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By using curves and overlapping levels, a large family home sits very comfortably on a steep and narrow lakefront property

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The challenge of building a home on an awkwardly-shaped or difficult site can provide an opportunity for the architect to come up with a refreshingly innovative architectural solution.

In designing the house featured here, architects Darren Jessop and Mike Roulston had to contend with a narrow site that sloped steeply away from the road, down to the edge of a lake.

"The owners wanted a family home, and when we looked at their needs, it was clear the house would be fairly large. Because of the topography of the land, we also realised the house wouldhave to be on several levels. This gave us the opportunity to excavate, and making the main living level much larger," says Jessop.

By excavating and spreading the building down the slope and across four overlapping levels, the architect was able to fit a large, 746m2 house onto this tight site.

The owners say they wanted a home that was a bit different. They didn't want a regular roof, and liked the architect's suggestion of curving it.

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Curves on the side walls and roofs on two of the pavilions enabled the building to be as wide as possible on the narrow site and still conform to the local council's by-laws regarding daylighting and height-to-boundary.

"The curves look a little like the side of a kayak or a wave, and give the house a slightly nautical look," says the architect.

The curves are constructed rather like the hull of a boat. They are formed from ribs of timber overlaid with ply and finished on the outside in sheets of zinc. On the inside walls, sheets of gib board have been bent around the curves, then finished using an Interplast plaster system, which is polished to produce a reflective shine.

At street level are the entrance lobby, studio, gymnasium and three-car garage. Stairs lead up to a music room and roof terrace.

"This top pavilion looks over the rest of the home and towards the lake. It is a retreat for one of the owners, and a room where he can play his music without disturbing others," says Jessop.

From the entry level, a second, shorter staircase curves half a level down to a huge gallery, 4m high and 5m wide. This opens up onto the main living area and kitchen that all flow out onto an internal courtyard, with a heated swimming pool at one end. The internal courtyard and a swimming pool connect seamlessly with indoor living spaces. When the large glass doors between the two areas are open, the entire living area and the courtyard become a single space.

The middle two levels were conceived as two pavilions separated by an internal courtyard, even though they are not on the same floor plate. A feature wall behind the swimming pool forms the exterior wall of the next level up. Bedrooms, bathrooms and a rumpus room are on the lowest level of the house, beneath the front living pavilion.

As well as maximising the site, the design also ensures views of the lake are enjoyed from most rooms in the house.

"The lounge area on the lake side of this space has large windows, ensuring views of the pohutukawa trees and the water are clearly visible from the internal courtyard. In fact, the water can also be seen from the gallery as you come down the stairs from the entry level," says Jessop.

The curved walls and curved windows add a dramatic element to the interior. Lights shine up the curves and fade away towards the ceiling, creating interesting effects. In the kitchen, a negative detail is created where cabinetry meets thecurved walls, maintaining an overall sense ofharmony.

First published date: 28 April 2006

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Credit List

Architect Darren Jessop, Mike Roulston, Jessop Architects (Auckland)
Builder Craig Parker, Brent Cox, Evolution Builders
Pool Frontier Pools
Cladding Plastering Co NZ
Window and door joinery Anodised aluminium, Contour Aluminium
Interior door and window hardware Halliday & Baillie
External louvres LouvreTec
Flooring Farrell Flooring (wooden floor), Surface Protection Systems (polished concrete floor)
Plastering Interplast
Glass balustrades Glass Relate
Tiling Heritage Tiles, Sunbather Systems
Blinds Home Fabrics, Fashion on Windows
Paint Resene
Lighting Aesthetics Lighting
Heating Radtech 2000
Fireplace The Fireplace
Furniture Apartmento
Home control systems Automation Associates
Kitchen designer de Bruin-Judge, owners
Kitchen manufacturer de Bruin-Judge
Kitchen cabinets Italian Charco (dark units), Resene (light units)
Benchtops and sink Terrazzo
Splashback Glass
Taps Dornbracht from Metrix
Oven, cooktop, refrigerator, dishwasher Fisher & Paykel
Ventilation Smeg
Waste unit In-Sink-Erator
Bathroom vanity de Bruin-Judge
Basin Duravit from Metrix
Floor Honed basalt from Design Source
Walls Honed basalt from Design Source
Toilet Starck from Metrix