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May 17th, 2017
Japanese Ingenuity meets Kiwi Living

An Auckland architect flips the design and layout of a dated 1960s home on its head, achieving a modern family-friendly home with flexible and enriching spaces.

It’s often said that when you buy a house you should live in it through all the seasons before you undertake major renovations. Tim and Anna, the owners of this Mount Albert home in Auckland played by that rule book when they purchased this 1960s brick and tile home five years ago.

Little girl on couch

Although the home was very tired and dated, the practical couple utilised their DIY skills to make it a pleasant, liveable space while considering their renovation options.

When it was transformation time they called on architect (and friend), Thao Nguyen from Studio TT, to lead the project. The brief was to create more space for a growing family. They wanted to extend the master suite with dressing and ensuite, add a double garage and open plan living with better sun and light.

“The existing house was a basic three bedroom home with a layout typical of 1960s homes – the living was looking to the street and the small bedrooms at the back captured most of the sun,” explains Thao.

“A greater connection with the outdoors was needed – especially since the owners had completed some amazing landscaping at the rear of the house which you could only enjoy through the bedroom windows.”

Thao’s solution to the brief was to essentially flip the layout. The challenge was to do this without giving the impression that the house had been completely gutted. And to keep the project as cost effective as possible.

The original ceiling in the living area was only 2.4m high so first up the ceiling lining was lifted to rafter level. “This made a huge difference to the light quality, sense of volume and grandness of the space, and accentuated the view out to the landscaped garden,” says Thao.

Anna chose a David Trubridge light fitting to suspend over the living area which serves as a stunning centrepiece and throws out the most beautiful pattern of light and shadow around the room at night.

Indoor Outdoor

The new open plan living spaces are now flooded with all day sun and natural light and connect seamlessly with the landscaped back garden.

At the heart of the living space, a high efficiency Escea DL1100 gas fireplace with Volcanic Black Squared Lite fascia sits within cabinetry custom-made by the owner and 4U Cabinet Make and Installations Ltd. A TV is hidden from view behind doors that fold and pivot away. “The family are huge readers hence the shelves of books, so a hidden TV works well for them,” says Thao.

The Escea DL1100 was chosen for both its good looks and functionality. “I love the efficiency and elegant design, as well as its installation flexibility. And the cherry on the top – New Zealand made!”

Living Space

The existing Rimu flooring was sanded and refinished with a low sheen clear coat. White lacquer cabinetry is used throughout the home and the interior colours are kept neutral with a clean palette of white, natural grey and timber.

Thao’s love of Japanese architecture is apparent throughout the new design. Ingenious functionality combines with a simple but refined aesthetic. On the northern side of the home the children’s bedrooms are separated by sliding doors, rather than a fixed wall. In Japan fusuma (sliding doors) are common and a clever way of finding different ways to use the same space.

Kids Room

“Flexi/multipurpose spaces are so valuable these days, particularly where space is limited. Opening the sliders between the bedrooms means we can create a second living space for the children to retreat to if mum and dad are entertaining.”

“Milly and Harry are very close and this was an excellent way to create more shared space. With the doors fully open it becomes like a massive bedroom with generous play area.”

Other key influences in Thao’s work are connecting with nature and using natural, honest materials that change with the time of day. “I like to use light and shadow to enliven spaces and use a clean palette of colours and materials to allows the owners to personalise with furnishings and artwork,” explains Thao.

“You can see a hint of the Philipe Starck bath as you walk down the hall.”

Exterior 2

“The master suite looks out to the east and enjoys beautiful morning sun and an amazing urban view. But it also looks out onto the street. The shutter screens provide a layer of privacy which the owners can control from the Juliette balcony.”

Images by Mark Scowen Photography

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