Sandy Bay House - Stevens Lawson Architects | ArchiPro

Sandy Bay House

On a steep site overlooking the Hauraki Gulf, a chamfered and shadowy form settles into the landscape.

Situated a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island has long been a sought-after destination for homeowners wanting a different lifestyle to that offered by the “mainland” and for those looking for a weekend escape that’s just on the doorstep.

Not surprisingly, building sites are quickly snapped up when they become available and the sometimes Wellington-esque terrain makes for some interesting architecture, as Gary Lawson, Director of Stevens Lawson Architects explains.

“The steeply sloping site had been subdivided off from the original property situated lower down and was partly covered in scrappy bush.”

“The mix of site topography, council restrictions governing site coverage and the brief from the client, who wanted a compact home, all came together in this idea of the house nestling into the bush in this shadowy and recessive, yet partially exposed, rock-like form.

“So, the exterior reads as a series of cuts and incisions, where the original surface structure is weathered and greyed and the freshly exposed surfaces present as lighter, warmer tones.”

Gary says that for the interior, however, he was after an entirely different feel.

“Waiheke has always been a popular choice for holiday homes and so we wanted to hark back to the ‘old school’ baches of the 1950s, which were predominantly timber-lined. Our idea was to have the relatively stark exterior give way to a rich, timber-lined and cabin-like interior, so we chose a refined blend of oak and cedar for the internal spaces.   

“This we’ve teamed with black metal and stone for a really, really simple material palette. That said, we’ve managed to fit a lot of architecture into what is a small footprint. A lot of thought has gone into all of the details—such as the recessed handrails—and elements like the large, triangular skylight above the kitchen and dining area which pulls natural light into the interior throughout the day, animating the spaces with warmth and drama.

“Careful attention to material selection and details such as those in the kitchen, bathrooms and stair further enhance the cabin-like interiors and give the home a bespoke and sophisticated air. The house also has a really rich acoustic quality because of all the timber, not to mention a beautiful scent emanating from the cedar.” 

The open-plan living spaces sit above the three bedrooms and are connected by simple, efficient circulation, and share a consistent natural material palette throughout.

“One of the strategies with the landscaping was to carry out regenerative planting of natives along the front as well as in the backyard. This further helps to integrate the structure into the land but also creates a more lush bush setting than was here originally.”

“With this house, we have tried to maximize the opportunity to give our clients a small but perfectly formed three-bedroom home—capitalising on both the spectacular views and all-day sun and offering year-round opportunities to engage with and, when necessary, retreat from, the elements.

“The design, which I describe as an interesting and crafted form, is a result of some precise editing of the surroundings with window placement arranged to open up to the views while blocking sightlines to the neighbours, on what is a rather overlooked site.





Words by Justin Foote.
Photography by Jono Parker.

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On a steep site overlooking the Hauraki Gulf, a chamfered and shadowy form settles into the landscape.
The house reads as a recessive, yet partially exposed, rock-like form.
A series of cuts and incisions has exposed the weathered surface revealing the lighter, warmer tones beneath.
The north-west facing deck is bathed in afternoon light, the perfect vantage point for taking in the view.
Faceted angles are juxtaposed against bold vertical and horizontal lines, reinforced by the steel balustrade.
The house sits at the top of a subdivided site with neighbours on all sides yet still retains a sense of priva
Regenerative planting of natives further serves to integrate the structure into its site.
The architect wanted the stark exterior to give way to a rich, timber-lined interior that referenced, in a contemporary way, the area's original baches that sprang up post-WWII
The material palette of cedar and oak was augmented with black granite in the kitchen.
Integrated appliances and cabinetry, coupled with the black of the granite, helps the kitchen recede into the background of the open-plan living area.
Minimal furniture and low-profile statement lighting helps to reinforce the idea of structured simplicity.
Precise placement of windows and screening elements blocks sightlines to the neighbours and allows the view to come to the fore.
A large, triangular skylight above the living area, helps draw light into the interior throughout the day.
Rather than rely on colour and artworks, the architect has let the natural grain of the cedar provide visual interest.
A full-height window on the south-western facade admits light into the stairwell, which features black and natural stained cedar.
Horizontal oak meets vertical cedar on the staircase.
From the top floor living spaces, the staircase leads to the bedrooms and bathrooms located on the lower level.
Oahu matt porcelain tiles add textural contrast to the cedar in the main bathroom.
Sandy Bay House floor plans.

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