The design decisions we make when building a home aren’t always based on fashion or finance. Sometimes they hark back to our childhood.
That’s what first-time builders Terri and Sam discovered when, along with the Box™ team, they started the process of conceptualising a new design and -build in Auckland’s Glendowie. “I grew up in red-brick houses and our first home together was a red brick ex-state house, so perhaps a feeling for red brick seeped into our subconscious,” says Terri.
Choosing that as one of the cladding materials was a significant step forward, but it wasn’t necessarily straightforward. Sam had taken to Pinterest for inspiration but most of the dwellings he pinned were Australian. The stock here was different. Eventually the pair found just the right brick at The Brickery. San Selmo’s ‘Aged Red’ looks tumbled, hand-poured, rustic and reclaimed. It looks like the past.
That wasn’t the only glimpse backwards that propelled this project into the future. Although there was certainly plenty of opportunity on the generous section that backs onto a tennis club and a park, the couple did not want to occupy the land with too much house. They have three children so the idea of a spacious back lawn with enough room to swing a bat took precedence. “Growing up, I had a flying fox in the garden,” says Terri. “We wanted the feeling of wide-open sky and the trees from the park in the background.”
Greenery is hugely important to this one-time lawyer turned design agency account manager turned project manager. She’s a self-confessed plantaholic, with 25 plants (she’s counted) waiting to nature-up the scheme. But that’s not all. A long, low window in the dining room long receives a sliver of hedge when seated at the table, and a custom-designed pendant light above the kitchen bench comes complete with hygroscopic moss. “The beauty is you never have to water it and when you walk into the house, you’ll see the green immediately.”
It’s obvious that Terri is a left-brain, right-brain personality who not only thinks about detail and practicality, but also has an aesthetic appreciation. These two sides drove her decision making. For instance, while the couple were initially keen on using black steel in combination with the red brick, that idea evolved. “As cool as it looks, steel is not terribly environmentally friendly, and it attracts the heat,” says Terri. Instead, they’ve used vertical Abodo timber weatherboards treated with a natural wood coating called Sioo:x, which seals and cures the wood to weather uniformly to a silvery grey. The timber, which is used at the entrance and encases the upper bedroom level of the home, not only softens the brick but will only need one more coat of the protective product before Terri and Sam can relax on that maintenance front for 10-15 years! “The Box™ team got to know me well. They knew that if they suggested a product or a design feature, I was inevitably going to ask, ‘How do I clean it?’”
So, pragmatism ruled in the choice of cladding, concrete floors (thermal mass) and carpets which are wool (for sustainability) in a forgiving speckled grey (cue three busy children and a dog). They also used New Zealand-made, wool-based insulation and there’s a fireplace with a wetback for water heating and the option to link it to solar panels in future.
Unusually, the couple opted for a carport instead of a garage, which saved money on the build, but they compensated with well-thought-out storage within the home – a generous laundry and high cupboards tucked up under the soaring gable in the children’s rooms for those once-a-year items such as ski gear.
But, where they felt it justified, they pushed rationalism aside and went all out. When Box™ argued for a 2.4-metre stud height downstairs to take advantage of the modular size of materials (for example structural timber and plasterboard sheets), they pushed back. “We went for 2.7 metres as we didn’t want to feel like the ceiling was weighing down on us.” Upstairs, where the volume is provided by raked ceilings tucked beneath the gable, they agreed to the 2.4 metre stud.
With the build process well on its way, Terri has been kept busy choosing colours to personalise her family’s forever home. There’s a dark blue for the TV den, an even moodier blue for the en suite bathroom and an industrial concrete-grey for the children’s rooms. Destined for completion in June this year, the home is in the final stages. Although Terri’s mind is ever on the job and she’s really enjoyed keeping track of the details, there is one thing that surprised her. When Box™ residential architects visited the site and flew their drone into the sky above to survey the surrounds, the pictures showed a peek of the sea. Now that the main bedroom is built, the wraparound corner windows offer a vista across suburbia with a big, wide tide clearly visible in the near distance. “The steel eyebrows on the windows really draw the eye out to the water,” says Terri. A surprise yes. But a good one.