Skip to main content
  • A view from the back of the house, where the prop­erty will one day be landscaped

A short drive from Mas­ter­ton, a lone house sits on the edge of a windy hill, over­look­ing the superb green­ery of the Tararua Ranges. Lov­ingly designed and built by Soph­ie and Simon Grif­fith, the mod­ern home is burst­ing with char­ac­ter, per­fectly echo­ing the lives and loves of its innov­at­ive owners.

After liv­ing in Scot­land for a num­ber of years and skil­fully con­vert­ing an old school­house into their fam­ily home, Soph­ie and Simon returned to New Zea­l­and in 2007 to start their busi­ness, Thistle Build­ing Com­pany. With two young boys, two dogs and a rich Scot­tish fam­ily her­it­age, the couple set out to build a home that incor­por­ated their Celt­ic roots, while also being fam­ily-friendly and beau­ti­fully designed.

Nick­named Quothquan, mean­ing ‘windy hill’ in Celt­ic, the home is over­whelm­ingly spa­cious, giv­ing every mem­ber of the Grif­fith fam­ily an area to call their own. While Soph­ie loves to spend her after­noons relax­ing and read­ing on the sunny win­dow daybed, the boys have claimed the second lounge as their own spot for play­ing and watch­ing tele­vi­sion. Simon can often be found in the ‘whisky room’, a quiet corner of the house that pays homage to Scot­land with its Celt­ic trinkets, old fam­ily pho­tos and den-like furnishings.

The kit­chen and din­ing areas are large and open plan, over­look­ing the stun­ning val­ley and provid­ing the per­fect set­ting for the fam­ily to host din­ner guests and birth­day parties for the boys. On the oth­er side of the house are the bed­rooms, all large and spa­cious, with huge win­dows that flood the rooms with light and pan­or­amic views.

In the old days, tax in Scot­land was based on how big your win­dows were,” says Simon. “People gen­er­ally had pretty small win­dows because they wanted to avoid pay­ing lots of tax. So of course we wanted to get the biggest win­dows we could!”

Unlike many new builds that take years to devel­op their own char­ac­ter, Soph­ie and Simon’s two-year-old home seems to have a sense of his­tory already, giv­ing the illu­sion that it has exis­ted for many years. The couple attrib­utes the well-developed char­ac­ter of their home to their decision to live on site dur­ing the build­ing pro­cess, man­aging to squeeze their fam­ily into a small cot­tage at the back of the prop­erty for three years.

The plan­ning was great fun,” says Soph­ie as she tells stor­ies of the boys play­ing army games on the build­ing site, while she and Simon spent hours pacing around the sec­tion and decid­ing where to pos­i­tion the house. “That was the beauty of liv­ing on the site,” says Soph­ie. “We got to know about the sun and the wind and the light. We don’t feel like we’ve just moved into a new house. It has always been part of our lives in New Zealand.”

While Quothquan has soon become a true fam­ily home for the Grif­fiths, Soph­ie and Simon admit that the house is far from being fin­ished. In the future, the couple plans to land­scape the out­door area, hop­ing soon to install a swim­ming pool and a ten­nis court at the back of the large prop­erty. A fire­place will also be built in Simon’s whisky room, while Soph­ie hopes one day to pur­chase a large, state­ment din­ing table for the spa­cious fam­ily din­ing area.

With a Life­mark Award to cer­ti­fy its design cre­den­tials, the home is inten­ded to suit the fam­ily dur­ing every stage of life, from hav­ing young chil­dren, right through to their older, less mobile years.

It was nev­er ever meant to be the sort of house that was com­pletely done,” says Soph­ie. “We always planned it that way, to gath­er stuff as the kids get older. The house will change with us.”