House of the week: Ngunguru

20:15, Dec 18 2012
Ngunguru House 1
Wellington-based architect Hugh Tennent describes the eye-catching Whangarei home as "a collection of single-storey rooms along a central path with outdoor spaces between".
Ngunguru House 2
Orthopedist Margy loves to take time out from her hectic schedule to enjoy moments with her family in one of the house's cosy, light-filled corners.
Ngunguru House 5
The second storey has latticed sides, which not only provide shade but also cast always-changing dappled patterns inside the house, creating the whimsical sense of being under a tree canopy.
Ngunguru 4
The family home's most dazzling feature is its view over the turquoise Tutukaka Harbour.
Ngunguru 6
Owner Peter enjoys time with his two young boys as the sun casts geometric shapes on the house's gorgeous polished concrete floors.
Ngunguru 3
The brief was to create a family home that worked with, and not against, the beautiful native bush surroundings. Owners Margy and Peter say the build delivered in every respect.
Ngunguru House 7
There’s an outdoor room, and while it's only 260 square metres, Peter says it feels like 400 square metres of space because of the clever design.
Ngunguru House 8
The whole house is completely open plan, except for the boys' bedrooms and the guest bedroom.
Ngunguru House 9
The family house has plenty of outdoor living, as well as a swimming pool, which is handy in blue-sky happy Whangarei.

This appealing family home immersed in the bush overlooking the Tutukaka Harbour in Northland has been a shared project in every way.

From selecting the land, design, project managing the build and now living there, Margy Pohl and Peter Jackson have made it a joint experience, creating a space where they often have guests to stay.

It's been a carefully planned development. The pair looked at architects' work over a period, selected three and made an approach. One was ruled out almost immediately when it became clear he wanted greater control.

Ngunguru House Standard Image
MASTER MEZZANINE: Stairs lead to the main bedroom and en suite, and natural light highlights an artistic, coloured resin wall.

"We were down to Allan Morse and Hugh Tennent, and how lovely it would have been to use both and build two houses," Jackson says of choosing between the two Wellington-based architects.

The couple liked Tennent's initial ideas, but when he produced a second, very different design after travelling overseas, they liked that even more.

The brief was to design a reasonably-sized family home to be part of the bush. Tennent says the beautiful narrow coastal views between existing trees generated an idea of the house as a bush camp - a collection of single-storey rooms along a central path with outdoor spaces between.


"The main path through the collection of 'huts' terminates in a pool," he explains. "Over sailing this central hall space is a draped second storey with latticed sides for shading and to unify the collection of forms. The lattice work casts dappled patterns throughout the day to capture a feeling of being under a tree canopy, and is artificially lit from without to cast the same shadows at night."

The design takes advantage of the warm northern climate with the exterior spaces between the buildings providing a variety of spots from which to catch the sun and retreat from the sea breezes. Passive solar, sustainably-sourced materials, thermal mass, on-site wastewater disposal and water collection tanks are part of the sustainable design principles used.

The family can vouch for Tennent's design, which maximises the semi-tropical climate and views.

"The whole house is open plan apart from the two boys' bedrooms and guest bedroom. Even our master bedroom on the mezzanine is open," Jackson says.

"There's an outdoor room, and while it's 260 square metres it feels more like 400 square metres of space because it's so well designed. Hugh has been very clever with his use of space. It swallows people. We regularly have 40 or 50 and you just aren't aware there are so many here. Even when the doors are closed you don't feel constrained because there's communal space."


Build cost: $728,000 ($2,800 per square metre)

Size: 260 square metres

Materials: Polished concrete floors, upper level French oak flooring, steel, all internal cabinetry constructed from sustainably grown hoop pine plywood. Lawson's cyprus, and macrocarpa also used.

Architect: Hugh Tennent, Tennent + Brown Architects Ltd, Wellington.

Energy efficiency: Double glazing, over specified insulation of batts, air to water heat pumps, concrete slab insulated to the sides as well as underneath reflecting building "best practice". Water is harvested via the roof and stored underground in two 22,000L tanks, which vehicles park over, keeping the water cooler in summer and ugly tanks out of sight. Hot water heating via a dedicated hot water heat pump, regarded by many as more efficient than solar as its efficiency runs 24/7.

Done right: Everything.

Done wrong: I have thought hard about what was done wrong, and the only thing of any importance would be that I would have chosen solar heating for the pool, as opposed to a heat pump. This is only possible in hindsight as I had no idea of the macro-climate of the pool location.

Unexpected: Moonlight shadowing through the upper screens at night! Reflected patterns off the pool on to the master bedroom ceiling during a full moon!

Recommended: Use an architect and give them free rein. Be brave! Find the best local builder who wants to build something different. I could not have done this without Richard Hilton-Jones, of RHJ Builders.

Next time: Perhaps a ground source heat pump for heating, and an off-the-grid solar power source, if justifiable!