White Peaks House - O'Neil Architecture | ArchiPro

White Peaks House

The established bluechip location of Fendalton, Christchurch, has long been known for its high quality homes, large sections and established greenery. But the face of Fendalton changed with the 2011 earthquakes, prompting many homeowners to build new and start over again.

The opportunity was there to create something new and different, says O’Neil Architecture’s Darren O’Neil, but it was equally important to embody that same enduring quality, which was key to the brief for his client’s Fendalton family home.

“The client wanted a house that was easy and timeless. They preferred the traditional look, so this house has very traditional forms treated in a very modern way, with minimalist detailing.”

Down a long, tree-lined drive, the site fortuitously faces north, and the only constraint is that the section is irregular in shape, which dictated the form and layout of the home.

“The larger part of the irregularity lies in the northwest, so we were able to push the house into the southeast with a little courtyard off to the east. And then just as you naturally would design a home, we follow the sun, so the living areas open out on the sheltered side, because in Christchurch, we have a pretty tough easterly.”

To keep the form simple and reference traditional architecture, a double gable structure elegantly forms the focal point of the home, with flat roofs interconnecting it.

The unity of the white plaster exterior enhances the sculptural quality of the gable forms that artfully cantilever over the lower form of the home, in the entrance court.

Darren says the key to expressing that sculptural quality is in the simplicity of the exterior finishes.

“As far as materials go, we wanted a very simple house. There is just one cladding and it's all in the one colour, which creates a minimalist and sculptural feel to the building.”

The entryway to the house is tucked under one of the cantilevered gables, and leads visitors directly out to the back of the home and the living spaces.

To the left, the staircase leads to the upstairs bedrooms, and features a glass balustrade and timber detailing that reflects the same materiality as the engineered oak floors.

“We wanted to imbue certain sculptural detailing into the interior space and the stairs are a nice example of that. They're a simple stair, very clean with a sculptural timber edge.”

The interior materiality draws from a classic and serene palette, with muted drapes, white walls and a grand white kitchen, featuring Carrara marble benchtops.

The warmth of the oak floor and timber paneled fireplace create a grounded and uplifting feeling, while retaining a sense of grandeur and minimalism in the space.

The living areas open out through flush thresholds on to the northwest side where the pool and the lawn are located and all of the living rooms flow off the central kitchen space.

Open sight lines were an important part of keeping the circulation spaces interconnected.

“If you're sitting in the central living space or the kitchen, you can still look with a line of sight into the lounge space. Because if you don't have line of sight like that, you don't actually use the room,” says Darren.

The wall that opens out to the lawn, outdoor entertaining area and pool is almost entirely glazed, allowing light into the various living spaces. Upstairs, the backyard-facing gable ends are also entirely glazed, with internal shutters to regulate the light.

“Maintaining a closed face at the entry, while opening up the home at the back creates privacy and a sense of journey through the home.”

Darren says the success of the house is the interplay between the light and the elegant architectural detailing.

“With this house, we haven't been avant garde, it's quite a controlled, simple house based on traditional forms. But the sculptural elements have been designed so that every room gets beautiful light and sun.”

Words: Jo Seton

Photography by Anna McLeod

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White Peaks House | O'Neil Architecture | ArchiPro
The elegant "white peaks" of the sculptural home run right from front to back.
The back end of the gables are glazed, to let light in through the north-facing backyard.
The kitchen flows on to an informal yet elegant living space, which opens to the backyard and pool.
Another living space adjoins the kitchen/living, providing a separate but interconnected place for the family to spread out in.
The warm timber paneling of the fireplace juxtaposes against the elegant marble hearth.
The kitchen's streamlined, white and marble materiality enhances the elegance and minimalism of the space.
The stairway features a beautiful timber detailing that ties it into the warm oak floor.
The geometric detailing of the stair has a strong sculptural quality.
The master en suite's bath has an unobstructed view out to the backyard, while operable shutters provide privacy.
The entry courtyard with cantilevered gable forms and discreet entrance tucked underneath.
The single tone white plaster finish creates a cohesiveness to the different shapes of the home's form.