Builder: Overton & Associates
Photography: Simon Devitt
This tri-level timber tower, built on the footprint of a former vegetable patch, has a full-frontal outlook onto Wellington’s Ōwhiro Bay, and a flax-forested cliff at its back. It’s a location which, squeezed between the devil and the deep blue sea, called for the design parameters to be as rugged as the coastline.
Protected by a horizontal macrocarpa screen – a rough-but-ready coat that has silvered with the southerly – this beach house, designed for a young family, has an internal plan that spirals shell-like around a core on a compact 42-square-metre slab. Windows with deep reveals protrude from the front giving more texture to the façade.
The interiors are a clean, crisp foil to the bleached, rustic exterior. Sandwiched between the ground-floor entry, with the bedrooms above, the open-plan communal areas enjoy visual connection to both hill and horizon. The living zone faces the water and, while window placement accentuates the rocky shore and shifting ocean, it’s underplayed so as not to overdo the view. Foliage on the hillside floods into the frame in the kitchen, where a timber benchtop teamed with golden-toned and pure-blue mosaics ties together the sand and the sea.
Tiny but tightly planned, the dwelling captures a relaxed simplicity which belies the rigorous attention to detail: curtains disappear into vertical wall pockets; a plywood slider that seals off the stairwell has a decorative shelf for the display of beach-combed finds, and gaps either side of the floating stair allow a zigzag of light into the laundry and garage below.
Louvres for cross-ventilation team with skylights to modulate the internal environment and there’s built-in storage for books and firewood and everyday ephemera. The jury of the New Zealand Institute of Architects Awards called this house “a finely tuned instrument for beachside living”. At night, a polycarbonate panel that glows out into the darkness strikes a note of welcome.