Revamp highlights striking landscape

Last updated 08:53 10/11/2012

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Chrstine and Trevor Dickinson had lived in 27 homes before settling down in Eastbourne's Muritai Rd, where they turned a five-bedroom family home into a one-bedroom, multi-award winner.

A year after they moved in, it has just won a New Zealand Institute of Architects Wellington Architecture Award in the housing category and earned silver for New Zealand's Best Spatial Design in the residential category of the Best Awards.

The property also is one of only 60 to be showcased in the newly published Big House, Small House: New Homes by New Zealand Architects by John Walsh and Patrick Reynolds (Random, $79.95).

"Client and architect have transformed a sound and functional 1920s five-bedroom house into a finely fashioned home for two, with a pool house, guest house and garage," said the NZIA judges of the Studio Pacific Architecture project.

"Set back and private from the road to the east, this house completely opens up to the drama of the sea to the west.

"An interest in art nouveau and craft has led to a decorative design strategy, and the success of this project lies in the architect's attention to detail and materials, and the craftsmanship and skill of the fabricators.

"The design rigour and expressive use of timber, zinc and brick give this project particular moments of joy."

Originally of an art-deco persuasion, it wasn't the house's 80s renovation that caught an English couple's eye while helping their daughter to settle in nearby.

Christine and Trevor Dickinson were struck by a location that was close to Wellington City yet had views of bushclad hills on one side, and expanses of beach and sea on the other.

"It had been a well-loved family home," Christine says, "but we wanted to live in a house where we could use all of it, not just a small part. We wanted a couple's home. We'd done the family thing."

They also wanted space to indulge their passions: bookshelves and a swimming pool for Christine and a "computer room" for Trevor's collection of 160 PCs (plus parts and power supplies) that date from when Bill Gates was all but a boy.

They bought the property in 2007, but were still living in London when they started to renovate it three years ago.

"So we needed someone to project manage it for us," Trevor says. "We were going to consult three firms, but after a meeting with Studio Pacific Architecture, we felt we didn't need to go anywhere else."

"The home was not designed to be a high-end contemporary building," says Simon Hardy, of Studio Pacific Architecture.

"Rather, it has been designed around the clients' day-to-day activities, resulting in a home that envelopes them in crafted spaces they can enjoy."

The renovation centred on a new core that re-ordered and rationalised the layout while new deep-revealed windows and fenestrations gave the home character and personality, Simon says.

"The views it captures offer another layer of detail and richness to the spaces, and these are continuously revealed as you move through the home."

While long and narrow, the 961-square-metre site was fantastic for light, which Simon maximised to play with materials, colours and textures.

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And because the original house was on the beach side of the site, there was room nearer the road to accommodate both a de-luxe guesthouse and a sublime sanctuary for Christine's 15-metre long, solar and heat-pump-heated lap pool.

She also was able to combine her love of reading with her lifelong dream to live in a lighthouse: bookshelves evolved into "book towers".

Meanwhile, Trevor, who used to be a geologist, wanted the house to be "in tune with the beach and the bush" and reflect the environment.

"We didn't want it to look like a log cabin, but we wanted native wood and natural materials."

Hence, the striking use of horizontal and vertical kwila, black granite in the kitchen, limestone in the fireplace hearth, American white oak and black maire joinery, and remnants of the original matai flooring.

The dining area, which opens to the seaward garden, is now the centrepiece of the house, with the carpeted living area on one side and the chef's kitchen on the other.

Having an open floor plan was critical to how the Dickinsons wanted to live after leaving their five- storeyed Regency townhouse.

"We could never find each other in our London home," Christine says. "We communicate more now than we ever did because no part of the house is ever shut off.

"The dining table we brought from England we'd eaten off only four times. Now, the dining area is part of the fabric of the house."

Sitting beneath a bandsaw-faced white oak ceiling, it opens to a wraparound deck and looks out to the harbour over the garden that the Dickinsons landscaped with native dune plants to make the transition from house to beach seamless.

The sea can be seen as soon as you enter the timber- panelled entry foyer with its slatted screens and black maire staircase - a feature of which is opulent wallpaper that reflects the warmth of the house's signature brass touches within the joinery detailing and entry door.

There's effective use of colour in Christine's library too, where the red in a window complements a neighbour's flowering pohutukawa tree.

Although there is only one bedroom upstairs, it's a suite of grand proportions, complete with wall-to-wall windows that perfectly frame the panoramic beach (they also can be admired from the shower or the bath in front of the bedroom fireplace).

Rarely does such beachfront indulgence come with so much architectural integrity.

"This house is exactly what we asked for," Trevor says. "We weren't worried about resale value.

"After 20-odd homes, we knew this would definitely be the last one."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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