Travel blog on one-of-a-kind travel experiences

Love Home Swap House by Lovell and O’Connell Architects


After a recent hike to Aspiring Hut we stayed in luxury at a Love Home Swap house in Wanaka with magnificent views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Check out this architecture award winner!

I found Kate and Doug’s fabulous architecturally-designed, three-bathroom house a few 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, I seldom look elsewhere for accommodation these days.

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 striking cedar-clad home was a finalist in the 2014 House of the Year Awards and won two architecture awards in 2015. It’s inspired by the lean-to miners’ huts of long ago, remnants of which can still be found in the district, hewn into the silvery schist rock with a sheet of corrugated iron for a roof.

Wanaka Love Home Swap House, photo by Tim Lovell

Wanaka Love Home Swap House
© Photo by architect Tim Lovell

The house nestles low into the landscape against a thick concrete retaining wall – an echo of the schist walls of the miners’ huts. The long, low wall runs the length of the property, inside and out, sheltering the house from northerly winds. It’s imprinted with the texture of the rough-sawn horizontal timber planks that were set into the concrete, and is punctuated with cut-outs where Doug’s herbs trail down from pots. The inverted L-shaped dark steel roof rises abruptly from the concrete base, providing privacy from the road above. A chunk has been taken from the structure between the garage and kitchen to form a sheltered entry courtyard that catches the morning sun. Another courtyard opens off the north-facing dining area tucked in under the peak of the steep roof. The view of the lake and necklace of mountains is breath-taking.

View of Wanaka from the top of Mount Iron

View of Wanaka from the top of Mount Iron

Mount Aspiring and Lake Wanaka from Millennium Walkway

Mount Aspiring and Lake Wanaka from Millennium Walkway

We bonded instantly with the lovely friendly home. Although it belonged to another family, it welcomed us with its warmth and liveability. We felt truly at home amid the artworks, family mementoes, first-edition book collection, grandfather clock and the wall of stunning photographs in the master bedroom. Such a vastly different experience from the bland, impersonal, sparsely-furnished motel and hotel rooms we have had the occasional misfortune to stay at.

I’ve always regarded concrete as a cold surface but I completely revised my opinion after just a few hours at Doug and Kate’s cosy house.

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

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 soon peeling off the layers of wool we were accustomed to wearing in Wanaka at that time of the year. The evening we arrived, watching an angry storm brewing at the far end of Lake Wanaka, we were wandering around the house in T-shirts. And that was even before we lit the gas fire recessed into the wall beside the large flat screen TV. My tramping boots liked basking by the fire . . .

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, 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 kitchen was a delight for my foodie husband who found every herb, spice, ingredient and utensil he needed for all the dishes he wanted to create. That’s another wonderful 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.

Chris Tyerman setting things up in the kitchen

What’s cooking, Chris?

Chris Tyerman, Rebecca and John dining with friends and family

Dining with friends at our Love Home Swap house in Wanaka

I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland in the cleverly-designed house. I kept ‘falling’ into secret spaces and rooms. It took a while to discover the full potential of the house, sometimes by chance, leaning on a wall and finding that it opened. Anything with a potential messy factor, such as the office, pantry, laundry, cleaning cupboards and linen storage, was brilliantly concealed behind sliding or touch-open doors.

The overall effect was one of peacefulness and lack of clutter because items that did not please the eye or detract from the serenity of the house were able to be spirited away out of sight.

The arrangement with Kate and Doug involved points rather than an actual home swap. Points are a form of currency whereby Love Home Swap (LHS) members can earn tradable credits when they have other members to stay which they can then “spend” at LHS houses anywhere in the world, anytime 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 are spending when they go to Sydney later in the year. It’s a clever improvement to the original home swap concept and opens up a vast realm of flexible options.

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 past New Zealand’s most photographed tree, 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.

The week ended with my usual dissertation about why we should up-stakes and move south, to the land of my birth . . . apart from how healthy we would become with all the exercise we do in Wanaka, we also sleep better and smile and laugh more often. The TBs are happy there too . . . mainly because their arch rivals the HHs (high heels) never get an outing.

*Justine stayed at this Wanaka house.

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

*Justine flew Air New Zealand to Queenstown.

*JUCY Rentals provided transport
Collect your JUC-mobile from Queenstown or Christchurch Airports. Here it’s waving goodbye on our last day…

JUC-mobile on Lake Wanaka

JUC-mobile waving goodbye on our last day


About Author

Justine Tyerman is an award-winning New Zealand journalist, travel writer and sub-editor with 18 years' experience in newspaper and freelance work. She has worked as a news reporter, feature writer, designer of an award-winning Newspapers in Education programme and sub-editor on local, national, business, education and international desks.

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