Box design & build: a team approach to a tricky site

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A piece of land with a storm-water drain in the middle of the natural building platform called for creative and cohesive thinking that resulted in this striking home slung between two plinths.

Modernist roots are evident in the final form of this home that is located on an awkward site in a boutique subdivision in Westmere, Auckland. To provide the council 24/7 access to a storm-water drain, an elongated rectangle is slung between two ‘plinths’ – a concrete-block base which echoes 1950s materiality.

The design is an exemplar of robust engineering and necessitated pre-cambered steel beams spanning in excess of 12 metres. Clad in horizontal white timber weatherboards, the home has an entry courtyard where eye-catching and clever landscaping disguise the ugly drain. 

Inside, the plan was simple and elegant with the main living zone on the upper level, and services and a studio space below.  An entrance gallery, where art is hung on the concrete-block walls, lends a sense of arrival before this more intimate, cave-like zone leads up a flight of stairs to the spacious living above.

Here, floor-to-ceiling windows are carefully placed for privacy but also to bring in light, an aspect of the sky and borrowed green views from the neighbouring reserve. Concrete and white walls, smart black aluminium joinery and American oak flooring work together as a warm but restrained palette. Crisp steel banisters on the staircase are a sculptural element.

A see-through, double-sided fireplace separates the open-plan kitchen and living room. While there is still visual connection between the kitchen and lounge, the division means the spaces are cosier to retreat to, and there’s extra room to hang art – an important consideration for the owners. 

To supplement their collection of classic design pieces (think a colourful Rietveld chair, an LC2 by Le Corbusier and an Eames surfboard table), built-in furniture includes gaboon-ply vanities, alcoves used as display space and a storage unit for a beloved collection of books and CDs, and the music system. In the kitchen, gaboon and white cabinetry teams with massive matte tiles that look like raw steel on the splashback to offer some contrast. Outside, tiles, rather than wooden decking, were used for the many outdoor areas that wrap around the ground-level rooms and extend from the upper floor. 

Twelve months after the first digger broke ground, the owners moved in. This was a project where working closely with the owners achieved award-winning results. The home was awarded silver in the hotly contested $1-$2 million category of the Master Builders House of the Year 2018.

One of the owners, Barry Bloomfield, a director of Refresh Renovations, says: “With my background, I know that there can be tension between architects and builders. Architects are great ideas people who want to create something different and special; builders want to do the job sensibly and economically.” Having a company where the architect and builder are in the same stable – and with clear-and-proven processes – was a big plus.

Contact Box Design & Build on 0800 717 717

or visit the studio: Studio 1.2 317 New North Road, Kingsland, Auckland 1021