Brilliant Street Home - Bull O'Sullivan Architecture | ArchiPro

Brilliant Street Home

“A family home that provided multiple opportunities for entertaining and food preparation; had a high level of privacy from the street and surrounding neighbours; and, afforded a mix of open spaces and intimate spaces allowing the family to come together or to seek solitude when required.”

That was, essentially, the brief for this home, nestled into one of Auckland’s established beachside suburbs.

“The existing 1950–60s-era house was not relevant to the way the owners live as a family. They called on us to give them a home that would suit their needs and that would easily adapt to their evolving lifestyles,” says architect Brad Bonnington.

“While the existing house enjoyed elevated views out towards the water and further to Rangitoto Island, maintaining those views wasn’t the primary driver for the clients who wanted a home that embraced sun-soaked entertaining spaces and provided separate zones for adults and kids.”

Brad says that while the site is quite large and north-northeast facing, it also has a fairly decent gradient sloping away from the road. Minimising the need for heavy excavation of the site resulted in a plan that sees the new home step down the slope, following the contours of the land.

“From the street, the house reads as two storeys. Internally, however, there is a series of split-levels that answer the client’s request for free-flowing entertaining areas and public and private spaces.”

The building’s envelope wraps around a large courtyard, on the western side, linked to the open-plan kitchen/dining. Upstairs is the master bedroom and further downstairs are the children’s bedrooms, which lead out onto the private, rear lawn.

“With the house stretching the full width of the site, stepping the plan down the gradient and lowering roof planes, meant that we were able to take advantage of as much of the northern light as possible. The trick lay in balancing the request for privacy—achieved, in most part, through screening with planting, especially on the western boundary—with the need for natural light and air flow,” says Brad.

Materiality was also a key driver of the project, both for the exteriors and the interiors, says Brad.

“We knew from the outset that we were going to have a standing seam/timber combination but the choice around the colour and profile was decided on during construction. The juxtaposition of the white steel against the variable width cedar is, in my opinion, one of the visual successes of the project and sets up an element of intrigue right from that first glimpse.”

The combination of white and natural timber continues inside.

“One of our signatures is to incorporate timber into the interior, so you have a cedar detail wrapping around the contours of the ceiling planes. In this instance we have pared back the timber detail by teaming it with painted GIB, creating a ‘softer’ version of the exterior.”

Other timber elements make their way into the interior scheme through the use of slatted screens and built-in furniture.

“A repeated motif, which starts at the front door, is the vertical “slatted screen” seen in the large glazed window and which then pops up again in a series of room dividers made from timber. The addition of built-in furniture gives you an opportunity to control how the spaces are used, which sounds a little dictatorial but is actually a great way of maximising usable space and setting the tone in any given room.”

It’s a similar experience outside in the main entertaining space, with its sunken seating area, says Brad. “When you shift people’s perceptions, even in a fairly minor way, you set up an entirely unexpected experience. The sunken outdoor setting places people at eye level to the outdoor fire; creating a greater sense of intimacy than if you had them just sitting at a table.

“That is what we have attempted to do with this project, build in depth and layers of darkness and light to take people on a journey that begins at the front door. Simple structural forms are elegantly positioned over tiered spatial arrangements cascading down the sloping site, pulling light into the home while also offering moments of retreat, creating, at the same time, a sense of openness and warmth, all achieved in a somewhat enclosed site.”

Completed: 2018

Words by Justin Foote.
Photography by Sam Hartnett Photography.

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A family home that is shielded from the street by a cloak of white, shimmery amour.
Hints of the domestic are offered via a cedar clad entry, with tall slender windows looking outwards.
The home is cleverly arranged to utilise a very restrictive site to its fullest potential.
Simple structural forms are elegantly positioned over tiered spatial arrangements cascading down the sloping site, pulling light into the home while also offering moments of retreat.
Part of the brief from the client was for there to be ample consideration given to spaces devoted to food preparation, including a large, "chef's" kitchen.
Depth and layers of darkness and light are offered throughout.
Spaces are organised around a central courtyard that provides a warm sun soaked entertainment area for all family activities.
The sunken outdoor setting was designed to place people at eye level to the outdoor fire; creating a greater sense of intimacy than if they were sitting at a table.
A number of outdoor terraces were created, which give the family multiple areas to use for entertaining, or simply for enjoying together.
The lower portion of the house has been given over to the children, who enjoy their own dedicated spaces for multiple activities.
The rear yard is completely contained and private.
With the house stretching the full width of the site, stepping the plan down the gradient and lowering roof planes, meant the design was able to take advantage of as much of the northern light as possible.