It’s a familiar story: when youngsters enter the picture, the excitement of the big-city dream tends to pale. Childhood memories of beaches, open space and a more relaxed pace suddenly become irresistible. Expat Luisa Andrew and her Scottish husband Stephen Dewar were living with three young children in a Hong Kong terrace house when they answered the call of Kiwi lifestyle. They decided to build on this Waiake section on Auckland’s North Shore, which they had already owned for several years.
“It was a lovely piece of land close to the beach,” says Luisa, who grew up in a house her Dad built just two doors up. “We felt like it deserved a good building.”
Already sold on the Box™ aesthetic, the couple was convinced to sign up because of the seamless way the design-and-build process would be managed. While many meetings and decisions were made remotely in cyberspace, Stephen flew over from Hong Kong to touch base in person every now and then.
The brief, understandably, included a wish for “as much grassy space as possible.” The old 70s home that occupied the land was moved off, with the new dwelling pushed closer to the road to make room for a north-facing lawn.
Box™ design manager Tony Borland-Lye and design lead Tim Hogarth set about crafting a home that was oriented for sun and fun on the gently sloping land. The only challenge was an overland flow path. “In a storm the collected rain flows across the site, so we had to maintain a minimum floor level above the natural ground. We also gently sloped the driveway to channel any water away from the house,” says Tim.
The 220-square-metre home was conceptualised as a floating cedar box over a metal box anchored to the ground. The building massing doesn’t dominate the coastal suburban property, even though it enjoys a generous floorplan. “The top level is cantilevered and interconnected with the lower box, resulting in a less monolithic building volume,” he says.
The ground floor, clad in interlocking zinc metal sheets, contains all the living zones. Upstairs the cedar box has three bedrooms and a master suite, with a balcony that overlooks a reserve path. A giant 6m-wide glass sliding door opens from the living/kitchen zone to a covered deck created by the floor above, with wide stairs lead down to a backyard where the grass is certainly greener.
The ground floor also has a study – a home office that came in super handy during the latest lockdown – plus a flexi room with a built-in, pull-down bed. It was important the couple have somewhere for overseas family to stay. Box™ suggested this as a second living room that could be converted to a bedroom when needed. “If you heat-mapped the home, there wouldn’t be any spaces that we don’t regularly occupy.”
In the everyday, once the kids walk home from school or return from the beach, the family tend to gather in the kitchen. “It was Box’s idea to have a scullery where we could put the jug and the toaster in, which makes the main space tidier,” says Luisa.
The bamboo plywood cabinetry material was a practical choice to the kitchen and bathrooms, as other materials could show up messy fingerprints. Warm yellow tiles to the kitchen splashback match the sunshine shade of the coloured front door. The coordinating yellow mailbox has become a talking point in the neighbourhood. “Everyone in our suburb identifies us as belonging to the house with the yellow door and mailbox,” says Luisa.
Luisa’s sister and her partner now occupy the old family home, as her mum and dad have moved to Matakana. Close connections are just a short stroll away and, once international visitors are allowed back into the country, Luisa and Stephen can’t wait to share their piece of Kiwi paradise with far-flung family.
For now, Luisa is enjoying the familiarity and sense of homecoming. “It was only recently that I realised my parents’ house has a metal mansard roof which folds down over the top floor, and a bottom level in cedar. We’ve just recreated that here – only the other way around.”