Monas­tic yet welcoming, this small home shows the power of con­tained de­sign.


Monas­tic yet welcoming, a con­crete­block home in Christchurch shows the power of con­tained de­sign.

Be­low Acous­tic pan­els line the ceil­ing in the dou­ble-height void above the liv­ing space, and MDF pan­els line the walls.

There’s not much art on the walls of Braden Har­ford’s home, and what there is has had to “fight” to get in, says the owner-ar­chi­tect – although the metaphor seems al­to­gether too rowdy for this serene, 85-square-me­tre town­house. Set on the lower slopes of Christchurch’s Cash­mere Hills over­look­ing Bowen­vale Val­ley, from the street it presents as a small tower of con­crete block, the stark­ness bro­ken by a steep mono­pitch roofline and a hand­ful of ir­reg­u­larly placed win­dows of vary­ing sizes. The largest win­dows are close to three-and-a-half me­tres. Framed by tim­ber-lined re­veals, they catch the val­ley and city views so per­fectly that you strug­gle to find an ar­gu­ment for hang­ing a sin­gle paint­ing; they also pull in more than enough light to make the cork floors glow. Set against dou­ble-height, near-black walls, the ef­fect is al­most monas­tic – in the con­tem­pla­tive, rather than as­cetic sense. “I wanted it to be a re­treat, to be able to come here and es­cape,” says Har­ford. A part­ner in the five-yearold Christchurch prac­tice Maguire and Har­ford, the ar­chi­tect won a 2017 re­gional NZIA Small Project award for the house; the first that he’s de­signed for him­self. Ini­tially, he in­tended to buy half of the cross-leased sec­tion, once home to two quake-struck town­houses, and build some­thing mod­est. Even af­ter buy­ing the en­tire site, he stuck to the plan – partly be­cause of bud­get, but also out of con­vic­tion. “As an ar­chi­tect, most peo­ple come to you say­ing: ‘We want this many bed­rooms and as much space as pos­si­ble’. I wanted to keep it more re­fined. And when the bud­get brought it down [in scope], I was rea­son­ably happy. It meant I had to dis­til my ideas to find out ex­actly what was most im­por­tant.” Har­ford sized and placed win­dows to op­ti­mise light from the north and east, and to min­imise heat loss on the south­ern side, where the val­ley loses the sun early. Those wide tim­ber re­veals, mean­while, are a clue to the ex­tra-thick I-beam tim­ber fram­ing, while above-code blown-in in­su­la­tion keeps the house so warm it barely re­quires heat­ing, ex­cept dur­ing over­cast win­ter weeks. For a small place, it doesn’t feel at all pinched. Those out­sized win­dows help, one with a view di­rectly north to La­timer Square, the other po­si­tioned for a val­ley view, with a copy­book cab­bage tree in the fore­ground. His other trick was to cre­ate a dou­ble-height void above the liv­ing space, with a mez­za­nine for the bed­room, bath­room and spare room. In a sim­i­lar vein, the kitchen is­land reads more as an ob­ject than an in­stal­la­tion, its work­ings hid­den be­hind a faceted white frontage, raised slightly from the floor. The house is sparsely fur­nished, and, like the art, you sus­pect every­thing here has had to ar­gue a case for in­clu­sion. The ar­chi­tect’s child­hood desk, which is set up in an al­cove near the front door, made the cut. As did the com­pact piano in the liv­ing room. “It fills the space nicely,” says Har­ford, of the sound made by the piano that be­longed to War­wick, his late

jazz-pi­anist grand­fa­ther. Har­ford stud­ied piano as a child and is now re-learn­ing how to play the in­stru­ment. Apart from acous­tic ceil­ing pan­els, there’s lit­tle here to ab­sorb noise. None of the tim­ber joists and steel gird­ers that sup­port the mez­za­nine are en­closed. It’s another gam­bit to give the im­pres­sion of space. By not defin­ing the ceil­ing line, he’s also squeezed more height for the kitchen and din­ing area. “You get to read the build­ing, to see how it’s made,” he says of the ex­posed struc­ture, which in­cludes MDF pan­els for the in­ter­nal walls. “It’s some­thing I’m do­ing more and more in my ar­chi­tec­ture for other peo­ple, and I wanted to see how much of it I could achieve in my own place.” Har­ford has de­signed the up­stairs to be as airy as pos­si­ble, us­ing non-full height walls and slid­ing doors for the guest room and his bed­room. “In a way, it was a bit of an ex­per­i­ment in how open I could keep things, while main­tain­ing a de­gree of pri­vacy when I’d want it – say if a friend was stay­ing. I tend to think of the doors as screens rather than as clos­ing off the space.” The ex­pe­ri­ence of de­sign­ing his own home has been “amaz­ingly” sat­is­fy­ing, he says. Even­tu­ally, he’ll de­sign a sim­i­lar but slightly larger town­house for the sub­di­vided sec­tion, pos­si­bly to live in if per­sonal cir­cum­stances change. Hard to imag­ine leav­ing this place, though: “The night be­fore I moved in I was clean­ing and it im­me­di­ately felt like home,” says Har­ford. “And it con­tin­ues to do so. It’s not wear­ing out on me.”

Be­low An ‘Apex 90’ lamp by An­gle­poise sits on an an­tique French trunk in the main bed­room. Bot­tom Metal-trimmed cork-lined stairs lead to the bed­rooms and bath­room in the mez­za­nine.

Top The cup­boards of the kitchen is­land have a white lac­quered fin­ish. ‘Māori Al­pha­bet’ blocks by John­son Wite­hira sit on the range­hood. To the right is a post­card from Aroha & Friends; a paint­ing by Miles Harty; and a litho­graph by Mar­ian Maguire.

Above The ex­posed ore­gon joists and steel gird­ers lend a sense of space. The ‘Li­ai­son’ chairs and sofa are by Cameron Foggo for Nonn. Left Har­ford com­mis­sioned Ali­cia Erceg of Bunch Flo­ral to cre­ate the wall hang­ing above the sofa. The track light­ing is from Hal­cyon.

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