House of the week: Island Bay

Last updated 05:00 17/07/2013

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Canadian expat Jordan Alexander wanted a unique, light and large home, yet also one that fit into a seaside environment, so who better to commission for the design than a Kiwi architecture icon, Roger Walker.

Like all Roger Walker designs, the Esplanade home in Island Bay is very individual, packed with interest, angles, port holes, triangle and rectangular windows. The unexpected is around every corner, it's a home that excites and surprises at every vantage point, offering huge views over the bay, the island, while being just minutes from downtown Wellington.

The planning was a careful process, with consultation between the client and architect stretching out over 18 months. The site itself is open to the sea at the front, but protected from the wind and bathed in afternoon sun out the back: the result is a structure the client says has spaces for many moods.

"It's a simple design, with lots of nooks and crannies that give interest," says homeowner Alexander.

Architect Walker recalls that the build pushed council restrictions to the max, both in terms of footprint and height.

"Once we had determined the envelope with the council, we then designed within the rules, we've used nautical images, like the prow of a ship at the front, with the bridge connecting, and colours reflecting the sea and marine feel."

The owners wanted big, so of a 445 square metre site the build covers 363 square metres over three levels, with a fourth-level alfresco area.

The open-plan living  is on the mid level above the road and includes kitchen, dining and glass doors opening to decking. This level also includes bedrooms, a family bathroom, a library and a reading nook. In the kitchen you'll find a small and intimate dining spot for morning coffee, where daughters enjoy a snack while Alexander cooks.

The upper level includes the master bedroom with ensuite, plus a connection to the house's prow over a bridge, which Jordan Alexander uses as her office. Working in there is like being in another world, she says. The home is packed with the unique: the front doors meet to form a round of etched glass and at varying times of day, light is reflected to create a world map, at one time on the floor, at another time of day on the wall.

"Ever since I've been a kid I've loved maps," says Alexander. "It's more a welcoming concept, so no matter where in the world you've arrived from, you're welcome."

The basement level, stepping down from the entrance, is filled with light and warmth connecting to two separate outdoor areas.

"Underfloor heating makes the lower level toastie warm, it's just a delight to be there and with so many windows it's wonderfully light."

Architect Walker says it was a pleasure to work on a flat site when so much of Wellington is steep, and to work with a client who was keen to reflect the marine surrounds.

"Jordan wanted to capture the atmosphere of the location, the marine feel, so by using durable materials in an environment that can be hostile at times we've created something very robust."

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Native timber floors combine with carpeted bedroom floors, areas delineated by the lie of the timber flooring. The kitchen is appealing, easy to use and enhanced by glorious views over Island Bay from every work bench.

"I wanted a no fuss and frills kitchen, I'm that kind of gal and that's what stainless steel provides, I love the big sinks, the kitchen is a great place to cook, it's efficient."


Build cost: Just over $1 million

Architect: Roger Walker, Walker Architecture + Design Ltd

Size: 363 square metres

Materials: Concrete, steel glass, wood, aluminium joinery.

Energy efficiency: Underfloor heating (basement), gas flame fire, space heaters, double glazing, insulation, heating zoned and on thermostat.

Done Right: "The design, you couldn't capitalise more on the views. And the light, the design has a really interesting capture of light and there isn't one space that doesn't have natural light, even underground in the basement."

Done Wrong: "Not having underfloor heating everywhere. And I should have developed the back sooner, fully utilising the site from an outdoor perspective, as I'm doing now with the hot tub and sauna where you can and enjoy the full moon over the bay as it appears."

Unexpected: "The cost, oh my God, if I did it again I'd have a fixed contract. The costs just escalated, but at the moment you think 'lets do that', or, 'that would be good', it was all the add ons. Even the film over the windows to give that etched glass effect cost $15,000."

Next Time: "I'd leave the country until the project was finished. I'd have a fixed price tender and I'd not want to be as involved next time. But maybe there wont be a next time, where would I find another site like this?" 

- © Fairfax NZ News


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