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Engaging the scenery

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This low-lying residence reveals its scenic charms by degrees – the design optimises comfortable living as well as interaction with the rustic setting

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It is not only classic houses that offer a relaxed lifestyle. Modern architectural elements – such as a living space with floor-to-ceiling glass walls – offer aesthetic impact and, at the same time, optimise the enjoyment of your home.

This residence, designed by architect Matt Chaplin, may call to mind traditional farmhouse roofs at a glance, but in terms of design and use it is distinctly modern.

"Originally, the owners had considered a Tuscan-look, two-level home set high on the hill," says Chaplin. "However, I encouraged them to opt for a modern, single-level house set lower on the land, which would optimise the views, minimise impact on the land, and make the couple feel at one with the surroundings they had moved to the countryside to embrace."

Following this logic, the architect designed a residence comprising three gable-roofed pavilions joined by courtyards and flat-roofed linking spaces. The house sits low on the site and, by the entrance, the first pavilion carves three metres into the hillside. Despite a stunning location, the views are only revealed by degrees.

"You enter the house via a long walkway with the first, garage pavilion to your left, then cross through the two bedroom pavilions and proceed on to the living area pavilion at the rear," says Chaplin. "The final structure has glass walls on three sides, with glazed doors to the courtyard set on the fourth wall. This room offers 270° views of the rolling landscape and adjacent estuary."

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Despite the home's expansive setting, visitors never feel dwarfed by the outlook. The interconnecting terraces and courtyards mean the house is interwoven with intimate outdoor spaces that in turn give way to the greater countryside – this avoids a disconcerting contrast between the interior and the wide-open spaces.

In terms of day-to-day living, the stepped layout enables the owners to use all the house or just sections of it, depending on whether their entire family is in residence.

"When by themselves, the couple literally occupy half the home, leaving the second bedroom pavilion and its terrace unused," says Chaplin. "The design provides an intimacy of scale within what is actually a large, stretched-out house."

The stepped-pavilion lay-out provides other advantages to the owners as well.

"With so many exposed faces to the home, natural light floods through the interiors," says Chaplin. "In summer, the family, dining and kitchen pavilion receives the most use, while in winter the couple tend to favour the more intimate, flat-roofed living area that connects the bedroom and family wings. Both spaces are served by substantial fires."

Also in terms of weather, the terraces and courtyards threaded through the design offer various outdoor retreats from prevailing winds. Dark steel pergolas bring shade for these areas through the summer and provide tonal contrast to the white plastered exterior walls.

Seen end-on, the pavilions appear slender, despite enclosing substantial volumes.

"For example, the largest pavilion, the family room, is extremely narrow from its tin roof through to the internal ceiling," says Chaplin. "The strong steel frame and intermediary bracing fit within a narrow 300mm shell."

These lightweight profiles are contrasted with the solid-look chimneys that service the homes's three fireplaces – two indoors and one out.

Besides looks and function, the residence is also a pleasure to walk through. A central corridor runs from the front of the house through to the views at the back. As you progress towards the final pavilion, the wings, courtyards and glass walls on either side provide a pleasing architectural rhythm that leads you forward.

First published date: 05 October 2009

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Credit List

Lighting Firefly; ECC
Heating system Living Flame
Fireplaces Italian Stone
Doors and windows Fairview
Blinds Emblazon
Drapes Inner Concepts
Furniture Sarsfield; Brooke; Geppetos
Pool Advance Pools
Audiovisual Absolute Sound
Televisions Loewe
Speakers Linn
Home automation Marantz; Yamaha
Security NuTech Security
Kitchen cabinetry Ian Fisher
Benchtops SSL Stone
Kitchen sink Franke
Oven, cooktop and ventilation Ilve
Taps Metrix
Microwave Panasonic
Refrigeration Liebherr
Dishwasher Asko
Shutters, wooden doors and gate Joinery People Story by Charles Moxham Main photography by Jamie Cobeldick; additional photographs by Simon Devitt
Architect Matt Chaplin, NZIA, Sumich Architects (Auckland)
Interior designer Mary Anne Williams, Gretyl Lukas
Builder Ashley Sim
Kitchen designer Matt Chaplin
Kitchen manufacturer The Kitchen Company
Landscape designer Suzanne Turley, Design Concepts
Irrigation Waterworks
Roofing Cowperthwaite Roofing from AXX Euroline; flat roof – Tremco double-layer membrane system
Tiling European Ceramics
Flooring Carpet from Mondial; French oak boards from Geoff Armitage
Cladding Plaster from Aztec
Paints and varnishes Resene