Mov­ing moun­tains

A bold and strik­ing fam­ily com­pound in cen­tral Queen­stown de­signed by As­sem­bly Ar­chi­tects

HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - TEXT — Si­mon Far­rell-Green PHO­TOG­RA­PHY — Si­mon De­vitt

If you live in Queen­stown, the house on these pages will be dis­tinctly fa­mil­iar.

Lo­cated on a busy back street used by lo­cals to scoot around all that heady tourism in down­town Queen­stown proper, it oc­cu­pies a prom­i­nent cor­ner a few blocks from the cen­tre, its twin viewfinder decks cre­at­ing a friendly façade. Some­times, it’s com­pared to E.T., some­times binoc­u­lars; its giant num­bers are hard to miss and it’s the first multi-storey de­vel­op­ment in the area thanks to re­cent changes in the district plan. “I don’t think we’ve ever done any­thing as graphic as this,” says ar­chi­tect Louise Wright of As­sem­bly Ar­chi­tects. “It re­ally strikes peo­ple.” I say house, but it’s ac­tu­ally two three-storey town­houses on one site, a com­pound owned and used by one ex­tended fam­ily. Own­ers Paddy and Brian Stafford-Bush live in Auck­land but visit Queen­stown al­most monthly, where they ski, run, cy­cle and en­joy the glo­ri­ous out­doors of the Lakes District by day, and its restau­rants and big-lit­tle-town buzz by night. Their son Sam – a ski in­struc­tor – lives in Queen­stown six months of the year, while daugh­ter Mia and her fam­ily live in neigh­bour­ing Ar­row­town. Af­ter own­ing a hol­i­day home nearby for years, the fam­ily bought the site – com­plete with a cold 1960s fi­bre-ce­ment bun­ga­low de­signed for sum­mer oc­cu­pa­tion – and asked As­sem­bly, who have worked with the fam­ily on a num­ber of de­vel­op­ment projects in re­cent years, to look at what could be built. “We re­ally wanted to be able to walk into Queen­stown,” says Paddy, a keen moun­tain biker, “to be ab­sorbed in the town, rather than be ad­ja­cent to it.” While they wanted room for fam­ily, they were un­clear as to how that would look – and whether they might sell or rent part of the de­vel­op­ment – and they wanted their son-in-law James Ben­nie of Ben­nie Builders to build it. “It was a lot of loose ideas and a loose con­cept,” says Paddy, “but it has come to­gether fan­tas­ti­cally well.” Louise and hus­band Justin, who run As­sem­bly, looked at var­i­ous op­tions for the site, but quickly set­tled on a du­plex: two skinny mir­ror-image town­houses with liv­ing ar­eas on the top floor, tak­ing in stun­ning views of Lake Wakatipu in one di­rec­tion and shel­tered court­yards con­nected by a gate at the back. The Stafford-Bushes agreed, even­tu­ally de­cid­ing to keep both homes, set­tling on the west-fac­ing town­house for them­selves, thanks to the great af­ter­noon light, and rent­ing the place next door to their son. “The longer it went on, the more value they saw in keep­ing both,” says Wright. From very early on, the scheme en­vis­aged two tall, nar­row struc­tures, dug back into the steep hill­side with garag­ing on the ground floor, bed­rooms and bath­rooms on the sec­ond and open-plan liv­ing ar­eas up top. In Sam’s town­house, there are four bed­rooms and two bath­rooms down­stairs; in Paddy and Brian’s, there’s a long bunk room for grand­kids and one bath­room; the cou­ple de­cided they needed a walk-in wardrobe for ski and cy­cling gear more than an en suite. The liv­ing ar­eas were al­ways des­ig­nated for the top floor. The view sweeps over down­town Queen­stown and Lake Wakatipu. On both sides, the liv­ing ar­eas run down to a cov­ered bal­cony – the lenses

“The sun comes across the honed block work and it’s like an art­work in it­self. It’s sculp­tural and gor­geous.”

of the ‘binoc­u­lars’, the ceil­ing slop­ing gen­tly over­head to teles­cope down to the view. North is be­hind them, over the hill, and through­out, there are small mo­ments de­signed to grab sun and light. The kitchen and din­ing area slot around a light well cut into the floor plan – a district plan re­quire­ment, it gives an op­por­tu­nity for a lit­tle win­dow seat in the kitchen, while floor-to-ceil­ing glaz­ing drenches the din­ing area with light. A nar­row sky­light, mean­while, runs the full length of both houses, drop­ping light down the stair­well into the very depths of the house. You come in un­der a solid con­crete lin­tel to a dark, low-ceilinged en­trance, then, as you as­cend the stairs, light beams down the walls. “At var­i­ous times of the day, the sun comes across the honed block and it’s like an art­work in it­self,” says Paddy. “It’s so sculp­tural, it’s gor­geous.” Built from solid con­crete – block walls, poured con­crete floors (even on the sec­ond and third floor), with hy­draulic heat­ing set into the floor plates for much needed ther­mal mass – the build­ing process could be de­scribed as tor­tu­ous. “It took so long to build,” says Wright. “What’s tricky is you can’t just dig out one big cut on a site like this.” In­stead, they cut the ter­races at the back, re­tained, then dug out the next layer down, and then the next layer down again. “It took a re­ally long time to get out of the ground.” As the process evolved, the Stafford-Bushes brought in in­te­rior de­signer Nikki Wil­son. Paddy loves colour: her Auck­land home is filled with it, and she wanted to achieve the same thing down south, only here the light presents unique chal­lenges. “The light is so harsh,” says Wil­son, whose own home in Gibb­ston Val­ley was de­signed by As­sem­bly and fea­tured in the Au­gust/ Septem­ber 2016 is­sue of HOME. “A lot of film peo­ple will tell you the light is blue – and if you use bright colour, it gets very abra­sive. So we had to tone it down but still get that vi­brancy.” To­gether, As­sem­bly and Wil­son brought in tex­tures and softly muted colours to cre­ate a rich in­te­rior, which has been beau­ti­fully crafted by Ben­nie. Wil­son set­tled on warm, slightly greyed-off colours from the Porter’s range, which ties in with As­sem­bly’s pal­ette of steel, cedar and con­crete. She de­signed fit­tings through­out the house, in­clud­ing a steel fire­box, the bunks in the kids’ bed­room and steel bath­room fit­tings. The de­light is both visual and ol­fac­tory: there’s cedar and beeswax and colours that re­flect the shades of the lake and pine-cov­ered hill­side in the dis­tance. The com­pound works per­fectly for the fam­ily. Sam de­lights in com­fort­able ac­com­mo­da­tion close to town and James and Mia use the place as a get­away with their chil­dren. When Paddy and Brian are in res­i­dence, there’s room for the whole fam­ily to be to­gether. “Ev­ery space is us­able,” says Paddy. “We’ve had lots of peo­ple stay­ing and no one feels like they’re liv­ing on top of each other. If you want a quiet spot you can just go and sit on the win­dow seat with a book, and feel as if you’re in your own lit­tle world.”

Above The town­house has been dug into the site, which re­quired ex­ten­sive ex­ca­va­tion and re­tain­ing. Left Wil­son re­sponded to the own­ers’ love of colour by im­ple­ment­ing a scheme with Porter’s Paints – in­clud­ing ‘Ochre’ in the bunk room – that re­spond well to the re­gion’s sat­u­rated light.

Be­low Wil­son de­signed the oak light above the kitchen is­land. Pre­vi­ous page, left Wright at the full-height slid­ing doors. Wil­son de­signed the oak din­ing ta­ble, fur­nished with ‘Tan­ger­ine’ chairs by Res­i­dent. The pen­dants are by Katie Brown Glass and the rug is by Ar­ti­san Floor­ing. ‘Bayleaf’ by Porter’s Paints is on the walls and ceilng. Right The sky­light above the stair­well drops shafts of light against the con­crete block wall. Pre­vi­ous page, right The view of Lake Wakatipu and an ‘Aspen’ chair by Cin­tesi.

Above Black ‘AJ’ wall lights by Arne Ja­cob­sen for Louis Poul­son con­trast against the con­crete block wall in the main bed­room.

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