Dream house: Taranaki cliffhanger

Last updated 11:36 03/10/2012
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The rangehood was custom-made from an old surfboard.

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The relaxed design of this home perched on the cliffs above the south Taranaki coast makes its owners feel like they're always on holiday.

Owner Dot Antunovic says they wanted to feel like they were living in a holiday home and commuting to work rather than having to commute to a holiday house.

That was just one of the challenges for architect Murali Bhaskar, who also had to create a home where every room have a mountain and sea view.

What he has delivered is a 40-plus metre long black stretch of Onduline, with four bedrooms, a study, big living areas, bathrooms and a magnificent, unexpected and challenging arrival point.

"We thought our teenagers would leave home, but they haven't," Antonuvic says. "With four bedrooms and a study we thought we'd have enough, but by putting a container bedroom near the house we've made that extra bedroom."

Initial plans did have that fifth bedroom, along with a laundry and an extra bathroom. Discovering this would bring costs $200,000 over budget meant they were cut from the design.

Even then, the Antunovics took the painting element out of the contract with thoughts they'd find a cheaper alternative. But construction moved on far more rapidly than envisaged and the builder was ready for painted materials before the family had considered their options.

With no-one organised, Antonuvic picked up the paintbrush herself. There were more than 50 full-sized plywood sheets, each to have numerous coats of paint, so she turned the job into a competition and challenged the family to see who could paint a sheet the fastest.

Upskilled and confident, she then turned her hand to painting the entire house, saving $40,000 budgeted for the job.

The dramatic entranceway caused the most debate, as the architect wanted a concrete cut-out but the owners were unsure.

"I turned up one day and it was up," Antonuvic says. "We knew we could trust Murali and he knew we were never going to make a decision so he just did it. I love the solid concrete panels at one end which create a kind of façade thing and you can't see the roof at all, it's not visible from any angle. "

The entrance leads to an internal tilted wall of raw concrete. The Antunovics philosophy is to leave materials in their natural state unless there is a reason to paint.

"The concrete gives a neutral background for the artwork and our lovely views and the timber ceilings give a warmth," Antonuvic says.

The architect's team designed the ply cabinetry, stainless steel benchtops and laquered blonded slatted wood mobile pantry unit. A grey tint to the windows protects fabrics from fading by the sun.

Fluorescent lighting, solar water heating, double glazing and the wood fire, assisted by the passive gain from solar heated black oxide concrete satisfies client ambitions for energy efficiency.

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The house has been designed to allow flexibility - the Antonuvics can open it on one side or the other, depending on where the wind is coming from. 

"On a good day we are able to open it up on both sides and feel like we're outside," Antonuvic says. 

She is pleased they spent extra money on architectural details, such as the 12 metre 'floating' onduline facade wall that spans across the courtyard deck. "We could have supported the wall from the ground with a line of  posts  but spent the extra to have it 'unsupported' using a steel structure. The effect continues to inspire me."

She says concrete slabs and timber construction, such as the plywood ceilings and joinery, makes the house very low-maintenance.

"Five years on the kids haven't left home so we've just completed another bathroom, downstairs with a bath you can soak in looking out over our amazing views."


BUILD COST: Under $1 million.

ARCHITECT: Murali Bhaskar of Boon Goldsmith Bhaskar Brebner.

BUILD SIZE: 320 square metres.

MATERIALS: A combination of pre-cast concrete and steel, block wall and timber construction.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Fluorescent lighting, solar water heating, double glazing, solid fuel heating, passive solar from solar heated black oxide concrete. The house is also north-west facing.

DONE RIGHT: Gets sun and light all day, layout - a parents' end and children's end with guests downstairs and living areas in the middle section, passive solar, laidback relaxed design makes it feel like we are on holiday.

DONE WRONG: We skimped on bathrooms and ended up adding one on downstairs. We'd also use a little less glass on the southeast side to make the house more cosy in winter (though it does mean we have amazing views). We also should have studied the way surface water flowed and put in more drainage around the perimeter of house. Lastly, we would choose solid timber doors and plywood for drawer inners rather than anything made out of MDF or whatever that shiny white cardboard stuff is they use these days.

UNEXPECTED BONUS: How relaxed the house has made us feel.

RECOMMEND: Our new bath "house" (or bath lounge as the builders called it) that we added later on. It's a separate room but next door to the downstairs bedroom so it acts as ensuite as well as a well used room for everyone to have a luxury bath or shower with doors that open right up to the beautiful sea and garden views. It has a timber floor and slatted timber ceiling with LED lights that shine like stars and moonlight.


NEXT TIME: There will be no next time - I don't plan to leave this place until I'm forcibly removed - but when that happens the plan is to create an inner city commune with our friends . 

- © Fairfax NZ News


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