Threepwood Oregon Home, Queenstown :


The Johnstone family are no strangers to DIY. With six renovations behind them Steph and Rob Johnstone thought it was about time to enjoy a brand new home. The result is a rustic, yet modern, family home that enjoys all day sun and warmth. There are touches of Rob's DIY skills throughout the house, from the handmade table with a greenstone insert to the unique front door. In our very first NZ Homes article, the Johnstone family share their building story .



The Johnstone family – Steph, Rob, Leo (5) and Olive (2) and Max the dog. Mum Steph runs her own copywriting business from home, Acuscopy, and also contributes to Build me. Rob formerly owned the Queenstown institution The Snowboard Workshop, and is now an electrician.

The Aim

To build a small house on a big section, with room outside for the  kids to run around and be kids.

The Project

130 sqm home on 1.5 ha section 15 minutes from Queenstown. The house has 3 bedrooms, 1open living area & kitchen, 1.5 bathrooms and a seperate double garage of 54m2.


Threepwood Home | NZ Homes | Build me. | Building NZ |


The section

We bought a 1.5 hectare section at Threepwood, a rural subdivision 15 minutes from central Queenstown and 5 minutes from Frankton. The setting offers stunning views of The Remarkables, Slope Hill and Crown Range. We’re just a couple of minutes walk from Lake Hayes. We choose this section because it offers a large parcel of rural land where we can grow our own food and have loads of space for the kids to run around and be kids.

We purchased the land in 2013 through a real estate agent. As soon as we saw the section we knew we wanted to be here. We were excited to see a good size parcel of land so close to Queenstown. It wasn't a hard decision to make, but there were a few challenges to make the purchase happen (bank!). We were determined we wanted this section, so we made it happen.

Oak Floor & Pyroclassic Fire | NZ Homes | Build me | Building NZ |


The Design

We kept the layout and design simple. This kept building costs low. We never wanted a huge mansion. A small house works well for us. And it’s efficient for energy. We live in a cold climate here and our biggest concern was the cost of energy. The house is positioned to the north for maximum heating from sun.

We worked with draughtsman Shawn Coombe from Southern Lakes Design to turn our original concept design into a working set of plans. We chose him as we knew a number of houses he’d designed near Arrowtown. We wanted him to create our home along the same vein, but with some of our own ideas as well.


Full Window Wall | NZ Homes | Build me. | Building NZ | 

The Inspiration 

Home and design magazines –we poured over them.


Kitchen Styling | NZ Homes | Build me. | Building NZ |

The Build

Our home was built in 2013 and took approximately six months from design to completion. We project managed the build ourselves. We chose Alpine Group Construction as we were aware of the work they’d carried out on a large project near Dalefield. It was clear these builders were artisans in their craft. We knew we wanted to work with them as soon as we met them. And we weren’t let down; they did an exceptional job, particularly with regard to the fine detail work.

The building process went smoothly because the builders were excellent. Also, Rob was very hands on with the project. He managed a lot of the subcontractors himself and was across all aspects of the build. It helped that our builders and our designer had worked together on previous projects. The whole project was seamless.

White Kitchen | NZ Homes | Build me. | Building NZ | 

Metallic Lights | NZ Homes | Build me. | Building NZ |

 Special Features

·      Oregon cladding

·      Oak floor.

·      The hallway and living room are north facing for passive heating.

·      Pyroclassic Fireplace. This is extremely efficient and is also connected to a wetback system to heat water.

·      Heat transfer system to move warm air from the fireplace to the bedrooms. No other heating is used in the house.

·      Water softener in place to treat all water to reduce scale.

·      LED lights throughout whole house for low cost energy.

·      High level of insulation throughout walls and ceiling.


Pyroclassic Fire | NZ Homes | Build me. | Building NZ |  

Staying on Track

Rob was in constant contact with subcontractors at all times. That way if anything was off schedule, everyone else knew what was going on. The whole process went well. No major problems!


Greenstone Insert | NZ Homes | Build me. | Building NZ | 

What we Love

We're very happy with our home. The small size works well for us. We also love how warm it is, compared to older houses we have lived in, in the past.

Bedroom Style | NZ Homes | Build me. | Building NZ | 

Tips for Build me. readers

·      It's important to be on site often if you are managing some, or all, of the project yourself.

·      Communicate with sub contractors as much as possible.

·      It helps to have a good understanding of building. But if you don't, just make sure you have a good builder.


Threepwood House | NZ Homes | Build me. | Building NZ |



·  Designer:  Shawn Coombes – Southern Lakes Design

·   Building Company: Alpine Group

·   Plumber: Emile Bomer

·   Carpet, Flooring & Tiles: Flooring Xtra

·   Building Product Supplier: Placemakers Queenstown

·   Heating: Pyroclassic Fire

·   Roofing: Queenstown Roofing

·   Window & Door Joinery: Ellisons

·   Curtains & Blinds: Guthrie Bowron

·   Project Management: Self


Photos  Marina Matthews