New Zealand Home & Building, October-November 1998
country classic — A Northern Hemisphere Family Cross the World to Recharge at their Rural South Seas Escape
A Northern Hemisphere Family Cross the World to Recharge at their Rural South Seas Escape.
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New Zealand's wide, open landscape and sun-kissed beaches are Mecca to Europeans seeking a south seas bolt-hole where they can escape the rat race. Environmentally responsible and with an aesthetic groomed by exposure to centuries of European design, such clients provide local architects with a chance to reinterpret the New Zealand holiday setting.
So it was when Auckland architect Megan Edwards was approached by a German couple to design a family retreat for them and their two children on a rural peninsula north of Auckland. While the house was initially to serve as a base for the family on their occasional visits to New Zealand, there was a chance they could decide to live there permanently in the future. Edwards admits her brief was outlined in the broadest terms and, with her clients contactable only by fax or phone, it was left to her to resolve much of the house's detail.
One stipulation, however, was for a self-contained upstairs floor, complete with its own living area and kitchenette, that could be used by visiting guests. Another requirement was for the house to have a view of the sea, which meant removing a shelterbelt of pine trees and making an already exposed site even more open to wind.
Edwards' solution was a steep mono-pitch roof that echoes the slope of the land and maximises the upper floor's exposure to views and afternoon sun. Viewed from a distance, the house bears strong similarities to a chalet and sits as a crisp form on its exposed site.
Light floods the hall from skylights above. The upstairs walkway leads to a storage room within the roof, but could in future access another bedroom.
The upstairs guests' sitting room has Fijian kauri plywood ceilings. The rug is by Kate Wells (09-817 9399).
Inside, the same sensitivity to outside views sees rooms painted Dulux 'Designers White', with eucalyptus saligna floors and rimu cabinetry adding background texture. The massive chimney that contains fireplaces in both downstairs and upstairs living areas, has a rugged simplicity in keeping with the house's rural character.
Living areas downstairs are split into open and more intimate spaces with different levels of connection to outside. In the casual family area adjoining the kitchen, a large dining table serves as the focus for most social activity in the house. A generous window seat is positioned for maximum sun and a sloping plywood ceiling emphasises the room's height. The more enclosed living area, a level below the rest of the house, is by contrast cosy and snug.
Though from outside the house does not appear large, inside there is a richness of space. Cleverly, Edwards draws people through the house along a double-height hall flooded with light from above. From here, views open up to the sea and across surrounding paddocks, creating an over-riding sense of spaciousness.
Along with practical concerns such as durability and ease of maintenance, this house delivers what every holiday retreat should; peace, comfort and a chance to connect with one's surroundings. HB