A fam­ily home by Co Lab in the hills above Lyt­tel­ton

HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - TEXT — Adri­enne Rewi PHO­TOG­RA­PHY — Si­mon De­vitt

For Tobin Smith of Christchurch prac­tice CoLab Ar­chi­tec­ture and his de­signer client Tim Kelle­her of Sons & Co, the chal­lenges of col­lab­o­ra­tion were never an is­sue. The two met in pass­ing a decade ago af­ter Tim and his wife El­iz­a­beth had pur­chased a steep Lyt­tel­ton sec­tion. Tim is the first to ad­mit that back then, at 25, he had no real un­der­stand­ing of the build­ing process or how to fi­nance it – and in the years fol­low­ing, his life changed rad­i­cally with the estab­lish­ment of his web de­sign busi­ness, the birth of two chil­dren (they’ve since had a third) and the fact that the fam­ily lived in five dif­fer­ent rental prop­er­ties. But Tim’s long-held pas­sion for de­sign and his de­sire to live in an ar­chi­tec­turally de­signed home pre­vailed and to­gether with Smith, the Kelle­hers set about de­sign­ing their first home. The cou­ple wanted a dwelling that would “lift the spir­its”, ac­com­mo­date a grow­ing fam­ily and pay homage to Tim’s in­ter­est in mid-cen­tury New Zealand de­sign and Ja­panese ar­chi­tec­ture. “We never sat down with a for­mal brief,” says Tim. “Our process was col­lab­o­ra­tive from the out­set. We agreed on the home’s ori­en­ta­tion to the har­bour and the af­ter­noon sun and be­yond that, it was a process of evolv­ing ideas to­gether as we pro­gressed.” The evo­lu­tion of their hill­side house to the home that stands to­day has been a long one: 10 years to be pre­cise. “Tim and I would meet for a chin­wag about what was hap­pen­ing in Christchurch – es­pe­cially fol­low­ing the earthquakes – and then we’d talk about the house,” Smith says. “It was a very nat­u­ral process for us. We’re mates and the de­sign process usu­ally ad­vanced from some­one tabling an idea and then the two of us work­ing it through to­gether. We’re open-minded and we’re not pre­cious about who ta­bles the ideas.” The col­lab­o­ra­tion process went be­yond Tobin and Tim to in­volve El­iz­a­beth’s brother James Turner, the joiner who worked closely with de­signer and client to de­vise in­no­va­tive aes­thetic so­lu­tions de­spite the tight, stripped-back bud­get. Ev­ery­one in­volved worked in the be­lief that each had some­thing valu­able to bring to the process, and that their com­bined de­sign in­tel­li­gence was the most ef­fec­tive way of de­liv­er­ing a pos­i­tive fi­nal re­sult that the Kelle­hers

could hap­pily call home. Ev­ery­one was en­cour­aged to con­trib­ute un­fil­tered ideas to cre­ate a bud­get-con­scious home that looks any­thing but. The floor plan fol­lows a prac­ti­cal lay­out, with the house sit­ting at the top of a steep, wedged-shaped sec­tion ori­ented to the ex­pan­sive views of Lyt­tel­ton Har­bour and the neigh­bour­ing hill­sides. There are two bed­rooms down­stairs and two up, with main liv­ing ar­eas on the up­per floor to max­imise views and to give ac­cess to east and west-fac­ing bal­conies. Large glass win­dows on three sides har­ness the warmth of the sun, while the home’s monochro­matic dark form tucks into the hill­side, be­ly­ing the light, open spa­ces within. The larger up­per floor sits di­rectly over the lower level and there is a sep­a­rate park­ing pad – some­thing Smith felt strongly about. “It meant we didn’t have to ex­ca­vate the site in the same way and it meant we could spend money on the house – on the peo­ple, rather than on the cars.” Smith was keen to cre­ate a sense of light­ness in build­ing el­e­ments and although the team was work­ing to a tight bud­get, they never let go of the finer de­tail­ing, from the bevel on the edges of the oak floors – they looked too per­fect with square edges, Smith ex­plains, so he asked the builder nicely to run them through his saw – to the light birch-ply stair­well, the shape of the stairs, the handrail de­tail­ing and the one-off liv­ing-room join­ery. “We paid a lot of at­ten­tion to mi­cro-de­tail­ing,” says Smith. “We achieved a unique fin­ish by in­clud­ing James in key join­ery de­ci­sions.” As a re­sult, ev­ery­thing in the house has a story and there’s an el­e­ment of fun in the fi­nal in­te­rior. That’s been im­por­tant to the Kelle­hers, who have used the work of artist and de­signer friends (such as Auck­land de­signer Jamie McLel­lan, who de­signed the cof­fee ta­ble and the stair­well mo­bile) in the fin­ish­ing touches. It has been a case of cre­ativ­ity thriv­ing on shared, un­fil­tered ideas taken to the next level through a process of trust, sup­port and en­cour­age­ment. It has in­volved cre­ative peo­ple lever­ag­ing their in­nate abil­i­ties to sow and grow de­sign con­cepts for a greater good. And for Smith, the end re­sult is “ar­guably one of the best first houses” he’s seen yet.

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