Thursday, April 10, 2014

Design Awards 2014 Call for Entries

Designers! Each year our Design Awards programme features the best New Zealand furniture and homeware - and now's your chance to enter to ensure your design reaches the country's most engaged readers.

All you need to do to enter is send up to five images (from a variety of angles) of the furniture or object(s) you've designed, along with a 250-word statement about the project's aims and its designers. You can email your entries to or courier them to HOME magazine, Bauer Media, Shed 12, CityWorks Depot, 77 Cook Street, Auckland 1010.

Entries at due by 5pm, Tuesday April 15.

We'll choose a shortlist of finalist from the entries and have them photographed for inclusion in our June/July issue, on newsstands June 2. 

We look forward to showcasing more of the work of New Zealand's best designers.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Amanda Levete on the Home of the Year

Given all the attention our Home of the Year is getting, we thought many of you might be interested in hearing some of the thinking behind the jury's decisions. 

The Home of the Year jury was made up of HOME editor Jeremy Hansen, Gary Lawson of four-time Home of the Year winners Stevens Lawson Architects, and Stirling Prize-winning London architect Amanda Levete. 

Here, Jeremy talks to Amanda about the judging process. This interview was conducted in mid-March, soon after judging of the Home of the Year was complete. 

Architect Amanda Levete. Photo: Peter Guenzel.
JEREMY HANSEN Let’s start by talking about the winning project: Eyrie, the black cabins by Nat Cheshire of Cheshire Architects.

AMANDA LEVETE That project was very finely tuned, such a poetic response to its site. It was a complete merging of idea and form. And there’s a narrative behind it that’s as poetic as its realisation. The idea that an architect would negotiate with planners to allow a smaller and much more modest footprint on the site is a fantastic inversion of expectations: it captures the mood of the world right now by demonstrating a greater respect for modesty and a reining in of consumerism. It shows how much you can do with so little and still hold such resonance.

The landscape it’s situated in was not the most beautiful or most dramatic of the sites we saw – far from it – but it had a sensibility of its own. You could sense this through the success of the dialogue between the client and the architect. It felt like there was a complete synergy between architect and client, and that is quite rare. It feels like the relationship with the client pushed the architect to go beyond his repertoire and explore ideas and an attitude that perhaps hadn’t been expressed in his work before. You need that input from a client, you need that challenge – and you need that energy and inspiration to make your work better. It’s those kind of relationships and moments that push an architect to develop and become great.

The cabins were beautifully detailed in a very simple way but every move, every line held the idea of the house. The tiny brass recessed kitchen area, which was like a little jewel in this simple black container, lifted it from being prosaic to something exceptional. The cabinets around the kitchen, which used a crude black-painted form-board, had chamfered edges that revealed the colour of the ply behind it, a tiny shadow line that, because the space was black, had a lustre almost like there was a light behind it. And what was so revealing about that space was that it was a black interior and black exterior but it didn’t feel oppressive. You were drawn into the space by the light and felt uplifted and serene and at one with the world and with nature.

The Home of the Year 2014, designed by Nat Cheshire of Cheshire Architects.
Photo: Darryl Ward.

JEREMY HANSEN What made the other homes worthy of inclusion? Let’s go from north to south, and start with the house by Herbst Architects. 

AMANDA LEVETE This house expressed very clearly how the forces of nature can drive design, with a clever layering of openings between indoor and outdoor spaces. There was a very strong relationship between a deep gabion wall and the passage between the bedrooms and the main spaces of the house, an outside but protected area that reinforced it as a beach house, so whatever the weather and time of year, you have to go outside to get inside, and that was very charming.

The Castle Rock House by Herbst Architects. Photo: Patrick Reynolds.
JEREMY HANSEN On Waiheke Island we visited a home by Wendy Shacklock. What did you enjoy about that?

AMANDA LEVETE This was an incredibly difficult site and a huge amount of thought had gone into exploring ways in which you could liberate it. That’s been achieved in a way that appears effortless, thanks to much of the site engineering being invisible – but it was far from straightforward. There was also a delicacy about the use of materials and the contrast between the solidity and brutality of the concrete wall and the openness of the elevations looking down at the water. The clients wanted the house to feel like a nest, and it did feel very protective and precarious at the same time. 

Te Kohanga, a home on Waiheke Island designed by Wendy Shacklock in association with Paul Clarke. Photo: Samuel Hartnett.
JEREMY HANSEN How about the small house by Andrew Simpson?  

AMANDA LEVETE This was a studio house, just 50 square metres in which every little square foot was accounted for and exploited. There was a wonderful, huge opening up of a view on a very difficult site. What I loved was the ambition and endeavour that was invested into such a complicated site. That endeavour was palpable and real – the architect built much of the interior – and it shows again how much you can achieve with a modest budget, which is always refreshing. 

The Nine Tsubo House by Andrew Simpson of Wiredog Architecture.
Photo: Paul McCredie.
JEREMY HANSEN On Banks Peninsula, we visited the Scrubby Bay Farmhouse by Pattersons.

AMANDA LEVETE I found this house incredibly beautiful. Proportionally there was a real kind of magic about the delicacy of these barn-like forms that just slipped one in front of the other in a strong sectional relationship sited in a completely spectacular bay. The plan of the house was understated and restrained, and that restraint was very powerful when matched by such a spectacular backdrop. The house also made beautiful use of wood, with a subtle scent of the macrocarpa cladding inside that was just magic for me.

The Scrubby Bay Farmhouse by Pattersons. Photo: Simon Devitt
JEREMY HANSEN We saw homes on beautiful sites, but the suburban house by LO'CA in Wanaka was different.  

AMANDA LEVETE This is a house for a retired couple with a brief that was far from glamorous, but the architects managed to lift it by creating a kind of respect for the span of a couple’s life, and I was very touched by that. It wasn’t just the clever planning but the way in which the clients’ lives – their past as well as their future and the present – were mapped into the planning; I’ve never seen that done before. It made me think how important houses are as containers for your life and your history. Some of the houses we saw had an absence of the soul of the owners, and a house needs soul. This one had it.

The Lovell House by Tim Lovell and Ana O'Connell of Lovell O'Connell Architects.
Photo: Patrick Reynolds.

JEREMY HANSEN This is your first visit to New Zealand. What are your impressions of the country's architecture after a week here?

AMANDA LEVETE It’s clear that the bach is a powerful genre, and we’ve seen it interpreted differently in extraordinary settings that are very particular to New Zealand. There is an incredible and inventive use of woods, which has been inspiring to me, and makes me want to explore that in our own work. But I worry that there’s a kind of complacency in New Zealand’s architecture. I have seen some of the most spectacular sites in the world on this trip and some of the most extraordinary pieces of landscape – I don’t think I’ll ever see anything more beautiful. With that goes a huge responsibility to respond with an ambition that matches that drama and the beauty of the location. That responsibility is sometimes taken too much for granted. I think architects need to remind themselves what a privilege it is to design in a piece of nature that is unsurpassable.

Clients, too, need to have that same sense of ambition and responsibility in selecting their architect and in their own briefs. It’s not just about designing a house. You have to respond to the magnitude and power of nature at its most beautiful. Houses are relatively modest in scale but historically they have defined an architectural era, and not enough architects here feel that sense of potential. Architecture here is quite self-referential and it shouldn’t be, because what we’ve seen in this last week is a fantastic abundance of talent and inventiveness and clever thinking. Architects in New Zealand should be more ambitious in terms of their place internationally – you have a great tradition of house design that could be defining and having an influence on the rest of the world.

JEREMY HANSEN Lastly, do you have any thoughts about awards like this in general?

AMANDA LEVETE The Home of the Year award is important because it’s not just about applauding excellence; it’s about marking turning points in architects’ careers. The purpose of awards is to recognise talent and to lift the standards and advance the debate. The cross-section of projects we’ve selected for this, the Home of the Year issue, is testament to all of that.  

Amanda Levete travelled to New Zealand thanks to the support of Altherm Window Systems, our Home of the Year sponsor.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Home of the the 2014 - the winner!

Congratulations to Nat Cheshire of Cheshire Architects, who designed Eyrie, the twin cabins on an inlet of the Kaipara Harbour that have won our 19th Home of the Year award. Here's our new cover, featuring a photograph by Jeremy Toth.

Jeremy Toth also shot this fantastic short web film of the winning homes for us - watch it here, and enjoy! Thanks, as always, to our sponsors, Altherm Window Systems.

Home Of The Year 2014
from Jeremy Toth on Vimeo.

Home of the Year 2014 - the finalists

Tonight's the night we announce our 19th annual Home of the Year award. We're delighted to present the six finalists for the award for you here. 

As always, the winning architects will received a $15,000 first prize, thanks to our award sponsors Altherm Window Systems. 

The award was judged by our Home of the Year jury - HOME editor Jeremy Hansen, Gary Lawson of Auckland's Stevens Lawson Architects, and Stirling Prize-winning London architect Amanda Levete - who visited all the shortlisted homes in early March to make their selection of the winner and finalists. 

The winner and all the finalists will be in our Home of the Year issue, on newsstands from Thursday April 3.  And you can check back here at 7.30pm this evening to see our short web film of the winning home.

Here are the finalists, from north to south:

The Castle Rock House (above) is a holiday home at Whangarei Heads by Herbst Architects, who designed our Home of the Year 2012 winner. The photograph is by Patrick Reynolds. 

Eyrie by Nat Cheshire of Cheshire Architects is a pair of almost-identical cabins (above) on an inlet of the Kaipara Harbour. The photograph is by Darryl Ward.

This Waiheke Island home (above) was designed by Wendy Shacklock Architects in association with Paul Clarke. The photograph is by Samuel Hartnett.

This 50-square-metre home (above) in Wellington was designed by Andrew Simpson of Wiredog Architecture for himself and his partner, Krysty Peebles. The photograph is by Paul McCredie.

This farmhouse (above) on an isolated bay on Banks Peninsula was designed by Pattersons, and photographed by Simon Devitt.

And this home in Wanaka for a retired couple was designed by Tim Lovell and Ana O'Connell of Lovell O'Connell Architects.

We're delighted with the inventiveness and variety of this year's finalists. Remember to check out much more coverage of all these homes in our Home of the Year issue. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Design Case Studies with Altherm Window Systems: Architect Dave Strachan's eco-friendly Auckland renovation

The fifth in our series of Design Case Studies with Altherm Window Systems visits the Auckland family home of architect Dave Strachan (of Strachan Group Architects), a former bungalow that's had a significant renovation with increased energy efficiency one of the primary goals.  The photographs are by Patrick Reynolds.

You could say that architect Dave Strachan has a 360-degree view of the process of designing and building a home. He was a builder before he went to architecture school and, along with his wife Colleen, he was his own client when he designed an extensive renovation of the couple’s bungalow in the Auckland suburb of Mount Eden (he also had to supervise his sons, who worked as builders on the project). This led to a mild case of multiple personality disorder. “When you’re the client, the architect and the builder, you wonder who’s calling the shots,” Dave says. “The client wants to know how much it is, the builder wants to know if you can do it easier, and the architect is reaching for the sky.”

Dave Strachan's family home in Auckland is a bungalow that's had a significant, environmentally senstive renovation.
Of course, performing these roles simultaneously saved the couple a lot of money. Their original bungalow was 180 square metres, but now the extension is complete, Dave and Colleen (who at the time had all four of their children living at home) have a renovated home measuring about 300 square metres in size.
The home before renovations began.
A view of the home after renovations were complete.
They initially explored the option of demolishing the bungalow and starting anew. Dave estimates that if a client was to pay a builder and an architect for an all-new home of that size (which includes a swimming pool), they would be looking at a bill of about $900,000 (plus the pool). In this case, Dave and Colleen completed the job for about $500,000. “I reckon we’re about $400,000 better off because we decided to keep the old bungalow,” he says. “And I think there’s something really nice about the embodied memory that’s still in our building – the heart of it still beats.” Part of the savings came from doing so much of it himself, but Dave still estimates that if a client was to undertake a similar project, they would save about $250,000 by keeping an old house.

The home's two-stage entryway features a garden
inside the building envelope that leads to the front door.

Two of Dave Strachan's conceptual sketches for the renovation.

A new indoor-outdoor living area at the rear of the house faces northwest and is usable year-round.

Dave does a budget estimate for a client himself at the sketch design stage, but calls in an independent quantity surveyor to estimate the cost of a build once the design has been developed. The biggest challenge, Dave says, is marrying clients’ wish lists to their budgets – and if they don’t match, letting the clients know quite clearly at the outset of the process that what they’re asking for is not achievable. The clients then have the option of scaling down their desires, or finding the extra finance to meet the budget.

The cliché that anyone taking on a new building project should estimate their budget then double it is, Dave says, “a horrible thought”. He prides himself on making clients aware of the full scope of potential costs at the outset of a project, including council and resource consent fees, building in a contingency for landscaping, and so on. If a client asks for something outside that scope, Dave says they need to be informed that such a decision will have budgetary implications. It’s a process that has worked successfully for Strachan Group Architects – a house they recently designed in the Auckland suburb of Parnell, for example, has a developed design budget (by a registered quantity surveyor) that is consistent with the original project estimate. “We’ve lost jobs where people have come in with a budget and we’ve told them it’s unrealistic, and they’ll go to someone else who tells them what they want to hear,” he says, “but you have to be honest with people about the process.”

The home's main bedroom looks onto the back lawn. The lightshade is by David Trubridge.
Q+A with Dave Strachan

HOME What was the hardest part about the process of renovating your own home? 
Dave Strachan We decided, rightly or wrongly, to live in it while we did it, so we put up with all the dust, mess, noise, and camping and decamping as you move around the building as various phases get completed. I remember lying in bed during a terrible storm after we’d pulled off as much roof of the old bungalow as we could cover with a tarpaulin and listening to the tarpaulin flapping around in the wind and finding water coming down the Gib board inside. With the design, I relied on the team at the office – you can get too close to a project like this, so it’s good to have people to talk to. 

Architect Dave Strachan.
HOME Does your background as a builder help you gauge a budget more accurately? 
Dave Strachan In general, you know how much everything costs. But we don’t do budgets with guesswork – in the initial stages, we calculate them by using the price books in our office. And we have a good feel for it and a collaborative approach with the builders we use. 

A view of the home's new living area with pool outside.
HOME What do you think of the old cliché that if you have a budget for a project, you should double it to get a realistic figure?
Dave Strachan I reckon there’s no excuse for that. The budget needs to marry reasonably well with the clients’ wish-list at the outset. After that it’s about knowing the budgetary consequences of the decisions the clients make, and informing them of that. We get a quantity surveyor in at the developed design stage and we don’t proceed with a project unless the client sees those cost estimates and says that they’re OK. Sometimes clients’ budgets don’t really match their dreams, and they don’t often admit that. A lot of it is about having a reasonable budget to cope with the scope that you intend.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Design Case Studies with Altherm Window Systems: the O'Sullivan Family Home

The fourth in our series of Design Case Studies visits the super low-budget Auckland home of architect Michael O'Sullivan (of Bull O'Sullivan Architects) and Melissa Schollum, which Michael mostly built himself. It's an inspiring tale of creating architectural magic on a low budget. This series is brought to you by Altherm Window Systems. The photographs are by Florence Noble.

Michael O'Sullivan (centre) with Melissa Schollum and some of the neighbours who
helped them build their house. From left: Seti Faaofo, Rhys Hanna, Ikimau Ikimau
(holding Michael and Melissa's daughter Mary), Michael, Melissa
(holding son Seamus), Fred Taupa and Mary Taupa.
Michael and Melissa’s 115-square-metre home in the Auckland suburb of Mangere Bridge (which was a finalist in our Home of the Year award in 2009), cost just $152,000, but that doesn’t mean you should presume you can get a house that cheap for yourself. The house cost so little because the couple didn’t pay a builder – Michael did all of that himself, with the regular help of some of the couple’s neighbours. “It’s the labour that kills projects,” Michael says, estimating that, if they had paid for a builder and for architects’ fees, their house would have cost over $300,000 – which is still a pretty good deal. 

Melissa in the kitchen, with its brass-clad island.
The plates on the mullions behind her are by Rachel Carley.
On this project, Michael was determined to do things differently from the start. “We didn’t have a budget,” he says. “We had $70,000 to start with, and we had decided to work with that in the first instance and see how we went.” That amount of money, along with many hours of Michael’s labour, got them as far as the basic timber structure being erected, and with the roof on. 

The kitchen and living areas have a cedar ceiling
with lights residing behind the triangular cutouts.
With their funds depleted, it was time to visit the bank, but not to request a conventional mortgage. “We went to the bank and said this is how far we’ve got, but we didn’t know how much it was going to cost to finish off,” Michael says. They did, however, know how much they could afford to pay off a mortgage each week, a figure the bank used to estimate the maximum the couple could borrow and set up what was essentially a floating overdraft. “They were initially a bit sceptical,” Michael says, “but they’re pleased now they’ve seen what we’ve done.”

This view of the dining area (with a dining table by IMO) shows
the home's main entrance. A small deck outside is shaded by an oak tree.
Michael and Melissa needed to remain extremely mindful of how much money was required to finish the building within their budget, but in a sense, the most pivotal budgetary decision – to keep the house relatively small – had been made early on. There is only one bathroom, but a more difficult choice was to design the house with just two bedrooms, as by the time it was nearing completion, the couple’s third child was about to be born. So far, however, children Seamus (4), Finbar (3) and Mary (2), as well as Michael’s son Rem (11), who stays occasionally, like their relatively large room with its bunk beds, and the house has been designed so the later addition of another bedroom is possible. Michael thinks the decision not to have a third bedroom saved between $15,000 and $20,000 in materials alone, as well as making the building process about two months quicker because of the home’s smaller footprint. (Since these photographs were taken, Michael has added an upstairs area with more children's bedrooms).

Seamus in the hallway leading to the bedrooms,
which feature heavy velvet curtains instead of doors.
Savings like this meant that there was enough money for strategic splurges in other parts of the house. The kitchen has marble-topped benches – a luxurious addition in a low-budget house – and the bathroom is lined entirely in vivid green marble. Admittedly, Michael managed to secure most of these materials at bargain prices, but although they still cost more than more basic materials would have, these additions add a textural richness that makes the compact house feel warmer and more generous that it might have otherwise. 

Finbar and Seamus in the tub. The bathroom is entirely
lined in green marble, a splash of luxury in a low-budget home.
There are other areas where Michael wished the budget had stretched. The bedroom ceilings are lined in basic pine ply, which Michael feels lacks the elegance (and is a little less forgiving of his limitations as a builder) of the cedar that the couple purchased to line the ceilings of the living area. But these are small quibbles compared to the overall satisfaction their completed home now offers – not only the space and shelter it provides for the family, but the lasting relationships this collaborative project established with the neighbours who helped Michael and Melissa out so much.  

A view of the home's second deck that connects to the living area and hallway.
Q+A with Michael O’Sullivan
HOME Your house cost $152,000. What would it have cost if a client had to pay for a builder and your services as an architect?
Michael O'Sullivan It would easily be double that if you included builders’ and architects’ fees. It’s the labour costs that kill a project.

HOME If you were a client hiring an architect, what lessons would you take from your own project?
Michael O'Sullivan Engage a quantity surveyor at the outset. As architects, we are very respectful of our clients’ budgets, but quantity surveyors have skills that we weren’t taught at architecture school.

HOME You said that you’re not generally in favour of fixed-price building contracts. Care to tell us more about that? 
Michael O'Sullivan Fixed fees can be quite stifling. There’s no suspense or element of surprise, no room for excitement. The appropriateness of different materials becomes apparent as you build – quite often the built form gives clues as to what the interior finishes should be.