Flying Cloud: a home for sailors - SGA | ArchiPro

Flying Cloud: a home for sailors

This contemporary Kiwi bach was designed for a family of sailors to enjoy beach life and to host their community at Manly on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, north of Auckland.

Named after a boat, the Flying Cloud, a well-known racing yacht that won the Sanders Cup for Auckland in 1952, this holiday home is a pavilion form that draws on nautical references in a subtle way, including a sail-like structure that covers the outdoor entertaining room and extensive built-in timber cabinetry – both nods to mid-century modernism.

Despite being a modest structure that’s quiet and discreet when viewed from the street, Flying Cloud is a beautiful, open and light-filled home, cleverly arranged and lovingly crafted by the team at Strachan Group Architects (SGA), led by Dave Strachan and Maria Hosking.

“I’ve known the owners for 25 years,” explains Dave. “My friends bought the property 15 years ago and, for many years, they occupied a two-bedroomed bach that was already there, however, it was tiny and old – built in the 1940s – and didn’t function at all. The plan is to live at the house for four-days of the week and, eventually, to retire there, but they also love the social aspect. They wanted a place to welcome their boating and windsurfing mates who love going there, and for their son, daughter and five grandkids to enjoy as a summer holiday home.”

The large three-car garage is part of the house structure, catering to vehicles and all the family’s equipment for its water-based recreational activities but, also, to prevent the garaging from taking up too much room on the site and being too prominent from the street, the eastern end of the house is clad in cedar and has a large window facing the street, making the garage appear as if it is part of the home.

Flying Cloud is arranged as a long rectangular plan with a ‘door wedge’ shape jutting out along the northern edge, which contains the outdoor living and entertaining spaces, and the main entry from the driveway.

The outdoor kitchen and dining room pays homage to the genoa sail or gib on a yacht – in the form of a large sail-like structure that extends out from the open-plan living spaces. The top of the structure is a slatted cedar canopy, which provides shading from the afternoon sun. Polished concrete flooring continues from the interior to the outdoor room, which features a large table for al fresco dining and an outdoor fireplace that’s perfect on cooler evenings.

Alongside, a cedar-decked area overlooks a navy-tiled swimming pool and is enclosed by glass balustrades and surrounded by a landscape of rocks, palms and other natives. On the other side of the outdoor room is the main entrance – a decked area with gentle steps down and along a grass lawn beside the driveway, which acts to help entice people into the heart of the home.

The main living area is a lofty, double-height space with high-level windows that invite western and eastern light into this central space, as well as drawing the eye upwards to reveal mature pōhutakawa trees that grow on either end of the site.

This lofty space is dramatic in contrast to the cosier lounge/snug and sleeping quarters located on either side. Dave describes it as ‘a dumbbell arrangement’ with the master bedroom suite accessed via a glazed hallway, past the secret kitchen scullery from the kitchen and overlooking the pool, ensuring the space is dappled with reflective light from the water. On the other side of the living area, next to the garage, is the guest wing, which includes twin bedrooms and a bunk area designed as a sleeping space for the grandchildren.

The interior is decorated with built-in furniture and cabinetry designed by SGA and a restrained material palette of white-painted ply walls, concrete, meranti plywood, eucalyptus saligna, and silvered cedar, which creates a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.     

“For me, the heart of this building is in the warmth and character of the timber, along with the drama and movement and patterns of light as it passes through the building,” says Dave. “We humans can relate to these things.”

"In explaining his own design approach, Italian architect Renzo Piano believes ‘organisation is in the plan but the beauty is in the section cutting through the building' and we like to think of buildings in that way," says Dave.

“If you look at the section of this building, you can see that the central core of the building floats above a modest structure. We wanted to free up the form and elevate it above the ground plane, mainly as a response to global warming because the prediction for flooding is a 1-in-100-year storm and we are now having an increasing number of King Tides.”

“Due to climate change and the nature of New Zealand’s coastline, if we’re siting a home on the ground-level plane and not halfway up a hill, then we have to consider potential flooding from extreme high tides and raise the floor level. It would be stupid if we ignored the risks, but the constraints of this concept can be used to our advantage by adding to the floating nature of building. The elevated podium becomes a nice place for the kids to sit on the deck and dangle their legs off and the ground didn’t need much digging in when we inserted the pool.”

Besides blurring the edges between the inside and outside, Flying Cloud has also been clad in low-maintenance materials that can cope to cope with the corrosive, salt-laden effects of a coastal environment, such as ribbed zincalume Colorsteel and vertical silvered-cedar boards.

The home has thermal mass with underfloor heating and insulation, as well as efficient cross-ventilation, so the north to south axis acts as a breezeway to cool the interior during the summer months but can be locked down during the winter.

Dave describes the home as ‘the family’s personal yacht club, since it is home to their boating interests and, also, their water-loving friends and local community. A photograph of the renowned Flying Cloud takes pride of place on the wall, while a replica model of the yacht is prominently sited on a shelf – forming shrines to the owner's father who built the original boat that won the Sanders Cup.


Words by Justine Harvey

Photography by Simon Devitt

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The main entrance leads from the driveway into the heart of the home – the open-plan living area and the outdoor entertaining area to the right.
The outdoor living area is sheltered by a sail-like canopy with cedar-panelled soffit and a slatted shade.
Next to the outdoor living area, the navy-tiled swimming pool is surrounded by decking. Two established pōhutukawa trees provide focal points at either end of the house.
A photograph of the renowned Flying Cloud racing yacht takes pride of place on the wall in the kitchen area.
The bedrooms are recessed under the eaves to help control the entry of sunlight, while reflected watery patterns are cast onto the interior surfaces from the pool.
The slatted canopy creates filtered light over the outdoor room. An outdoor fireplace provides warmth on cooler evenings.
In the kitchen, high-level windows draw light deep into the home and provide a view of the old pōhutakawa tree. Sliding doors open the space up on either side.
The kitchen has a secret scullery tucked in behind.
Timber elements add warmth to the monochromatic kitchen and concrete flooring.
The corridor to the master bedroom suite, with the scullery and pool on either side.
Strategic planting has created a private outdoor entertainment area.
The slatted timber screen of the canopy has been protected from the coastal environment with Dryden WoodOil.
A replica model of the famous Flying Cloud racing yacht.
Timber panellng contrasts the white walls, adding warmth to the neutral colour scheme.
View through to the snug/lounge area.
The kitchen area.
The twin guest bedrooms have extra built-in day beds which provide extra sleeping spaces, while large windows open up the rooms to the garden.
A bunkroom provides additional beds for visiting grandchildren.
The timber-lined outdoor shower is perfect for washing sand off visits to the beach.
The bathroom in the master bedroom suite.
The guest bathroom.
The view from the western end of the house, with the master bedroom opening up onto a grass lawn area.
The large garage has been made discreet with vertical cedar panelling on the walls and doors.
Flying Cloud from the street view with the discreet garaging seen on the left and the sliding entrance door into the driveway on the right.
Site plan by SGA.
Ground-floor plan by SGA.
Longitudinal section by SGA.
Elevations by SGA.