Connection and separation are themes that run throughout this house. Inspired by the eroding channels in the rocks and cliffs far below the house, the interior has been thought of like carved lines through the topography. Clefts and cliffs are etched into the plan of the house like in the separation of the upstairs bedrooms, and sun is grabbed wherever it can be.

At the top of the stairs, just outside Rona’s room, is an anteroom with a deep window seat. It is one of those spaces that would be labelled sketchily on the plans with some vague notation of ‘nook’ or alcove’. It, like the adjoining hall-cum-sitting space, is flexible, neither bedroom nor lounge nor study, and yet is all of those things.

Matt’s large study is on the lowest floor and Alyson had reservations about this ‘man cave’ being so separated from the rest of the house. She was gratified then, when she found Hugh had understood her concerns and designed the edge of the stairs to be open, allowing Alyson to call down from her own study and the two to talk comfortably while still being in their own spaces.

The site sits on the edge of a 45m cliff facing south over Taputeranga Island in Island Bay with magnificent views of the harbour entrance, Cook Strait and the South Island Kaikouras. The clients desired a large family home that responded to the dramatic views, was spacious, low maintenance, warm and able to accommodate their large collection of New Zealand paintings and ceramics.

An appreciation of the weather is seen in small details: zinc was selected as cladding for its low maintenance, durability and weathertightness in the face of extreme salt laden winds from the south; the covered vestibule that allows wind-ravaged visitors to let themselves in through the exterior gate and wait, sheltered from the inevitable southerly, for someone to answer the door. On days when the sun streams in, the concrete of this outdoor room is heated by the sun, and, as it is a single pad running into the house, the glasshouse-like heat warms the house. And rather than a deck, Tennent Brown designed the house to the edge with large picture windows making the view as immediate as if you were standing on a deck. The difference is, of course, that in this house, you are also warm and sheltered while you watch the weather roll towards you from the horizon.




House by Tennent Brown Architects