Design with spine

A stone wall runs through the centre of this seaside home, which is designed to have the maximum possible floor area, despite a small site
Story by: Camille Butler Photography by: Jamie Cobeldick
Exterior view of the entrance way featuring cladding, architecture, building, elevation, facade, home, house, property, real estate, residential area, gray
Exterior view of the entrance way featuring cladding, roofing, glazing, landscaping, paving.

You can't fit a square peg in a round hole, or so the saying goes. However, using innovative design, it is possible to fit a large house on a relatively small site as this contemporary home demonstrates.

The homeowners asked architect Matt Chaplin of Sumich Architects to maximise the floor area in the design of the house, which is located on a small, landlocked site on a waterfront road in Auckland.

"Most of the houses on this road front the water, but this plot is one back from it. However, the site is well elevated so it has the advantage of views over the top of the houses, which in itself extends the sense of space inside," says Chaplin.

As zoning laws prevent excessive site coverage in this area, Chaplin created a series of bays on the upper two levels, which hang over the lower level. Glazed sliding doors with balustrading allow these areas to be opened to the outdoors.

"The bays are similar to contemporary verandas, creating shade and shelter, and a well-ventilated space inside. This works well for Auckland's climate, which is changeable and often humid. Privacy and light levels are controlled through operable shutters," says Chaplin.

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Floor plans.

The expansive glazing, which gives the house a lightweight feel, is counterbalanced by a solid limestone wall that runs through the centre of the house, from the street front to the swimming pool.

"The limestone wall acts as a spine, lending a sense of strength to the home. The two storeys on one side of the wall and three on the other can be seen to be suspended from it," says Chaplin.

At the entrance, the wall bends around to create a courtyard. This gives a sense of privacy and security to the front of the home, which is governed by zoning laws, says Chaplin.

"As this is a character area, 60% of the front elevation must be open to the street. The courtyard counteracts the openness of the front facade, and creates a cool, tranquil space to collect yourself before entering the home. A Burmese pot water feature furthers this meditative feeling."

As the stone wall continues through the home, Chaplin has created openings for doorways, and keyhole gaps for visual connections between rooms, such as the kitchen, staircase and dining room.

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View of the master bathroom with floor-to-ceiling marble, bath, basin, tapware, vanity, cabinetry, windows, lighting.

The kitchen opens onto a covered deck with an outdoor fireplace. From here, a staircase leads into the garden and pool terrace. As the central level is also the entry level, this openness on both sides contributes to the sense of the house as a lightweight, free-flowing space.

The master suite takes up the entire upper floor. This includes the master bedroom, which is located in one of the bays overlooking the water, and a sumptuous bathroom with floor-to-ceiling marble, says the architect.

"The marble was painstakingly laid out prior to the bathroom being completed, in order to match the vein and texture on the walls and floor. The bath is positioned to allow views out over the harbour."

The architect placed a vanity unit with a lightweight appearance in front of the windows. Its white lacquer drawers relate to the porcelain bath and sink. Stainless steel handles and framing on the vanity tie in with the bathroom fittings.

The upper floor also includes a walk-in wardrobe, laundry, and a study. The lower level contains two bedrooms, a sitting area and a wine storage room.

Jan 23, 2009

Credit list

Interior designer
Jenny Marshall, Zomia Ltd
Good Bros
Kitchen manufacturer, cabinetry and furniture
Studio Italia and Poliform
Malaga paving by SCE Stone & Design
Wallcoverings and paints
Doors and windows
Halliday & Baillie
CaesarStone by SCE Stone & Design
Cooktop and ventilation
Bath, basin and taps
DMI Homestagers
Landscape architect
Suzanne Turley, Design Concepts
Kitchen designer
Joanne Hoeft
Mirabelle honed limestone by SCE Stone & Design
Timber by CTC
La Playa by Glenn Jillings
Stainless steel
Oven, microwave and dishwasher
Shower fittings
Floor and wall tiles
SCE Stone & Design
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