A creative Wellington couple trades their family home for a contemporary cottage up the road.
Lo’CA Architects show how downsizing has rarely looked this good
What’s a couple to do when they find themselves in an empty nest? If you’re Barbara Fill and Nick Dryden, you sell the family home, cobbled together 34 years ago from recycled materials, to your eldest son Zen, before moving three doors down and demolishing a worker’s cottage, one of four built from Dutch kitsets by the blokes who went on to start Lockwood Group. “Nick and Barbara owned all the cottages, which were on one title and originally used to house council workers,” says architect Tim Lovell who, together with business partner Ana O’Connell of Lo’CA Architects, was called on to create a contemporary two-bedroom home for Fill, a historian, and Dryden, a sculptor and former film-set builder. The Wellington couple had a defined design sensibility: they wanted a home with a strong contextual link to the hilly, sloping section, that worked with, rather than against, the weather conditions, and which accommodated their art collection. Their previous home was 60 stairs up from the road and on several levels, dominated by dark native timber. “This house is a reaction to that,” says Lovell. “They wanted something simple, accessible and low maintenance so that they could pursue new interests.” The result is a solid, 124-square-metre weathered cedar box, which O’Connell refers to as a “deconstructed sculptural state house”. The architects were heavily influenced by the scale and size of the 1906 S. Hurst Seager and Cecil Wood state house in Petone, which Fill had written a book about. It featured simple geometry and sloping ceilings. “We explored a paredback, compact house, an artful stripping back to the basics,” says O’Connell. This has been achieved by skewing the gabled state-house roof and positioning the ridge on the diagonal, creating “a low-slung dynamic form that follows the natural sloping ground levels around the house”. Constructed from fibre-cement panels, powder-coated aluminium windows and cedar cladding designed to “grey off like a piece of weathered driftwood”, the house overhangs the north-eastern corner of the section, appearing to ‘float’ over the garden like the bow of a ship. The maritime reference is intentional: not only does the house align with the coastal Island Bay environment, but it also resonates with Dryden, a former commercial fisherman and keen sailor. (The asymmetric roof, with its birch-ply panelled lining, follows his much-loved rowboat.)
Left Lo’CA Architects were influenced by the scale and geometry of a Petone state house by S. Hurst Seager and Cecil Wood. Replacing a former worker’s cottage, the home sits comfortably with its neighbouring cottages. Far left, below The cast-aluminium hares are by Nick Dryden. Left below Architect Ana O’Connell describes the elongated hallway as “a central organising element in the traditional statehouse plan”. Below The pottery on the cabinetry above Dryden is by New Zealand, Greek and English potters. The dining table is from Add+Vintage. Dryden made the copper pendants above.