Sorry about the silence, everyone. We've been flat out preparing our 2009 Home of the Year issue. Which brings us to the point of today's post, which is to show you a sneak preview of the five finalists in the award. (We'll be announcing the winner on August 5, with mags on sale August 6. TV3's Campbell Live will screen a story on the finalists on their show on Monday August 3). The finalists shown here are in alphabetical order.

1. Andrea Bell from Pete Bossley Architects designed this big, beautifully crafted house on a clifftop in Glendowie, Auckland. It was photographed by Simon Devitt.

2. Mitchell & Stout Architects designed this home on Waiheke Island, an open-plan living and kitchen area bookended by two intriguing sculptural volumes. The photograph is by Patrick Reynolds.

3. Michael O'Sullivan of Bull O'Sullivan Architecture designed and built his own family home in Auckland's Mangere Bridge, which was photographed by Florence Noble.
4. Parsonson Architects designed this simple, light-as-a-feather bach at Shoal Beach in southern Hawkes Bay. It was photographed by Paul McCredie.
5. And Stevens Lawson Architects designed this long, low, mysterious home on Hawkes Bay's Te Mata Peak, which was photographed by Mark Smith.

For those of you who don't know, the competition works like this: In April, we call for entries from architects around the country, who send us plans and photographs of recently completed projects. Then our three-person judging panel - which this year was made up of myself (HOME New Zealand ed. Jeremy Hansen), Hugh Tennent, the Wellington architect who won our Home of the Year award in 2006, fellow Wellington architect Alistair Luke, who led the restoration of Plischke's Sutch house in Brooklyn, among many other projects - chooses 10 homes for our shortlist.

We visit each of those 10 homes in person, a week on the road that involves a lot of in-depth discussion about the pros and cons of each place. After those visits, we choose the winner and four finalists to feature in the Home of the Year issue. The winning architects get a $15,000 cash prize, thanks to the generosity of our partner in the awards, BMW.

Keep an eye out for the new issue of the magazine, containing heaps more about these fantastic homes. We're sending the last pages to the printers tomorrow.