Belonging To The Land

After a high-profile career including 20-plus years managing companies in various Asian countries, all Kevin Ramsey wanted to do when he returned home was build and live somewhere that was “authenticallyNew Zealand.”

He’d bought land near Queenstown that supported grapevines, and remembered how good Peregrine Wines’ former woolshed looked. “It had been there since the 19th century and seemed to belong in the landscape; be part of it,” Kevin explained. “That’s what I felt was the real Central Otago, and that’s what I wanted for my place.”

His brief to architect Tony Koia of Koia Architects Ltd was therefore to translate that sense of permanence and aged simplicity into a modern home with modern conveniences, which nevertheless looked as if it had been there for a century or so.

“Each time we presented finishes to the client, he would say ‘make it rougher’,” says Tony Koia ruefully. “There’s no gib board anywhere – walls are stone or band-sawn cedar, downstairs floors are polished concrete, and the ceilings are corrugated iron as well as the roof. Reproducing Kevin’s aesthetic was an interesting challenge!”

“I never once considered anything else for the roof,” declares Kevin. “Steel roofs are synonymous with New Zealand, and since I was a kid I’ve loved the sound of rain on the roof when we’re warm and dry inside, just like thousands of other kids still do I’m sure.” 

The steel roofline incorporating two dormers also meant care had to be taken at the design stage to ensure the potential for future corrosion was minimised. Corners, joints and protected pockets in structures can easily trap dirt, debris and snow and if drainage is poor, rainwater will inevitably collect there too. This situation can allow the corrosion process to start so relatively steep, well sealed angles are required to ensure rainwater can flush debris and dirt away to ensure that ponding doesn’t occur.

Between the Zincalume® steel roof and ceiling is self-supporting roofing underlay fixed to purlins and rafters, and batts insulation between the rafters and ceiling, which ensured the house met all current Standards. Recycled rafters were then fixed to the ceiling to give the impression of seeing the underside of the roof from inside the structure. 

To accentuate the aged effect, the roof was broom painted in three different layers of low-sheen paint.

 “Applying three different layers in three slightly different colours of matt paint immediately gave the impression of the roof having been repainted over many years,” explains Tony. “Obviously, this also avoids high reflectivity within the environment and although it wouldn’t be immediately obvious from the ground, brooming the paint onto the roof also made for somewhat uneven coverage. Brooming three layers on to it not only gave subtle complexity to the finished colour, but served to provide excellent final coverage as well. It also helps give the home the aged appeal that Kevin wanted.” 

Kevin loves the charm that buildings acquire as they age, and the subtle textures distilled from a well loved and lived in home. While this ethos was refined during his time in Japan, it’s something he believes he’s always leaned towards. It is summed up by the Japanese words “shibumi. ” or “shibusa,” which refer to simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty that offers “timeless tranquillity.”

The seven elements of this concept are said to be simplicity, implicity, modesty, silence, naturalness, everyday-ness, and imperfection. When applied to objects, they should appear to be simple but will include subtle details such as interesting or unexpected textures, that balance simplicity with complexity. The concept treads a fine line between contrasting aesthetic concepts such as elegant and rough, or spontaneous and restrained. What he and Tony achieved is a building they describe as “unself-conscious” – one that appeared to be thrown up with whatever was at hand.

Beyond the design, materials also needed to reflect this aesthetic. Locally sourced schist formed the 800mm thick exterior walls, and even details such as grouting were not to look too new. 

Inside, the floors are concrete on the ground floor with beech floorboards upstairs, and underfloor heating throughout. The band-sawn cedar interior walls give their own character, revisiting times past by using tongue and groove machining and coincidentally meaning it’s impossible for them to be perfectly even. The boards are painted in thinned coats which may suggest the fashionably distressed look, but more importantly continues to honour the early woolshed theme.

The large double fireplace is the central feature of the north-facing external wall, and opens to the external entertainment area and fireplace protected by a low schist wall. There’s even a cedar “lean-to” on the eastern side of the house which houses the dining area and a large bathroom. While the lounge area rises clear to the roof, the rest of the house supports a partial second floor including barn doors opening above the lounge area, recalling many older woolsheds. Of course, this also allows the second floor to borrow heat directly, and the resultant opening is protected by railings.

“This is a home that combines the simple farm structure of the Peregrine Farm shed with the ease and informality of the Blue Door Café,” says Tony when describing it. The finished effect has certainly achieved a sense of belonging in its environment, and Tony is almost as delighted with it as Kevin.

Koia Architects

Koia Architects has created many beautiful homes throughout the Wakatipu District. “We have enjoyed working on a wide range of projects from

‘High-Tech Barns’, to ‘Millbrook Country Homes’, ‘Modern Sculptural Homes’ that blend into the landscape, to Interpretations of Original Otago dwellings.

Each location and client creates their own individual response and the natural environment sets a high standard.

The Ramsey house is a case in point. Set amongst an established vineyard and overlooking the Shotover River, the client wanted an original piece of Otago. 

Unself-conscious, almost non-architectural, unrefined, direct, this home was the opposite approach to many homes we are engaged to create.

With offices in Auckland and Queenstown, we are able to access the best products the world has to offer and combine this with an intermit knowledge of the area.

Local schist in all its variety, combined with what can start to appear like an infinite number of mortaring methods, provides unlimited combinations with other materials.

It is certainly a beautiful place to create architecture.



Koia Architects

Auckland and Queenstown

Telephone: 3 441 2271

Telephone: 9 373 2244


Roofing Manufacturer:

Calder Stewart Industries Limited    


Telephone: 03 214 5544




R M Smith Builder Ltd 

Kerry Smith

Telephone: 272743386