A new home replaces an old bach while echoing elements of its character – reinvented with warmth and sustainability in mind

Designed by Lisa Day, Donnell Day Architects

From the architect:


When the homeowners came across an old cottage on the top of a cliff top in Beachlands 7 years ago, they knew they had found their 'forever home' location. 

After living in the old house for many years, they dreamed of one day being able to extend or build on the land. 

They looked at many options with Lisa Day and decided to move the old cottage off the site to live another life in a different location and build new. 

What it was replaced with holds a memory of that original form and character, and fits with its character neighbourhood.

An individualistic project

The site is located on a clifftop in Beachlands, Auckland, which is a neighbourhood of many 50s and 60s baches, and has access to the central city via a ferry.

It is a long, narrow site with a beautiful sea outlook over the cliff to the North East, and a neighbourhood street view to the South West. 

On two side boundaries it is constrained by close neighbouring properties.

When building new, there is a tendency to disregard history, to reinvent the wheel to the latest going 'style'. 

In this context the owners wanted a sustainable, contemporary home that had the character and quality of the original cottage. 

They also wanted a simple exterior, yet with a complexity of interior spaces that were rich in light, different outlook levels, and texture.

The architect was asked not to present them with a cold, lifeless modernist box – instead, they wanted something that had soul, a memory of the old cottage and heart but with a fresh approach to a classic, simple construction methodology that could be seen in boat sheds, and other beach side areas around the globe.

Lisa Day then designed spaces that fitted the owners' lives, the site and the New Zealand climate.

The brief

The owners love to entertain visitors and extended family, but the family wanted a distinct separation between their own private spaces, and the entertaining and guest spaces. 

Having lived there for 7 years they were aware of the wind directions and how they wanted to respond to those – the duality between the cliff face sea winds on one day, or the garden street aspect which could face the other dominant wind direction on another day. 

This was with two outdoor living spaces either side of the house that were used dependant on which wind was blowing. 

The owners wanted a permanent home that had the feeling of a relaxed beach house that accommodated extended family and guests easily, with a modest appearance from the street. 

They were aware of the original cottage language, New Zealand 'shed' simplicity as well as international coastal traditions. 

Plus the cliff edge required a substantial setback and also stabilising through planting, terracing and monitoring during construction.

Lisa Day interpreted these wishes into a context specific to the location.

The solutions

The concept that Lisa created for this family home was around creating a journey that surprises and delights, through three main ideas:

  • A classic simple form on the exterior, with rich interior space sequences.
  • Spatial contrast between rooms (whether through light and shadow, texture, proportion or form).
  • Fine textures using a restrained palette of traditional materials.

The house is designed to gently explore the dynamic between the familiar and the unexpected. 

The sequence of spaces is designed to take you on a journey of light and discovery through the day.

Building methods used

We adopted traditional New Zealand building techniques of timber frame construction. 

The materials of weatherboard cladding, metal roofing and concrete slab construction are a traditional construction method in New Zealand adn used here.

However, these were transformed from the old, seriously cold methodolgy in terms of boosting the insulation values of all elements in the external envelope.

Key products 

We wanted to maintain a strong, robust simplicity and clarity in the detailing, but at the same time offer a rich tactile experience.

The timber weatherboard lined walls, lit by skylights above, connect back to old bach extension traditions, while other materials have been chosen for their tactile qualities that influence the senses of touch, movement, smell or sound, and are also designed to create an internal visual rhythm as light is cast against them.

Externally, the Abodo timber weatherboards and the True Oak Corrugate keep the envelope simple and modest. 

This is not a house that shouts from the road, it's one that draws you in, wraps around you and gently encourages you to notice your senses.

Sustainability features

The design of the house was around the principle of two core stair wells, that act as thermal 'vents' in each wing. 

The opening skylights above provide venting of hot air, removal of moist air and also penetration of natural light. 

It maintains a comfortable year round environment simply by working with the environment and passive heating and stack ventilation principles, rather than wrestling with heating and cooling mechanically.

The house is highly insulated and designed to shade from summer sun while allowing winter sun to penetrate deeply into the living spaces. 

The materials were selected with an eye to low carbon use, recyclable components and low toxicity for the builders, the inhabitants and the planet.

The building is constructed using NZ Abodo timber weatherboard cladding and trims. 

Interior finishes were designed to have either low VOC paint finishes or natural oils to seal any exposed timber.

 In terms of resource use, the building collects all its own water in two 25,000L rainwater tanks under the front yard and is designed to be low in energy use through smart electronic systems and low energy use fixtures and fittings.

Credit list

Kitchen design/interior design:
Donnell Day Architects
Abodo Vulcan Primed weatherboard
Custom designed louvre screens by Donnell Day Architects
Main flooring
Vienna Woods, Grande Oak Rustic Onyx, by Vienna Woods – wide boards
Escea DL110
Trends International Design Awards (TIDA) Homes – Highly Commended
Faulkner Construction
Kitchen manufacturer
Creative Kitchens & Granite Workshop
True Oak Corrugate, Colorcote, from Roofing Industries
Window/door joinery
Bathroom tiles
Caprice Liberty White Matt, from European Ceramics
General heating
Passive, through architecture
Living area furniture
Bo Concept

Designed by: Donnell Day Architects

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Jessica Gernat

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