New Zealand, lie a collection of timber-clad, gabled structures. Designed by New Zealand architecture studio Fearon Hay and completed in 2016, the home is known as Forest House – the simple nomenclature reflecting the stunning natural environment in which the house rests.

Timber is used in a myriad of ways across the project, drawing on the client's extensive timber collection

Timber is the hero of the design, meticulously worked into the finest details of the buildings, from the shingled roof to the slatted shutters and dark wooden floors. As a result of this attention to materials, the building – despite its large size at over 600 m2 – is sympathetic with the rugged natural landscape.

The client had collected timber over many years from far-flung areas of New Zealand, including large beams, pallets of native timbers and a substantial supply of totara wood. These recycled timbers informed the design, which carefully brings together the many different tones and textures to create an aesthetically beautiful structure. While in some ways stunningly modern, the recycled timbers and simple shapes imbue the home with a sense of timelessness, which has the feeling it has been in situ for decades.

Cast in-situ concrete pillars bracket the internal spaces, adding weight and mass to the spacious floorplan.

The internal areas of the home are incredibly spacious, however, enormous cast concrete pillars are a grounding force that bracket the internal spaces, creating zones for working, living, eating, entertaining and sleeping. This functional zoning is balanced through the harmonious use of materials and the unifying roof structure to retain a sense of wholeness and continuity.

Timber shutters have a striking aesthetic effect.

The timber roofline and sympathetic use of materials give the modern home a timeless quality.

Fearon Hay’s design engages also with the aesthetic and functional tension between the solid weight and mass of timber and the fineness and lightness of the material. Heavy, rustic elements are balanced with an overall sense of space and light. Slatted wood shutters that enclose the home are key to the building’s visual impact, with the strong vertical lines making for a powerful first impression of the exterior. They have an important functional purpose too – when closed the shutters create warm and intimate interior spaces, yet when opened they allow in the light that moves from the north to west while also providing privacy.

Forest House is a project informed at every turn by the creative tensions between key aspects of the design. A home that is intentionally functional yet architecturally unexpected, spacious but cosy, solid and light-filled, large while being environmentally sympathetic, timeless yet unmistakably modern.