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We caught up with super swapper Justine Tyerman to hear all about her latest swap with Wanaka, New Zealand

The cedar clad homeBeautiful cedar clad home in Wanaka, New Zealand

"Our friends did not believe us when we said they owed us nothing for rent at the end of our wonderful week in Wanaka, New Zealand.

In fact the fabulous architecturally-designed, near-new, three-bedroom, three-bathroom house with magnificent views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains didn't cost us a cent.

I had found Kate and Doug's home months earlier on Love Home Swap, the international home swap site I joined a few years ago. It's my first port of call when looking for accommodation these days. Why stay in a bland, cramped, impersonal hotel or motel room when you can enjoy the unique personality and spaciousness of an entire house . . . for free?

A phenomenally-clever improvement to the original home swap concept in recent years has been the advent of the points system which opens up a vast realm of flexible options.

It's a form of currency whereby Love Home Swap (LHS) members can earn 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 can use anywhere, anytime within the club.

We bonded instantly with their lovely cedar-clad home. Although it belonged to another family, the place welcomed us with its warmth and liveability. The artworks, photographs and family mementoes made us feel very much at home.

Having lived nearly four decades in a house that grew like topsy with no architectural input, it was illuminating to stay at a place where such careful thought had been put into every aspect of the design.

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 house was a finalist in the 2014 House of the Year Awards and won two architecture awards in 2015.

The visual impact of the architecture is dramatic. Knowing the gold-mining history of the area from years of holidaying in nearby Arrowtown, I was instantly reminded of the lean-to miners' huts built into the schist rock with a sheet of corrugated iron for a roof, which was precisely the inspiration for the house, as I later learned. Nestled into the landscape, its bold, dark steel roof is embedded in a concrete retaining wall (a reference to the schist walls of the miners' huts) which runs like a spine the entire length of the property. I was intrigued by the cubby holes cut in the wall where herbs grow in small tubs, inside and out.

dramatic architectureDramatic architecture inspired by gold-mining huts

With deep eaves and double-glazed windows perfectly positioned to capture the warming rays of the winter sun but shield against the blistering heat of the summer sun, the concrete floor and substantial retaining wall, absorbs solar heat during the day and releases 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 peeling off the layers of wool we were accustomed to wearing in Wanaka in autumn and winter.

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, all-weather 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 efficient and clever use of space is a strong feature of the house. I was fascinated by the secret 'rooms' concealed behind walls and doors that opened to reveal an office, pantry, wine cellar, linen cupboard and out-of-the-way places to store a myriad of less aesthetic things. The overall effect is one of peacefulness and lack of clutter because items that do not please the eye are able to be spirited away out of sight. Even the curtains have a recessed place to hide when not in use.

There are two delightful courtyards, one a sheltered nook at the entranceway that catches the morning sun and is equipped with a barbecue, outside tables and chairs, espaliered apple tree and a herb garden; the other a sun-filled lounging and dining space opening off the north-facing dining area beneath the peak of the steeply-pitched roof. The view from a pair of deck chairs facing the lake and Treble Cone is spectacular.

The cedar clad homeStunning views straight from the terrace

The kitchen was a joy for my foodie husband who found every herb, spice and ingredient he needed. That's another brilliant thing about home swapping. It's OK to use a teaspoon of mustard, a leaf or two of basil, apples from the tree in the garden . . . and the bicycles in the garage.

Our friends were so impressed with Kate and Doug's house, they have decided to become swappers too."

Sound like paradise? Check out Kate and Doug's home here.

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