Nip and Tuck

Text — Si­mon Far­rell-Green Pho­tog­ra­phy — David Straight

HOME Magazine NZ - - As Good As New -

Chris Beer stays within a villa’s foot­print and clev­erly over­comes fa­mil­iar is­sues.

Any­one who’s ever lived in a villa will be fa­mil­iar with their twin joys and dilem­mas – not least the own­ers of this tran­si­tional villa in San­dring­ham, Auck­land. The orig­i­nal house was built in the 1920s and de­spite airy rooms and a high stud, it be­came pro­gres­sively less use­ful as you pro­ceeded from front to back. Plus – thanks to an un­sym­pa­thetic sub­di­vi­sion in the 80s – the view was di­rectly onto the neigh­bours’ drive­way. There were three large airy bed­rooms, a gen­er­ous bathroom and pleas­antly wide hall­way, which led to a cramped kitchen­liv­ing-din­ing space; the back bed­room led to a sun­room that was never used. There was no stor­age, and the liv­ing ar­eas were in a lean-to with a slop­ing ceil­ing. “It was,” says ar­chi­tect Chris Beer, “a three-bed­room house with an apart­ment-sized liv­ing area.” Af­ter briefly con­sid­er­ing sell­ing, the fam­ily called on Beer. The brief asked for more liv­ing space and an en suite, but with­out los­ing any bed­rooms. By re­or­gan­is­ing the foot­print and with a nip here and a tuck there, Beer could main­tain the three bed­rooms, add the en suite and ex­pand the liv­ing ar­eas. The sun­room went and the third bed­room was cut in two, cre­at­ing a small sin­gle bed­room and free­ing up room at the back of the house. But where the de­sign re­ally takes off is how the parts of the house, new and old, fit to­gether with a sub­tle se­ries of ma­te­ri­als and forms: Beer refers to them as “ob­jects in a field”, which loosely re­late in­side the skin of the orig­i­nal home. At the front of the house he re­duced the largest bed­room, slip­ping an en suite lit by a sky­light be­hind a wall of floor-to-ceil­ing cup­boards. The door sits seam­lessly in the line of cab­i­netry. “It’s a small room but the height re­ally helps,” he says. In the new, ex­panded liv­ing area, he took out load-bear­ing walls and in­stalled a steel beam that runs from one end to the other, then hid the whole thing be­hind a float­ing bulk­head skinned in cedar ply­wood. Its first func­tion is to con­ceal the beam and the slop­ing ceil­ing; its se­cond is to cre­ate drama and tex­ture, unit­ing the three spa­ces across the back of the house. In the cor­ner of the kitchen, there’s a new bay win­dow and seat, fea­tur­ing slid­ing cedar win­dows, shielded from the neigh­bour­ing drive­way and sum­mer sun with long, el­e­gant cedar screens. A slim steel pole in the cor­ner sup­ports the beam. There’s a slightly Ja­panese, mid-cen­tury style that hangs hap­pily off the home. Con­tin­u­ing with the idea of “ob­jects”, the kitchen is less ma­chine for liv­ing, more a se­ries of ply­wood boxes con­tain­ing dif­fer­ent func­tions: from the liv­ing area, you can’t see a sin­gle ap­pli­ance. “Mak­ing it square and ab­stract and tak­ing the kitchen-ness away from it re­ally helps when you’re on the other side in the liv­ing area,” says Beer. In short: there’s slip­page and quirk. He shifted the square ‘is­land’ closer to the wall, so there’s just enough space to walk past it, cre­at­ing plenty of room on the other side, and kicked out the pantry and fridge so that they ob­scure the room from the hall­way. It cre­ates a mo­ment of in­trigue as you come down the hall­way, rather than re­veal­ing ev­ery­thing from the front door. Thanks to the cedar screens and a big tree, the ef­fect is shad­owy and com­plex. A field of ob­jects in­deed.

1. En­try 2. Hall 3. Bed­room 4. Bathroom 5. Liv­ing 6. Din­ing 7. Kitchen 8. Sun­room

—The en suite sits be­hind a wall of cab­i­netry in the bed­room. —Ar­chi­tect Chris Beer says he treated the kitchen’s com­po­nents as “ob­jects”, re­duc­ing the ‘kitchen-ness’ in re­la­tion to the liv­ing area. The paint­ing ‘Car­pen­try’ by Grant Jack. —The pole in...

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