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A four-storey house on an elevated site is designed to be dramatic and welcoming for its owners and their guests


Some of the starting points when designing a new home include the section shape and size, a consideration of views or interesting aspects, and the separation of entertaining areas and private rooms.

When architect Ron Sang was asked to design a house for a small site on a steeply sloping street close to the city, he worked from a completely different point of view.

"The site was elevated and had an unusually generous height limitation of 10 metres. So, we decided to maximise its potential by building right up to this point," Sang says. "We planned the house from the top level down and excavated as required to build a four-level home. Because the master bedroom is on the top level, it gets panoramic views of the city and harbour."

From the outside, the house is dramatic and eye-catching for passers-by, with floor-to-ceiling glazing on the two walls facing the street and looking down towards the harbour. Both the colour and the proportions of the front door add to the impact. Painted bright red and 5½m high – almost two storeys – its size is in keeping with the scale of the house. "Any smaller, and the door would look dwarfed," says the architect.

"Externally, a narrow, four-storey house could be uninteresting to look at, so to avoid this, we created a penthouse effect on the top level."


Sang has utilised a strong, arched form to provide a feeling of stability. The penthouse appears to perch on the arch of the main structure. The same arch shape has been repeated above the front door and in various forms throughout the house.

Sang says he and the owner discussed whether to highlight the arches with colour, but decided instead to paint the exterior surfaces white to create a more precise and pristine look.

"With such a prominent site, we had to decide whether to minimise the impact of the house or go to the other extreme and make a strong statement. Because we chose the latter, we incorporated lighting that makes the house appear to glow at night," says the owner.

Another dramatic feature of the exterior is the use of aluminium louvres. These extend five metres to the edge of the property on the north side of the house, providing outdoor areas with shade and protection from the weather. They also reduce glare and control the amount of solar gain.

To integrate the outdoor and indoor living areas, the pool wraps around one side of the house, so it can easily be seen from the living spaces. To emphasise the connection, the outer wall beside the breakfast alcove curves so the table appears to be floating over the pool.

Inside, the house is open plan on each level. To ensure the spaces are practical and functional for family life, separation between formal and informal living is achieved by furniture groupings and by breaking up the space visually.

For example, the formal living and dining areas at the front of the house overlook the street, separated by the kitchen from family living spaces at the rear of the property.

"We have divided the space, so although it is open, different parts have different vistas and you cannot see the whole living level from one vantage point," the architect says.

The kitchen was designed to be the focal point of the family living spaces. Being in the centre of the house ensures it is convenient for both outdoor entertaining and more formal occasions.

"Its central position helps the house to work both from the family's point of view and for entertaining," says the owner.

The clean, crisp lines of the exterior continue into the house with details such as square aluminium doors handles and silver window joinery. Internal walls are painted in neutral tones and two side walls are glazed.

To add warmth to the interior spaces, the architect has introduced elements such as dark-stained oak furniture, ceramics displayed in niches in the front entrance and living areas, and splashes of red in furnishings and in paintings.

First published date: 03 May 2005

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Credit List

Architect Ron Sang, Graham Upton, Darryl Sang, Sang Architects (Auckland)
Builder JW Maddren Construction
Roof Nuraply
Window and door joinery Altherm Aluminium
Window and door hardware Knobs and Knockers
Front door Pilkington Boats
Fixed louvres Sunshield Louvres
Opening louvres Eclipse
Pool Pace Pools
Glass balustrades and pool fencing Global Glass
Paving Sandstone from Original Stone
Paint Aalto Colour
Heating Real Fires
Furniture Living Edge
Carpet Custom Damara from Sallée
Lighting Lighting Direct
Chandelier Deco Lighting
Outdoor lighting Metal halides from Fersa Light
Lighting control Clipsal C-Bus 2 from Home Automation Specialists
Audiovisual Absolute Sound
Plasma screen Pioneer
Kitchen manufacturer Not Just Kitchens
Benchtops CaesarStone from SCE Stone and Design
Taps Tower Tech, QB range from LG Carder
Appliance supplier Lifestyle Appliances
Oven and hob Steel
Ventilation Designair Italia
Microwave and dishwasher Bosch
Refrigerator Liebherr
Waste unit Whirlaway
Coffee machine Miele
Central vacuum Advanced Vacuum Technologies
Alarm Paradox Digiplex from Armstrong Alarms