Sim­ple plea­sures

Us­ing stan­dard ma­te­ri­als and smart de­tail­ing, Sam Kebbell de­signs a house on the Kapiti Coast on the barest of bud­gets.

HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - Text Natalie Brad­burn Pho­tog­ra­phy Paul McCredie

Build­ing beauty on a bud­get in Kapiti

Can you build an affordable, hand­some home? The an­swer isn’t straight­for­ward, but the ‘Quite Sim­ple House’ by Wellington ar­chi­tect Sam Kebbell of Kebbell Daish comes pretty close. De­signed for a cou­turier who had just moved back from Lon­don, the house was built on the slimmest of bud­gets by a con­trac­tor who usu­ally works on group homes.

Kebbell nav­i­gated the fi­nan­cial con­straints by us­ing the Depart­ment of Build­ing and Hous­ing’s de­light­fully named ‘Sim­ple House – Ac­cept­able So­lu­tion’. The guide is rec­om­mended for smaller-scale projects that meet a set of cri­te­ria with­out re­quir­ing com­plex en­gi­neer­ing or de­tail­ing. But a good build­ing has to be about more than just bud­get – you also need the sur­pris­ing and the de­light­ful, and so Kebbell pushed and pulled the guide­lines to come up with some­thing more pro­gres­sive.

To get to the two-bed­room house, an or­di­nary gravel drive­way weaves its way through the dunes to an all-white house built from painted pine and fi­bre-ce­ment pan­els, in a land­scape of muted greens and dusty browns. The two-bed­room house is split be­tween two wings, con­nected un­der one roof by an in­ter­nal court­yard. Wide steps build up to a lofty ve­ran­dah, which runs al­most all the way around the out­side, of­fer­ing remarkable views of Kapiti. There’s a gen­eros­ity of height, sup­ported by the rhythm and strength of ver­ti­cal tim­ber col­umns – Kebbell set up a grid for the house us­ing stan­dard sheet sizes to save on waste and as­sist in the ease of build­ing, but it also gives the house a rig­or­ous sort of ge­om­e­try.

In his re­search, Kebbell – who also teaches at Victoria Univer­sity’s ar­chi­tec­ture school – ex­plores the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the

or­di­nary and ex­tra­or­di­nary, bridg­ing the com­mon with the rar­efied. In short: how do you com­bine a cost-ef­fec­tive de­sign with the more salu­bri­ous lure of look­ing good?

The el­e­gantly ex­posed junc­tion be­tween the roof and tim­ber col­umns is one an­swer. Re­sem­bling the ‘Farnsworth House’, a mod­ernist home in Illi­nois by Mies van Der Rohe, where pil­lars lightly meet the roof, the de­tail still fits with the stan­dard use of the NZ build­ing code. “On one hand, we worked hard to cre­ate a strong form in the land­scape, even a slightly mon­u­men­tal one,” says Kebbell. “On the other, we es­tab­lished a clear ge­om­e­try and de­vel­oped a con­sis­tent ap­proach to de­tail­ing the ex­te­rior.”

De­sign aside, col­lab­o­ra­tion was an in­te­gral part of the build, with cer­tain as­pects of the project left to the hands-on client; the project was also de­signed to re­duce the num­ber of trades re­quired to build it. The re­sult is a house that works well on both lev­els – a prac­ti­cal model that sug­gests the il­lus­tri­ous dream of a well-de­signed, affordable home isn’t so unattain­able af­ter all.

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