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HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - TEXT — Aimie Cronin PHO­TOG­RA­PHY — Si­mon De­vitt

An­drea Bell and An­drew Kis­sell’s city-fringe home

A new home by An­drea Bell and An­drew Kis­sell in a tough semi­in­dus­trial neigh­bour­hood brings fam­ily liv­ing to Auck­land’s cen­tre.

Ar­chi­tects An­drew Kis­sell and An­drea Bell, with their chil­dren Os­car and Lulu, in the home they de­signed in a light-in­dus­trial area on Auck­land’s city fringe. The art­work at the foot of the stairs is ‘Liq­uido Russo’ by Ekarasa Doblanovic.

The home is a mag­nif­i­cent chal­lenge to the con­ven­tional no­tion that the city is no place for chil­dren.

Left The home’s en­try leads from the street into the kitchen and liv­ing ar­eas. The ap­par­ent trans­parency of the stairs is be­cause of the per­fo­ra­tions in the 3mm-thick steel plate. Ce­ramic works by Len Cas­tle hang just in­side the door. ‘Play’ chairs by Alain Berteau for Wild­spirit from ECC sit at an oak ‘Hugo’ din­ing ta­ble from Kat­a­log. The cloche in­dus­trial shades are from Loft Mo­tif and the lights above the kitchen is­land are brass with LED bulbs. Above At the top of the stairs, the up­stairs liv­ing room looks across to the stair­well, where ‘Re­mem­brance’ qua­tre­foils by Max Gim­blett hang.

Walk past An­drea Bell and An­drew Kis­sell’s house in its un­likely spot next to a car deal­er­ship in a light-in­dus­trial neigh­bour­hood on Auck­land’s city fringe, and through the glass front door. You will be greeted with a loud smack of bright green grass. It’s like a gift to the street. Years ago, when Bell and Kis­sell, both ar­chi­tects, walked through the al­leys of Seville as they trav­elled through Spain, ev­ery so of­ten some­one would open a door to a house and passersby would get a glimpse of life be­hind it. Those vi­sions of do­mes­tic­ity in the mid­dle of gritty en­vi­ron­ments in­spired Bell and Kis­sell as they plot­ted the de­sign of their own Auck­land home. Their home is a mag­nif­i­cent chal­lenge to the con­ven­tional no­tion that the city is no place for chil­dren. Bell and Kis­sell have cre­ated an en­vi­able home for them­selves and their kids Os­car, four, and one-year-old Lulu, on an al­most-hos­tile site with­out re­sort­ing to sub­ur­ban de­sign tropes. Their de­sign shows how we can bet­ter use our cities by re-oc­cu­py­ing ar­eas once con­sid­ered un­de­sir­able, rather than spread­ing stand-alone homes fur­ther and fur­ther from the cen­tre. Those vis­it­ing the home for the first time may raise an eye­brow when they can’t find a car park, when they aren’t greeted with a row of picket fences, or when they can’t see the large back­yard. They might think, ‘kids can’t live here’. They will be chal­lenged by the con­cept of fam­ily liv­ing in the city, but they will see that not only does it work, but it works re­ally well. Bell, who has her own ar­chi­tec­ture prac­tice, Bell & Co Ar­chi­tec­ture, and Kis­sell, an as­so­ciate di­rec­tor at the ar­chi­tec­ture firm Ped­dle Thorp, pur­chased the site in a rush in late 2010 and then took their time de­cid­ing what to do with it. The site was orig­i­nally oc­cu­pied by an old cot­tage that had been burnt to the ground in a fire. They de­cided to hon­our the neigh­bour­hood’s in­dus­trial flavour with an eco­nom­i­cal ma­te­rial pal­ette of raw con­crete walls, ex­posed ceil­ings and a strik­ingly beau­ti­ful metal stair­case with a mesh screen. Traces of construction, such as builder’s notes and mea­sure­ments, have been de­lib­er­ately left ex­posed, and Kis­sell says he en­joys that as­pect of the house. “I re­ally love build­ings when they are at that three-quar­ters-fin­ished stage,” he says, “be­fore you add all the stuff you have to have – the bones and struc­ture and space, and this house partly re­flects that.” The 375-square-me­tre home’s liv­ing ar­eas are sit­u­ated on the en­try floor: a large com­bined kitchen, din­ing and sit­ting space that opens onto a deck with steps lead­ing down to the lawn. Down­stairs is An­drew’s work­shop; An­drea’s of­fice is up­stairs along with three bed­rooms and a place to watch TV. Bell’s favourite space is the main bed­room, which is ut­terly simple in de­sign, its key fea­ture be­ing ex­pan­sive views that lend the feel of sit­ting on a moun­tain look­ing out. “We lived with­out cur­tains for a cou­ple of months,” says Bell, laugh­ing. “The sun­sets are amaz­ing. I love ly­ing in bed in the dark with the cur­tains open at night, watch­ing the chang­ing cityscape with the cranes and what’s go­ing on, all of the lights. If there’s a con­cert on at West­ern Springs we can hear that. It does feel like we are pretty lucky.” From the out­set, the home was de­signed for max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity. When the cou­ple be­gan the project, chil­dren weren’t even part of their plans. But the home has also been care­fully con­fig­ured for pos­si­ble fu­ture uses. Ini­tially, the cou­ple planned to build as much as they could rea­son­ably af­ford. The struc­ture has been en­gi­neered to take an­other storey for a sep­a­rate apart­ment or, per­haps, a rooftop gar­den. The front court­yard could be re­con­fig­ured for, say, a café. The stair­case has been de­signed at the foot of the en­trance and the edge of the house so that it could be walled off and each floor could work as a sep­a­rate ten­ancy. Bell says “there are all sorts of ways you could cut this house up” for fu­ture com­bi­na­tions of res­i­den­tial or com­mer­cial use. The fam­ily has no plans to change the cur­rent setup. The chil­dren’s bed­rooms face the street with slid­ing doors open­ing onto a small bal­cony where they like to blow bub­bles. Vis­i­bil­ity from the street is sub­tly man­aged on both lev­els with lay­ers of tim­ber screens and frosted glass. The fam­ily en­joys the back­yard, says Kis­sell, and the “whole idea of liv­ing in the city but hav­ing green space and a veg­gie gar­den”. He plans to set up a pro­jec­tor to screen films on the neigh­bour­ing white wall. He likes how the front ter­race where the car is parked also works as the per­fect morn­ing cof­fee spot be­cause of how it catches the sun. He likes the large liv­ing space that opens to out­door liv­ing. He looks around the house and says there’s not re­ally any­thing he would change, even with a more gen­er­ous bud­get. The real proof of the home’s suc­cess is ev­i­dent when Os­car’s friends visit, their eyes wide with sur­prise. This con­cept of home is un­fa­mil­iar, and they are de­lighted by it. To them, the house is an ad­ven­ture. Kis­sell says he some­times misses that they don’t live in a res­i­den­tial street that houses plenty of other chil­dren for his kids to hang out with. But with more peo­ple mov­ing into the area, the feel­ing of com­mu­nity is grow­ing. Hope­fully Bell and Kis­sell’s home is a har­bin­ger of change.

Above The main bed­room is lined in pine ply­wood. The ‘Tolomeo Mini Tavolo’ bed­side lights are by Michele de Luc­chi and Gian­carlo Fassina for Artemide from ECC. The in­dus­trial light­shade is from Loft Mo­tif. The flue from the Bosca wood fire in the liv­ing room be­low is left ex­posed for warmth dur­ing winter. Be­low The fam­ily gath­ers in the kitchen. The liv­ing area fea­tures a ‘Miller’ sofa from Forma. Far left The li­brary up­stairs, in the space that An­drea also uses as the of­fice for her ar­chi­tec­ture firm, Bell & Co.

Bell and Kis­sell stand on the home’s street-fac­ing bal­cony. Tim­ber screens and frosted glass man­age pri­vacy be­tween the street and the home.

Left In its light-in­dus­trial set­ting, the ver­dant lawn at the back of the home is a sur­prise. Kis­sell’s work­shop oc­cu­pies the ground floor. Above The cou­ple had long en­vis­aged liv­ing in a con­verted ware­house, and their ma­te­rial pal­ette of con­crete, Mo­dulit, ply­wood and steel in their new home re­flects this. ‘A2’ stools from IMO sit at the out­door ta­ble, which was de­signed and built by Kis­sell from re­cy­cled deck­ing tim­ber. In the fore­ground, the ‘Heaven’ chair by Jean-Marie Mas­saud for Emu is from ECC. Right The en­suite fea­tures ex­posed cop­per water pipes. The nat­u­ral-stone free­stand­ing bath is from VCBC. The Alape wall-hang­ing basins, ‘Pixel’ basin mix­ers and shower head by Paini are all from Metrix. The brass pen­dant lights are the same as those in the kitchen.

Left The rose­wood dresser and bed­side ta­ble in the guest bed­room were de­signed in 1973 by Rudi Sch­warz for Whit­more Arti Domo. A ‘Bimbo’ stool by Peter Brandt from Kat­a­log sits at the dresser. The ‘Tolomeo Mi­cro Pinza’ light by Michele De Luc­chi and Gian­carlo Fassina for Artemide is from ECC. Above A glimpse of the rear of the home, with the main bed­room up top, from the neigh­bour­ing street.

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