Lean on Me - SGA | ArchiPro

Lean on Me

From as early as 1860, villas began to proliferate our cities and towns, becoming the housing stock of choice for the next 60-odd years until the bungalow began growing in popularity, particularly post-WWI.

Architecturally beautiful but functionally sub-par (certainly by today’s standards), villas generally contained a parlour—or sitting room—and two bedrooms with a central hallway that culminated in a kitchen, usually with a scullery and pantry. Fancy extras such as a bathroom and/or a laundry were the province of the wealthy—everybody else made do with a copper and a long drop in the backyard.

Despite these design limitations, villas have remained a popular residential choice, with many traditional examples undergoing renovations over the years to ensure they remained up to date. One common architectural addition to the villa was the lean-to—a, mostly, single open-plan space with a sloping ceiling that was added onto the rear of the villa and which contained the bathroom and laundry.

“Traditionally used to house service spaces, the lean-to is the ultimate in pragmatism when it comes to enclosing a space,” says Pat de Pont, Director of SGA. “Located in the Auckland suburb of Mt Eden, this traditional villa is a good example of the lean-to addition.

“The house dates from 1910–1915—it still had the original kauri floors, so it definitely sits within that era. Some time in the 1980s a number of lean-to additions were added to the rear and sides. While these provided extra space, they didn’t go far enough in terms of providing real connection to the outdoors.”

Pat says the original plan for the renovation was to extend the villa gable into the north-facing backyard to accommodate all living spaces.

“However, the more we looked at it the more we ended up with a huge amount of roof space. The second iteration, which involved less construction, was to extend the lean-to form. Unfortunately, you run out of usable depth very quickly. What this did confirm for us though was that the lesser-construction option was the preferred route.

“The solution, then, was to strip away the lean-to addition and take the house back to the original villa box. Once that was done we could play around with the lean-to form and make it ‘more’.

“What we’ve done is allow the lean-to to break away from the house and wrap around on itself. By doing this and incorporating an inverted hip roof, we’ve been able to extend out the lean-to form to create a contemporary addition, which in essence allows the two forms—old and new—to talk to each other, with the design details linking the two.

“It is, essentially, the evolution of the lean-to form in which it is recast as living space and which, in this instance, opens the house up to the north-facing backyard via a simple box exterior.”

The brief was to accommodate a professional couple with two young children, allowing for a work-from-home option as well as providing an oasis and retreat for the family. As such, the existing building’s floor plan was rationalised, improving room sizes, adding bedrooms and a home office, as well as improving amenities and reviving the kauri flooring and traditional details. Additionally, the front verandah’s original form was reinstated—it had been enclosed in a previous renovation—reconnecting the house with the street.

The notion of connection, or dialogue, between the old and new is also expressed internally with the addition’s ceiling featuring battens in a nod to the villa’s ceiling. Externally, colours and materials continue the dialogue with the villa’s traditional wide-board cladding contrasting the contemporary narrow-profile, rough-sawn weatherboards of the addition—which is very contemporary without being obnoxious towards the traditional form.

Clerestory windows on the east and west aspects provide light and ventilation without compromising privacy, while the arrangement of the living zones creates a series of spaces that are connected but well defined.

Landscaping, too, has been well considered, says Pat.

“The garden design and landscape connections are an integral part of the project, with native plantings guiding arrivals to the front door, where, once inside, the central axis of the villa corridor is visually extended in a rain garden to connect to the eclectic plantings, picnic and play areas of the north-facing gardens—creating yet another dialogue between traditional and contemporary.”

Words by: Justin Foote
Photography by: Simon Devitt Photographer

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