In a grand style

A big small house that boasts a North American aesthetic
Story by: Lydia Brewer
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View of architectural floor plans.

Turning a client's brief into reality is an important part of every architectural project, but the challenge becomes even more interesting when it is only three words: "Johnson, woods, Connecticut".

Architect Nick Bevin of Bevin + Slessor Architects says his client wanted him to draw inspiration from the famed Philip Johnson Glass House in Connecticut, which achieves a visual and literal connection to its woodland surrounds.

The architect says that in keeping with the aesthetic of the Johnson house, he wanted to break down the barriers between indoor and outdoor living areas. As a result, an outdoor pavilion connects with both the main living area and master bedroom. The garden can be experienced from all of these spaces.

Although the house only required two bedrooms and one living area in the main wing, Bevin chose to continue the North American aesthetic by creating a spacious design. For flexibility of use, the house includes a one-bedroom unit with separate access.

Each space in the house has such a grand sense of scale that it has been called a big small house', says Bevin.

In the pavilion, an outdoor fireplace takes pride of place. Timber features in the cantilevered roof and joinery create a comfortable yet contemporary feel. Retractable louvres are also used in this outdoor area, and are operable from inside the house.

View of kitchen which features concrete benchtops, painted countertop, floor, flooring, interior design, kitchen, living room, real estate, room, window, gray
View of kitchen which features concrete benchtops, painted MDF cabinets, appliances, tiled floors.

Bevin says that there were several constraints on the property, and having to work within these parameters was a stimulus to design creativity.

For instance, there is a height covenant on the site, meaning the house couldn't be much taller than a single level. To combat this, Bevin stepped the property down the slope of the site, positioning the living space on two separate levels.

"The formality of the house is broken down as soon as you step into the main living area," says the architect.

Another restriction was that a public sewer line ran from the southwest to the northeast sides of the site, so a portion of the site could not be built on. As a result, a large garden was developed.

"I worked closely with landscape designer Blair Robb and the owner, and we ensured the design of the house and the surrounding landscape were intrinsically linked from the outset of the planning process. The garden is simply an extension of the house," Bevin says.

Precast concrete, concrete block, wood and other raw materials were used in both the exterior and interior of the house, allowing for further visual connection with the outdoors. Timber is used throughout the living spaces to create a contemporary yet warm finish.

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Exterior view of flat roof house which is clad in zinc, precast concrete, macrocarpa, and cedar.

"Of course the trouble with concrete is that the finished product is what is brought onto the site on day one," says Bevin. "If it is marked or drawn on at all we can't cover it up with paint so we had to be extremely careful with it.

"But ultimately we wanted to use materials that were not only aesthetically pleasing, but also robust, durable and thermally efficient," he says. "So concrete was the obvious choice for this project."

Bevin created a concrete path' running through the house from the front door to the pavilion at the back.

"It was imperative that the house didn't turn its back on the street," he says. "So I created a continuation of the street through the middle of the house, visually connecting the areas."

Interior designer Rose Schwarz also worked with Bevin and the owner to select colours and furniture that would complement the materials used in the design. In the dining area, use of wood is accentuated by a custom-made dining table, while the colour of the concrete is reflected in the decor of the living area. In the kitchen, the island benchtop has a dramatic concrete finish, made of concrete that was poured in place on site.

The bedroom connects to the outdoors on two sides: a timber sliding door that leads out to the outdoor room, and floor-to-ceiling glass that looks out over the garden, making the most of the westerly aspect of the house.

Dec 15, 2010

Credit list

a North American aesthetic Architect
Nick Bevin FNZIA,
Interior designer
Rose Schwarz
Kitchen designer
Bevin + Slessor Architects
Zinc; precast concrete; concrete block; macrocarpa; cedar
River-salvaged tawa; Source Mondial carpet; Napier Timber Flooring
Sunshield retractable louvres
Dave Smith
Kitchen cabinetry
Painted MDF
Bathroom vanity
Bathroom lighting
ECC Lighting
Landscape designer
Blair Robb,
Mackersey Construction
Kitchen manufacturer
Mackersey Construction
Gib Board
ECC Lighting
Window and door hardware
FL Bone
Best Forsyth Electrical
Shower enclosure, flooring, wall tiles
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