Coates Ave: black box over white - Dorrington Atcheson Architects | ArchiPro

Coates Ave: black box over white

The children who live in this gorgeous family home are able to enjoy an especially entertaining attraction: they can jump straight off the roof into the swimming pool.

Inspired by Pierre Koenig’s iconic Stahl House* in California, a glass-and-steel pavilion perched in the Hollywood Hills where the children could jump off the roof into the pool, this Auckland home by Dorrington Atcheson Architects is an entertainers’ dream house as much as it is a family home.

The front yard provides public area that’s designed for welcoming friends to enjoy the pool and spa area, or to have a barbeque and eat al fresco. “It’s a sunny area and is where the kids can hang out with their mates and go for a swim,” says architect Tim Dorrington. “The front yard is about hanging out with your mates and having a barbeque, while, at the rear of the site, we wanted to maintain as much privacy as possible with a more intimate family space that is heavily shielded by tall hedging. Here, the flat lawn is perfect for kicking a ball around.”

“We wanted the house to work well when they have guests, without everyone feeling like they’re tripping over each other. The layout works really well because you can have a couple of families there; all the adults can be downstairs and there can be a group of kids watching a movie in the media room and another group of kids upstairs playing on the Playstation or something like that. While it’s not a big house, it’s arranged in as way that allows you to find your own private space and to have your own time away.”

Tim has laid the form of the house out like a crucifix with the bottom storey running east to west and the upper storey cantilevered over the top, running north to south. This arrangement has maximised the buildable area and ensured that the upper floor level would sit as high as possible to capture views of Rangitoto Island in the Hauraki Gulf and towards downtown Auckland. The hanging upper floor also provides shade to both the front and rear yards.

On the ground floor, the big open-plan kitchen, dining and living area opens up via sliding doors into both the front and rear yards and is linked via the main entry corridor to a media room. “The bottom floor is just one big pavilion, really, but it’s split into two by a knuckle of utility space and vertical access,” says Tim. “It creates a dog bone-type arrangement with two larger areas and a narrow waist, which is where you come in the front door.”

The house welcomes visitors with a brightly coloured front door in modernist yellow, accentuated by a black soffit. Inside, just off the main entry space, is a powder room and a utility area that includes the scullery and a laundry. Split-stone crazy paving runs from the front patio area through into this area, providing a robust surface for busy family life, as well as paying homage to Auckland’s volcanic geology and Californian mid-century modern homes, where stone was a commonly used material.

Upstairs are the family’s bedrooms, with the master bedroom suite at the front, taking in the main view, and running behind that are three children’s rooms that all open into a rumpus room, which, in turn, leads out onto a roof deck, which is where the kids can jump off the deck into the swimming pool.

Other mid-century modern features include a brick feature wall downstairs in the living area, which is also a nod to the previous brick-and-tile house on the site that was demolished to make way for this new home. “We originally thought of plastering and painting the bricks but we decided that it was nice to leave some texture in the space,” explains Tim. “The recycled bricks also hark back to the existing house and you can also see mid-century modern going on with the high-level windows and the slots between the roof and the brick wall.”

Timber ceilings and the soffits carry through from the inside to the outside, creating a seamless flow through the different spaces. “You can slide the big doors open and break down the barrier between outside and inside,” says Tim. “There are birds of paradise plants by the pool that will grow up, so, if you’re sitting in the lounge space, the pool is right there.”

“This home is definitely an embracing of the Californian Modernist style,” remarks Tim. “The top floor of the house is essentially a big black box that is perching over the top of a white aluminium roof plane, and we spent a lot of time getting this detail just right, so it doesn’t appear notched around, but as if the top floor is floating on top of the roof of the ground level. Then, we concentrated on the tactile materiality of the home, such as the split-stone crazy paving, the brickwork, the white line, the plastering around the front door and the oak flooring.”

“Californian Modernism embraced a casual way of living and it’s still a reflection of how want to live in our homes, unlike many villas and bungalows you find around New Zealand where orientation be damned!” says Tim. “This home really reflects the needs of our client, and the way they want to live.”


Words by Justine Harvey

Photography by Emma-Jane Hetherington



*Case Study House #22

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Inspired by the iconic Stahl House* in California, where the kids can jump straight off the roof into the pool.
In modernist style, a big black box perches over a white aluminium roof plane, creating a crucifix-like plan.
This modernist-inspired home includes bright yellow accents and  crazy paving that runs from the front patio area, seen here, indoors to the entry.
The open-plan lounge and dining area opens up on both sides to patio areas, with clerestory windows above a feature brick wall drawing light into the space.
A feature wall in the lounge showcases recycled bricks from the previous brick-and-tile house on the site that was demolished to make room for this home.
Unusually, a window has been placed behind the cooktop, replacing the kitchen splashback with an animated framed view of the garden.
In the kitchen, splashes of yellow in the door and a stool provide colourful accents to the neutral colour scheme of black. white and honey-coloured timber.
The cosy media room features a brick wall with a fireplace and bespoke timber cabinetry for the television on one side of the room and a built-in office space on the opposite wall.
The ground-floor corridor leading to the media room with its crazy paving floor.
And facing the other direction towards the dining and lounge area.
The natural and monochrome colour palette has been continued into the bathroom.s.
Brass tapware and retro wall coverings add personality to the powder room.
Artworks and a feature light take centre stage in the double-height staircase.
A flat lawn outside the kitchen partiially sits beneath the cantilevered upper storey.
Upper-floor plan by by Dorrington Atcheson Architects.
Ground-floor plan by Dorrington Atcheson Architects.

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