New Zealand Home & Building, October-November 1998
Gathering Place — Nestled on a Northland Hillside, this Weekend Farmhouse Provides the Perfect Escape from the City
Nestled on a Northland Hillside, this Weekend Farmhouse Provides the Perfect Escape from the City.
When the parents of architect Belinda George came to build a weekend farmhouse about an hour's drive north of Auckland, the debate wasn't so much about who they would use to design it, but whether an architect would be engaged at all.
While Belinda had previously worked with Noel Lane on a new home for her parents in the city, she admits it took some persuading to convince them an architect was required for what was intended to be a simple, country retreat.
However, her concept for a house that was equal to the landscape prevailed. "There were compromises on both sides," says George. "But I think what's important is that the original idea of a simple, functional house still came through."
Sited on around 40 hectares of farmland at Mahurangi, the house was intended to serve as a gathering place for all the family - parents, siblings and grandchildren - and needed to be the kind of place family members could easily arrive at and leave.
The house site, a grassy knoll overlooking stands of native bush, had been earmarked for some time. With its elevated position came wide views and all day sun, but also exposure to frequently strong winds. Another potential problem was traffic noise from a nearby highway, which the family knew would only worsen with a planned bypass. With this in mind, George chose to nestle the house into the side of the hill, rather than place it at the very top, thereby gaining sound protection from the grassy bank behind. The house's linear arrangement of spaces - essentially one large communal living area and a bedroom wing-stretch across the hillside, maximising each room's exposure to the sunny north-east.
A macrocarpa table designed by Belinda George and made by her cabinetmaker husband, David White, is a focus of the communal living area. Kauri benches and a polished concrete island add warmth and texture to the farmhouse-style kitchen made by De-Bruin Judge Furniture (09-443 0296). Wicker dining chairs from Katalog (09-379 5041).
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A courtyard captured between the main living pavilion and garage wing provides a sheltered outdoor living spot complete with an open fire.
Macrocarpa milled on the property was used to make the vanity bench and a Japanese-inspired step. An oval bath tub with a shower above sits within a curved, mosaic-tiled recess.
"I always envisaged this as a space that would be used by lots of people," says George. "Someone can be in the kitchen preparing a meal, someone else can be sitting by the fire reading, and another couple of people can be sitting around the table talking without getting in each other's way."
In keeping with the house's functional brief, George chose, where possible, to leave materials in their natural state. The precast concrete panels, which are poured off-site and then simply raised into place, are left exposed on walls inside and out, while floors in bathrooms and the communal kitchen/dining area are sealed concrete. In the living area, a monumental stone fireplace imbues the interior with rich texture. Kauri benches and a macrocarpa table designed by George bring the kitchen/dining area to life with their warm, golden tones.
To emphasise the idea of the house rising out of the hill, George raked the roof over the living 'pavilion' to the north slightly, and then floated it clear of the walls on glazing to enhance its light-weight appearance. This has the added benefit of garnering extra winter sun and, when the sun is higher during summer, provides shading.
Keen to enhance the opportunities for "living with the landscape", George created a sheltered courtyard between the house and a separate garage wing, where an outside fireplace is used for barbecuing as well as offering extra warmth on cool summer evenings. Softening the transition from house to paddocks are a series of raised lawn terraces across the front of the house that also keep wandering stock at bay.
With its rich variety of inside and outside living experiences, set in an intoxicating landscape, this house provides the perfect setting to bring family members back in touch with each other, as well as allowing each of them a means to escape. HBpage break page break