A cre­ative so­lu­tion to an awk­wardly sited drain re­sults in a house with strik­ing ar­chi­tec­tural form.

A prob­lem­atic drain was the cat­a­lyst for the un­usual form of this clever new build


Bur­geon­ing Auck­land traf­fic vol­umes have a lot to an­swer for: lost pro­duc­tiv­ity, frayed nerves, the oc­ca­sional out­burst of road rage and, some­times, the sour­ing of a dream. Barry Bloom­field and Deb­o­rah Car­lyon were com­mit­ted com­muters (and ac­cus­tomed to long trips to work from years liv­ing in Lon­don), but the jour­ney from their house in Puhoi to of­fices in Par­nell be­came too much over the years.

“Even though we both had flexi hours, the traf­fic just got worse and worse,” ex­plains Deb­o­rah. For a while, they in­vested in a 46sqm apart­ment bolt hole and lived be­tween the two. “But we soon tired of hav­ing two of ev­ery­thing.” For much of the week they were squished into the tiny flat while there was a fan­tas­tic home in the coun­try just sit­ting empty.

Long story short, they made the heart-wrench­ing de­ci­sion to sell. “I still haven’t quite got over it,” says Barry. But swap­ping hours on a ride-on mower for leisurely cafe break­fasts had its ap­peal. The cou­ple looked for an in­dus­trial space in the city to make their own. How­ever, when they saw an awk­ward piece of land on the edge of a gully in a bou­tique sub­di­vi­sion in the sub­urb of West­mere, they knew it was theirs. They had built their house in Puhoi, so de­cided to take the plunge again.

The west of the prop­erty looked out over a neigh­bour’s beau­ti­fully

planted gar­den; be­yond was an un­ex­pected stand of na­tive bush punc­tu­ated by tow­er­ing gum trees. Those were the pos­i­tives. The neg­a­tive? Coun­cil re­quired 24/7 ac­cess to a stormwa­ter drain that sat right in the mid­dle of the nat­u­ral build­ing plat­form.

Ev­ery project has its chal­lenges, so they were un­fazed. The de­vel­oper had sold the sec­tion with a set of plans by de­sign-and­build com­pany, Box. Barry, a direc­tor of Re­fresh Ren­o­va­tions, could see the value in this. “With my back­ground, I know that there can be ten­sion be­tween ar­chi­tects and builders. Ar­chi­tects are great ideas peo­ple who want to cre­ate some­thing dif­fer­ent and spe­cial; builders want to do the job sen­si­bly and eco­nom­i­cally.” >

Us­ing a com­pany with the ar­chi­tect and builder in the same sta­ble was a big plus. Bring­ing their own vi­sion to the ta­ble, they worked with Box ar­chi­tect Tim Dor­ring­ton who had al­ready solved the prob­lem of that awk­ward drain. This was in the form of a sus­pended elon­gated dwelling ef­fec­tively slung be­tween two plinths. It ne­ces­si­tated pre-cam­bered steel beams span­ning in ex­cess of 12 me­tres. The plan was sim­ple: the main liv­ing zone on

the up­per level, ser­vices and a stu­dio space below and an en­try court­yard with clever land­scap­ing to dis­guise the ugly drain.

The cou­ple made a few tweaks to the de­sign, in­clud­ing ad­ding some sep­a­ra­tion to the open-plan liv­ing room with a dou­ble-sided fire­place. Says Deb­o­rah: “You can still see around it, so there’s con­nec­tion be­tween the kitchen and lounge, but it makes it cosier and also gives us more space for art.”

Then work­ing out the finer de­tails be­gan. “We showed the team mood boards with stacks of ideas – in fact, I think they were in­un­dated,” says Barry.

“Barry’s ideal house is a min­i­mal­ist white box,” says Deb­o­rah, “but we talked him round.” Con­crete walls, tim­ber weather­boards, black alu­minium join­ery and Amer­i­can oak floor­ing are a warm but re­strained pal­ette. >

Barry was ap­pre­hen­sive about the use of ga­boon ply for some of the kitchen cabi­netry: “I thought it was a look that might date.” But Deb­o­rah chose mas­sive matt tiles with the look of raw steel for the splashback to of­fer some con­trast. They opted for tiles rather than wooden deck­ing for the many out­door ar­eas, re­quested ex­tra al­coves for dis­play spaces and Barry cus­tom-de­signed stor­age units in the li­brary and liv­ing room for his beloved col­lec­tions of books and CDs and the mu­sic sys­tem. “He made a bit of an er­ror and the amp wouldn’t fit. It was hi­lar­i­ous watch­ing him and about five other blokes sort it out,” says Deb­o­rah.

Twelve months after the first dig­ger ar­rived on site, it was movein day – just be­fore Christ­mas last year. The long sum­mer hol­i­days were a chance for the pair to fill the home with per­son­al­ity. Barry, who worked in graphic de­sign with de­signer Ter­ence Con­ran in the UK, has a long-held ap­pre­ci­a­tion for fur­ni­ture. A Ri­etveld chair, Eileen Gray ta­ble and Le Cor­bus­ier chair are just some of the orig­i­nals he owns. “I was col­lect­ing these in the early 80s but they’ve grown so pop­u­lar they’ve al­most be­come clichés,” he says.

He’s an avid shop­per, keen to get things done straight away. Deb­o­rah, a fi­nan­cial ad­viser, has to some­times pull on the reins. Luck­ily, there were al­ready plenty of good­ies to play with, smaller col­lec­tions such as the Alessi as­sem­bly – in­clud­ing that fa­mous le­mon squeezer – in an al­cove. >

THESE PAGES (clock­wise from left) The Wet Kiss by Ger­man pho­tog­ra­pher Mar­ius Sper­lich hangs above the fire­place – it was found on The Cool Hunter and shipped from Syd­ney (“Barry is ex­cel­lent at sourc­ing things,” says Deb­o­rah); in the fore­ground is a Ber­toia chair next to a leather couch from BoCon­cept that was the cou­ple’s most re­cent pur­chase; the steel rods on the right screen the stair­well: “The ar­chi­tect spec­i­fied tim­ber rods but we wanted a crisper feel than that,” says Deb­o­rah. A white en­gi­neered stone bench­top and black cabi­netry in the kitchen are re­versed in the back­ground with a black gran­ite top and white cab­i­nets; the matt white tap is from Water­ware, the stools are from Cult and the sus­pended LED is from Light­plan. The cou­ple didn’t want too much wood in the din­ing room so the ta­ble was made by WRW & Co us­ing a white lam­i­nated ply prod­uct from Plytech sourced by Barry: “There’s a lot of re­search put into this house,” says Deb­o­rah; the paint­ing from Mo­bile Art is by Guiditta Spurlin.

THIS PAGE In the liv­ing room, the Eames Surf­board ta­ble is more than 2m long; on it is an Alessi Blow Up bas­ket the cou­ple calls “the bunch of sticks”; even with all the cus­tomised shelv­ing Deb­o­rah says there’s still not enough room for all their books.

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