A beach house by Paul Clarke in the sand dunes of Hahei finds a beau­ti­ful bal­ance between public and pri­vate.

HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - Text Simon Far­rell-Green Pho­tog­ra­phy Simon De­vitt

An angular dune house by Paul Clarke is a haven for fam­ily and friends

They’ve been com­ing to Hahei for 25 years and you can see why. Ini­tially to the camp­ground, then to rented baches be­fore buy­ing an ag­ing Lock­wood on the beach­front with spec­tac­u­lar views to Mer­cury Bay. It’s the kind of view that al­lows you to sit, mes­merised, as the weather rolls over the wa­ter to­wards you. Pōhutukawa drape them­selves over the beach and the white faces of the lime­stone cliffs at ei­ther end crum­ble into the sand. The beach is wide, flat and gen­tle; per­fect for kids. The wa­ter is clear, there’s a creek to play in and good div­ing at Cathe­dral Cove Marine Re­serve. There’s also a craft brew­ery in the shops and a lit­tle wood­fired pizza place in the camp­ground. There’s a brief burst of ac­tiv­ity over sum­mer but for 50 weeks of the year, it’s peace­ful. At first, the fam­ily that owns this new house by Paul Clarke of Stu­dio2 Ar­chi­tects thought they’d ren­o­vate the old Lock­wood. With its con­crete block base and weath­er­board top, you couldn’t build that close to the wa­ter now. Every­one quickly re­alised that the best thing to do was start from scratch: the Lock­wood, even ren­o­vated, was never go­ing to give them the kind of house they wanted – ex­pan­sive,

big enough for a crowd, yet in­ti­mate enough for two on a winter week­end. A social house, de­signed to en­gage with the beach, but also a respite. In short, they wanted a re­treat that was built around the rhythms and rit­u­als of sum­mer life. The own­ers then thought they might re­build on the foot­print, a small house with guest ac­com­mo­da­tion out the back over the boat house, be­fore de­cid­ing against it. “We didn’t want guests to come here and feel like they were shoved out the back,” says one of the own­ers. “We wanted peo­ple to come and stand around the kitchen bench with us. And that’s ex­actly what they do.” Up­stairs, there’s a big liv­ing room run­ning out to a shel­tered court­yard, and two bed­rooms run­ning to the back of the site. Down­stairs, two bed­rooms have spec­tac­u­lar views over the beach, and there’s a bunk room for spillover. Clarke’s de­sign was the re­sult of an ex­haus­tive plan­ning process that took al­most a year – he and the own­ers con­sulted dune ex­perts and neigh­bours, in­clud­ing the Hahei camp­ground next door. At first, Clarke was keen to flat­ten a sand hill that sat in the mid­dle of the site. It didn’t ap­pear to be nat­u­ral: the camp­ground had its wa­ter tank on top, and the land sat squarely between the Crown re­serve, the camp­ground and the prop­erty. “Then we de­cided to work with the land,” he says. “And that be­came quite cool be­cause it gave us the abil­ity to have a front to the wa­ter and the view, a back that was more pri­vate and a back­yard where the kids could play cricket. It pri­ori­tised the site, in a way.” The new house sits dis­creetly on its dune, the bulk of the build­ing pulled back­ward, an angular bleached cedar box that seems to rise up and off – an ex­ten­sion of the dune be­low. From the beach you have no idea of the home’s size: all you can see is the top-floor liv­ing area, screened by shut­ters and sit­ting back from a ve­ran­dah-like space. “It kind of feels like it’s meant to be there,” says Clarke. “There’s a lot of glass, but I didn’t want it to be a big glass box.” Where the out­side is clad with sil­vered cedar – the only tim­ber Clarke felt com­fort­able us­ing in such an ex­posed spot – the in­te­rior is lined with oiled Amer­i­can white oak, which runs across the floor, up the walls and over the ceil­ing, as well as drop­ping down over cab­i­netry. The warm, en­velop­ing pal­ette feels like a freshly cut piece of tim­ber to the out­side’s faded

drift­wood ex­te­rior. “The floor, the wall, the ceil­ing – there’s just so much to ex­plore with that,” says Clarke. “A lot of peo­ple might find it OTT but there’s so much soft­ness to it. It’s kind of a nod to the old Lock­wood – all the big boards.” That’s where the sim­i­lar­ity to the Lock­wood ends. “There’s or­der within the house but it has been quirked to al­low it to be some­thing special and dif­fer­ent,” says Clarke. Be­cause of height-to-boundary rules, the roof needed to be pitched rather than flat. In re­sponse, Clarke twisted the pitch, run­ning it di­ag­o­nally and draw­ing the house down over the cor­ner clos­est to the beach. It gives drama, in­trigue and a se­ri­ously high stud – this is a tall fam­ily, af­ter all. The an­gle is read­able from the liv­ing room, a clean line that runs through a per­fect join in the tongue-and-groove oak, a feat of car­pen­try that re­quired im­mense tech­ni­cal pre­ci­sion. De­spite its po­si­tion and beauty, this is a sim­ple dwelling. The kitchen, where every­one gath­ers from break­fast to din­ner, is big. There’s the shel­tered court­yard, built around an open fire for late-night sto­ries. And there are slid­ing ex­te­rior shut­ters to mod­er­ate the wind, sun and pri­vacy, which the own­ers move into place by hand – the kind of daily rit­ual that comes to de­fine a hol­i­day. “There’s noth­ing overly com­pli­cated, which I like,” says Clarke. “I think all good ar­chi­tec­ture should be like that.”

Above Slid­ing ex­te­rior screens at the side of the deck are key to mod­er­at­ing the el­e­ments and pri­vacy. Right Lo­cal kids So­phie and Char­lie Kelly skip through the dunes with Bella the Labrador.

Pre­vi­ous page Glass balustrades keep the view clear from the liv­ing room. Left, top The tim­ber lin­ing has an em­brac­ing ef­fect in the kitchen and liv­ing area. The ‘El­e­men­tary’ din­ing chairs are by Jamie McLel­lan for Feel­good De­signs. The ‘Log’ ta­ble by Rod­er­ick Vos for Lin­teloo is from ECC. Left The ‘Gy­ro­fo­cus’ fire is by Do­minique Im­bert for Oblica. The ‘An­der­sen’ so­fas by Rodolfo Dor­doni for Minotti are from ECC. Far left Sen­si­tive land­scap­ing em­beds the house site into the dunes. Above The top level cre­ates an ex­tended eave over the path at the side of the house.

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