Urban Retreat - Chilton + Mayne Architecture | ArchiPro

Urban Retreat

Answering the call for family living in a new ‘Kiwi dream’ era

Medium-density housing is going to become more and more commonplace in New Zealand’s towns and cities as the ‘Kiwi dream’ of a quarter-acre block becomes more untenable as the population grows.

This modern family home—situated to the rear of a large section in the middle of a built up residential area—is a prime example of how considered architecture can deliver on the needs of a growing family within the confines of a sub-divided site. 

“Obviously, the first consideration for the design was the existing house at the front of the section,” says architectural designer David Chilton, Director at Chilton + Mayne Architecture. “The clients still wanted to incorporate the traditional trappings of a family home—a yard to play in and room for a swimming pool—but also wanted a high level of privacy, not only from the front property but also from the neighbours, in what is a well-established neighbourhood.”

David’s solution was to do away with both a front yard and backyard, instead, positioning the house along the rear boundary placing all of the outdoor space to the front and side of the structure.

“The idea for the house was to maximise the relationship with the gardens, outdoor living spaces and swimming pool.

“The house stretches along the rear boundary, opening itself up to the north-west facing garden, while a perpendicular element bisects the main structure setting up a privacy break between the living areas and the bedrooms. By establishing the design in this way, it allows each room to have a different aspect of the garden and suburban views.”

David says the house is an unassuming home offering three bedrooms plus office and open plan living opening onto a patio.

“The clients weren’t terribly interested in the house trying to be all things to all people but rather, wanted a simple home that would continue to work for years to come and were really open to all suggestions. I’m happy to say that the initial concept had very few changes.

“We did discover that the site is quite low-lying, which could have had water ingress consequences, so we built up the level of the floor but other than that, there really were no structural issues that compromised the project.”

“The clients like the juxtaposition of concrete and cedar, so the exterior is composed of vertical planes of precast concrete panels contrasted with vertical shiplap timber in a dark stain. Internally, the polished concrete floor pierces the building envelope and reads like a series of cantilevered planes, further blurring the line between indoor and outdoor spaces, aided by the large-panel glazing. On the sides facing the patio, these are sliding doors, one set of which are pocket doors, completely sliding back into the wall cavity for a truly seamless look.”

The double-height living area features a raked ceiling with high-level windows situated to capture both morning and evening sunlight, while cedar fins help mitigate the full effect of the midday sun and also answer the clients’ brief for minimal window furnishings.

“These high-level windows set up a really lovely play of light and shadow across the interior throughout the day and have heat sensors that automatically allow them to expel built up heat. The combination of the volumetric space with the automatic windows means this remains a really comfortable space to be in year round,” says David.

“Externally, it also creates a sense of arrival as you come down the drive and the full extent of the house is revealed.”

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This family home has been designed to maximise its position on the rear of a sub-divided block.
The homeowners wanted to incorporate a modern rustic feel into the exterior of the home and opted for cedar cladding with various levels of staining.
The design intention was for the relationship between the built environment and natural environment to be maximised.
East- and west-facing glazing captures early morning and late afternoon sun while the timber fins help mitigate solar gain during the hottest part of the day.
The high-level windows in the living area are equipped with heat sensors that automatically open the windows to dispel any build up of hot air, helping to maintain a pleasant internal environment.
Positioning the house along the rear boundary meant that every room was connected to the yard and has a view of the garden.
The homeowners wanted to maintain the sense of clean lines and so asked for a design that would require minimal window dressings.
The double-height living area captures all day sun despite the enclosed nature of the sub-divided block.
Landscaping has been cleverly designed to screen off the front property and to provide a verdant view from every room.
Looking down the east-west axis of the house from the entry.
The master ensuite features floor-to-ceiling glazing, further enhancing the sense of connection to the garden.

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