At one with nature: a home designed to bring in the outdoors
When Emma and Anthony found their weatherboard home in Ashburton, it appeared to be sliding down a hill.
“The block is quite sloped and it was literally on its way down that hill,” Emma recalled.
The house had few redeemable qualities, and after living in it for a few years, the duo, from the United Kingdom, felt comfortable knocking it down.
And its replacement is far from an old weatherboard as you can get — a contemporary, light-filled, multi-level home for the couple and their two children, with thoughtful details and lashings of warm timber.
“It’s a very personal space where we can relax as a family and be ourselves,” Emma said. “It’s an unusual home that will not be to everyone’s cup of tea, but it is perfect for our family.”
The couple were careful when it came time to choosing an architect, as they had strong ideas about what plants they wanted to keep in the garden, including a large gum tree in the backyard.
“We wanted to make the tree a feature, and it is lovely now,” Emma said.
Architect Ric Zen, of Zen Architects, said he was taken with his clients’ cascading block of land, which had a nature reserve behind it that offered ample opportunity to connect the home to the outdoors.
“Our clients wanted an Australian home and to capture our unique Australian light and connection to land,” he said. “And they wanted to make it playful and fun.”
On the couple’s wish list were large well-placed windows, to enable them to enjoy views of the garden and reserve. And their wish was granted.
“The trees can be spotted from every room,” Emma said. “That was part of the plan. The idea is that you can always see the sky or a tree from every point.”
The architects also came through when it came to another design request. Emma and Anthony wanted a flexible floorplan that could be chopped and changed to suit both them and whoever might be visiting.
The solution was a study where the doors could be pulled back to extend the room into the living area, or shut to make the room a contained bedroom with an ensuite and pull-down bed.
The rumpus room has also been fitted out to allow any overnight guests to be comfortable.
“The idea is that if people stay late, they can crash there,” Emma said. “There are cupboards with bedding and the room is tucked away, so you don’t hear any noise.”
The customised elements didn’t stop with the layout and include a lot of built-in pieces, such as a dining banquette, various window seats and a platform-style day bed in one of the kids’ bedrooms.
In keeping with the overall plan of celebrating the Australian outdoors, the architects worked closely with a landscape architect, Aaron Troy from Peopl Landscape Architecture, to integrate the outdoor living areas, swimming pool and landscaping.
The garden, both front and back, is full of low-maintenance native plants.
“We didn’t want anything English,” Emma said. “We wanted something Australian and drought resistant.”
Emma nominated the built-in bookcases dotted around the house as her favourite feature of the house, along with the seat under the wrap-over window in the study.
“It’s a great place to sit, read and listen to music while watching the world go by on the street outside,” she said.
A keen cook, she also loves the kitchen. “I wanted the kitchen to be the focal point of family life, with a good-sized island bench and plenty of workspace.”
Now the family has been in the house for a while, she said she was enjoying details she didn’t expect.
“The house maximises the winter light and is really nice and warm in winter,” she said. “The way the light moves across the rooms, and the reflections, aren’t things I thought about but are wonderful. I particularly love it when the winter afternoon sun reflects off the swimming pool and on to the underside of the upper balconies and our daughter’s bedroom ceiling.”