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Touching the sky – house by Michael Mansvelt

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long, low coastal home by Michael Mansvelt

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Sometimes the best design response to panoramic views of sky and coastline is a sculptural yet understated home.

This house sits on a hillside by the sea a good 20 minutes' drive from the city. Architectural designer, interior designer and landscape artist on the project Michael Mansvelt, of Plantation Design House, says the coastal site had space for a dramatic approach and plenty of parking at the rear, as well as lawns, a pool and spa at the front.

Although the views are spectacular, the onshore winds can be severe in this area, which meant two different exterior treatments were needed, says Mansvelt.

Facing the sea, the exterior is a wall of glass, with the pool and lawns extending out in front of the home. On the approach side, the facade is largely in white-painted brick, with a lush garden that provides a sheltered outdoor area away from the prevailing wind.

"To defer to the setting, I designed a long, relatively slender house, ensuring almost every room can enjoy the sea views," says Mansvelt. "And to avoid detracting from the scenery, I wanted to create a design that celebrates simple geometric forms. The gullwing roof slopes down towards the middle of the house, creating two triangles, and the four corner columns also take this form. Lastly, a stone wall that divides the interior down the middle flares out as triangular blade walls at the front and back of the house."

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The stone wall anchors the house at its centre and creates a sense of strength, even though the extensive steel framing takes the weight of the structure.

"The ceiling follows the roof planes, so naturally, the house feels low at this centre point. This helps the raised outer ends of the residence feel even higher and lighter in contrast."

On the inside, a gallery to the left of the entry connects to bedrooms and bathrooms, the private side of the home. These rooms all look out over the ocean – the gallery itself is the only area that doesn't have views. Straight ahead and to the right are the open-plan living, dining and kitchen spaces.

With the broad sliding doors pulled back, this public domain is at one with the scenery and the nearby pool area.

"We wanted to connect with the natural environment in more ways than one, and choice of materials was another important aspect of the design," says Mansvelt. "Riverstone cladding indoors and out was painstakingly applied over a six-month period, using traditional masonry techniques. The polished concrete floor provides a low-maintenance surface but also achieves the look of wet beach sand. In addition, most interior walls are finished in natural grasscloth, a further nod to the wild ocean setting."

All the cabinetry in the house was specified in Australian blackwood by the architect, who also undertook the interior design on the project.

"The generous use of this hardwood adds to the natural material palette and brings warmth to a design that mainly favours steel, glass and concrete."

The understated material palette, as with the house design, defers to the views. However, the owners were not afraid of introducing colour, as seen in the front door and the large, bold artworks.

"Furniture, including a leather sofa, was selected to bring warmth to the scheme – pieces were also chosen for their low profiles," says Mansvelt. "This again ensures that nothing detracts from sea, sun and sky."

First published date: 21 April 2014

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Credit List

Architectural designer, interior and landscape designer Michael Mansvelt, Plantation Design House (New Plymouth); working drawings by Caroline Tyrell
House, pool and spa builder RAB Building Contractors
Kitchen designer and manufacturer Kitchens by Glenn Johns
Cladding Long Run Ribline Heavy from Taranaki Steelformers; mortar and river stone; painted brick
Masonry Andrew Benton
StonemasonRoofing Long Run Ribline Heavy from Taranaki Steelformers
Flooring Salt and Pepper concrete
Wallcoverings Grasscloth; blue marble in bathroom
Paints and varnishes Resene
Lighting Halcyon Lighting; Herbert Electrical Inglewood
Doors, windows, louvres Nulook New Plymouth
Door and window hardware Doorworx
Heating system Diesel underfloor; water and pool heating by Garner Holdings New Plymouth
Kitchen cabinetry Tasmanian blackwood
Benchtops Corian
Oven, cooktop, microwave, dishwasher Smeg
Refrigeration Fisher & Paykel
Vanity top Carrara marble
Bath, basin, taps Kohler