Architecture and design is recognising that sustainability is a fundamental principle that is not just a luxury but a necessity too. Integrating our built world with our natural world in a way that honours the two creates a holistic living environment.
One project in New Zealand that has keenly focused on that concept is Fallow Ridge Retreat.
The boutique Waikouaiti accommodation’s ethos is that the “...design would sit humbly within the landscape and optimise the natural environment.”
We spoke to one of the owners, Sarah Smith, who shared her insights about creating the luxury getaway, and what it means to enact that in an environmentally supportive manner.
Q1. Why did you create Fallow Ridge Retreat?
I have always wanted to do something in the tourism space, and a bespoke luxury retreat that could be incorporated onto our existing business (sheep farming) seemed like the right fit. We wanted to diversify, and I had seen the trends in Europe and the USA of travel that included sustainable off-grid stays without compromising on luxuries, and I knew it could work here for us. We have long known how lucky we are to live where the air is fresh, the water is clear, and solitude is abundant. As our town-living friends reminded us of this, the vision for Fallow Ridge Retreat began to evolve.
Q2. How did you choose the Waikouaiti location, and does the area have personal significance to you?
I have lived here in Waikouaiti since I was nine years old, so it is very much our home and a special place for us and our family. We have been farming at Mt. Watkins since 2006. Already having the land to build on and being able to work from home meant it was an obvious choice.
Historically the rocky outcrop that Fallow Ridge Retreat sits upon was used as a vantage point for shepherds when mustering sheep. It's always been a good spot to stop and ponder, plus the views in every direction are simply spectacular. From the deep gully of the river to the tussock-lined ridges, there is always something to watch and wonder on. Watch the fog roll through the valley from the south or the sun setting behind the western skyline. You simply don't grow tired of this special environment.
Q3. What are some of the key design decisions you wanted to implement?
Our aim was to create a design that would sit humbly within the landscape and optimise the natural environment. The surrounding landscape is raw and wild — dominated by silver tussocks and schist rock outcrops. So, we wanted to ensure the retreat looked and felt like it belonged. We also wanted to create a sense of luxury within nature and combine high-end finishes to enrich guest experience.
The building itself is carefully tucked into the hillside with a living roof, and the exterior is clad in NZ Larch. We wanted the retreat to remain hidden right until the last minute, and the living grass and tussock roof certainly provides this element.
The interior design combines natural materials and an earthy, moody palette to create a relaxing and grounding escape. The ceiling-suspended fire and extra features like automated blinds, an inbuilt Bluetooth speaker system, and underfloor heating add to the sense of luxury.
Q4. What sustainability practices are included in the project?
When it came to building Fallow Ridge Retreat, we wanted to ensure that the products and materials we used were locally made and sustainably sourced. Fallow Ridge was built using timber framing and locally milled NZ Larch and Macrocarpa. Interior furnishings and linens have been carefully selected from small NZ businesses. Local produce is celebrated in the kitchen with coffee roasted in Dunedin, fresh bread and pastries from our local bakery, plus honey and jam from regional artisan suppliers. Hastings-based company, Real World, provide natural plant-based goodness in the bathroom that's gentle on your skin and the environment.
Fallow Ridge is 100% off-grid and sustainable. A high-tech solar system captures energy from the sun and utilises it to operate the retreat. Water is sourced via our private system from the Waikouaiti River that flows in the valley below.
Q5. What is your perspective on the relationship between the built world and the natural world?
I believe that the two can exist together in harmony and that advances in technology and products available have meant the options for creating a sustainable and eco-friendly build are more readily available and achievable. I personally would always aspire to create a build that complements its natural surroundings and uses the colours and materials of nature to let itself shine.
Q6. In what way do you think ABI Interiors' products contributed to the desired atmosphere of Fallow Ridge Retreat?
We have used ABI brushed brass products in both our kitchen and bathroom and couldn't be happier with the quality and finish they have provided. The brushed brass pairs perfectly with our moody palette and delivers the element of luxury we were hoping for. It's sleek and stylish, and the cabinetry handles in the kitchen are the perfect example of this.
Q7. What is the main takeaway you want your guests to have after staying?
Fallow Ridge features a haven of calm and comfort in a unique location that promotes embracing a slow existence that we too often go without. We want to provide the inquisitive traveller a romantic weekend, a celebration, or simply some time out.
The vision was to establish a space that cultivated good design, nurtured nature and promoted rest and relaxation. Fallow Ridge was to be a place where guests could breathe deeply, reconnect, and enjoy a slower pace.
We hope every guest who stays at Fallow Ridge leaves feeling rejuvenated, recharged, reconnected, and rested.
Want to see another New Zealand accommodation? Unwind in panoramic views from The Beech House.