Portfolio » Terrace Road, Waikanae

Little Kāpiti retreat


(As featured in Revere Magazine, 2024)

“The build exceeded our expectations.  Our off-grid retreat melds effortlessly with the surroundings and provides the ultimate in comfort”.

When homeowners Phillip and Marian purchased a 60-hectare block on the edge of the Tararua Forest in 2003, they enlisted the services 

of Passive building specialist Mike Craig to construct their lifestyle home. Almost 20 years later, Mike returned to build an off-grid retreat  for the couple, where they could welcome guests to their remote slice of paradise.

The brief for Mike and designer Peter Davis was to create a 1950s-inspired eco cottage of 60m² that would reflect and connect with the surrounding natural environment. These parameters were informed  

by Phillip and Marian’s environmental ethos, budget,  and desire for efficiency at every turn.

Mike and his team at Mike Craig Builders Limited utilised Formance Structural Insulated Panels for the walls and ceiling, which were constructed in a nearby shed, then transported to the steep site by four-wheel drive. The exterior, adorned with red oxide rough sawn plywood, pays homage to traditional rural New Zealand buildings.

The eco home’s energy and heating systems are impressive: photovoltaic panels, solar hot water panels,  a wood-burner oven with wetback, piped hot water heating built into the concrete floor, and a micro-hydro-power system. The systems are neatly tucked away into a 4m2 shed and remotely operated from a device.

To further ensure energy efficiency, the polished concrete floor features 300mm of polystyrene under the slab. “We poured the shower floor when laying the foundations to create a seamless look. Most builders pour the shower floor separately, so they will be scratching their heads as to how we did it,” says Mike. 

“The project truly was a team effort. Everyone’s contributions, from the homeowners to the subcontractors, ensured the Passive elements of the build were carried out smoothly.”

The simple layout of the two bedroom cottage  

is modern and well equipped but exudes a nostalgic feel. Reused materials inside include a recycled kitchen bench top, a bathroom vanity from Marian’s childhood home, and 1940s corrugated iron – repurposed from  

the farm’s pig pen – around the wood-burner. To save money, Mike suggested whitewashing the interior walls instead of using plasterboard. He also added extra battens to the ceiling joins to enhance the desired vintage feel.

“The build exceeded our expectations. Mike knows the property and our aspirations well, so we relied on him for intelligent touches and creative solutions,” says Phillip. “Our off-grid retreat melds effortlessly with the surroundings and provides the ultimate in comfort.  It brings to life our dream of creating sustainable accommodation that we fondly call our ‘Little Kapiti’  rural retreat.”