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.

Japanese Ingenuity meets Kiwi Living

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.

Japanese Ingenuity meets Kiwi Living

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!”

Japanese Ingenuity meets Kiwi Living

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.

Japanese Ingenuity meets Kiwi Living

“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.

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