Inspired by The Lord of the Rings, this home took 12 years to build by hand


This cabin was built by its owners by hand. It took them 12 years to complete.

Visitors to the log house at the top of Hillview Drive in Alexandra can be forgiven for thinking they’ve been transported to some other time and place.

Nicknamed The Shire, you enter the home through a round, Hobbit-like door. Once you step inside, it’s 1800s Montana, complete with vintage furniture, cow hides, wagon wheels and timber beams hewn from whole Douglas Fir tree trunks.

This magical melding of ideas is the creation of Jon and Clare Morris, who built the home themselves over 12 years, putting “all their dreams, time and passion” into the project.

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Clare and Jon Morris hand built this home over 12 years, inspired by their sons’ love of The Lord of the Rings.

“I’ve done all the stonework and the shingling, and Jon went to course with Natural Log Homes to learn to log build. He’s done all the log work,” says Clare.

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A 465sqm home, the build was no easy task. The couple lived in an apartment over the double garage – also log built – with their children while the home was being constructed.

With a “wee bit of help” with some joinery (the lead lights and stained-glass windows are all recycled, so the frames and window openings were built to fit the glass rather than finding glass to fit standard windows) and the usual help from electricians and plumbers, they let their imaginations have free rein with the home’s design.

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Everything in the home is handmade, locally sourced, recycled or upcycled. It’s all sustainably made.

“We’re both quite crafty and quite artistic, and love doing and making. All the furniture was bought off Trade Me, garage sales, or car boot sales, done up and recycled.”

The cast iron Orion cooker came from an old villa outside Gore, which the couple went down to collect and “somehow managed to get it onto the back of the truck”.

The sink unit in the kitchen is a vintage Chinese wheat store that Clare bought from a woman in Queenstown and converted, while the kitchen island was made from a sideboard that used to be in the consulate in Beijing.

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Clare Morris bought a lot of pieces second hand, such as the cabinets that make the kitchen.

In the living room and kitchen, metal tiles once used to conduct heat in local brick kilns became flooring to conduct underfloor heating. In the bathrooms, old dressing tables and drawers were converted into sink stands and bathroom counters.

In one bathroom, a zinc trough once used for scrubbing pigs was converted into a bath tub. If a dream item couldn’t be recycled, it was hand-built.

“When we were designing the house, it was right in the midst of Lord of the Rings fever,” says Clare.

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Clare Morris built all the stone elements herself. Husband Jon learned how to build log cabins to make the dream home a reality.

“The boys loved it and went to see all the movies, and being near Glenorchy, and areas around Central Otago where the filming was done, obviously, it feels like it’s part of part who you are.

“We both said, ‘Wow, a Hobbit door would be amazing’ in the log house.”

They did some research, and saw that a few others had been made, but nothing in the scale they had in mind, so they sat down one night and started designing what they thought would look good.

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They had help from an engineer on how to design the door and make it weathertight.

“The biggest thing was the engineering, how it would actually work because to have to make it watertight, weatherproof and function well is all part of a good design.”

They consulted an engineer, and once the design was sorted, Jon went to a saw mill and “picked up some huge pieces of macrocarpa”.

“He chain-sawed it out of big lumps of macrocarpa and made the framework himself. We made the door mechanism out of old bits of wool press. The wheel actually opens, closes and locks the door.

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The home has five bedrooms, as well as a separate apartment above the garage and a small guest cottage.

“The house has been about putting in all our dreams and ideas and making them happen, making them real.

There were some things the couple couldn’t do – they wanted the spiral staircase to have a slide down the outside, that you could ride from the second floor to the entry hall. “We had to put that one in the ‘too hard basket’.”

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The home has four bathrooms, and an outdoor heated tub.

The home has five bedrooms, two bathrooms and two ensuites, as well as the separate apartment over the garage, and a small cottage that was used as a guesthouse. It’s built from an old sheep skinning shed the couple renovated from a derelict state.

There’s also a hot tub, which Clare says has been a huge hit with visitors who’ve been on the Lake Dunstan trial.

The Morris family’s choices are in every aspect of the home. They even travelled to the Beaumont pine forest to choose the trees that would make the home’s frame – the logs, still with their roots – in person.

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The thought of having other people there, enjoying the magic, makes having to sell worthwhile.

Now, however, the family’s circumstances have changed, and they’ve made the decision to put the property on the market.

“It’s been a heart-wrenching journey. It is hard to let it go, but the thought of having other people there enjoying the magic makes it worthwhile.”

It’s impossible to put a price on a home like The Shire, although log cabins do come up for sale on occasion, they seldom have so many rare and unique features.

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The home is a deadline sale, which ends at 4pm on Friday, June 10.

Other log houses on the market in the past couple of years include a cabin in Twizel, a massive log mansion above the Clutha river, a large home in Drury, and a log cabin in Colville Road, Coromandel.

The Shire sits on 2.59 ha of freehold land, which is mostly forested, although there is a small paddock which could be used for horses or a garden. It is for sale by deadline, which closes at 4pm, on Friday, June 10, unless sold prior.

The listing is with Kylie Stewart and Ben Terry for New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty.