When the concrete tilt slab walls of this home on the waterfront at Redcliffs were first erected, alarmed neighbours contacted Christchurch City Council to ask if a climbing wall was suited to a residential waterfront site.
Without the rest of the external walls - they were added later - it was easy to mistake the double height concrete slabs for a utilitarian activity centre.
Last year the home won the Silver Award, Canterbury Region, for Builder's Own Home in the Registered Master Builders 2012 House of the Year, proving neighbours' initial fears were totally unfounded.
The owners had lived in the original old wooden bungalow on the main-road site for several years before deciding to build a home better designed to take advantage of the waterfront views.
The house is firmly positioned to face the road and the sea beyond. However, slim horizontal and vertical windows on the rear and side walls offer unexpected vistas to the hills behind.
Auckland architect Graham Crust did have an advantage in interpreting the clients' brief - as brother-in- law, Crust stayed in the original house during numerous visits south. He had an excellent understanding of the site, the sun, and the owners' lifestyle and design preferences. Building company Corbel Construction also had a family connection - the homeowner is a partner in the company.
The home is a haven for its water-loving residents: a couple, their three children and a dog.
Owner Jane Madison-Jones is delighted with the living environment. "It's perfect for us. We are surfers and sailors, constantly bringing in sand. It works really well for all the usual chaos of our family and our ancient, moulting dog."
A solid plastered wall on the front footpath boundary belies the fact that the building platform has been elevated almost a metre above street level. The wall provides shelter and privacy for the pool and lawn, accessible via huge glass sliding doors from the living rooms on the ground level.
Over-height ceilings, doors and cabinets, and a glass frontage, increase the spacious feeling in the open-plan interior. Recessed internal sliders can be used to divide living areas, but when drawn back into wall cavities, there is a sense that the entire home is open to the pool, garden, road and estuary beyond. When the doors and windows are closed, it is very peaceful.
The road in front of the house is busy - it is the main thoroughfare to Sumner - but Madison-Jones says the constant traffic is not a problem. She and husband Craig were unwilling to trade the views for a more closeted house design. "It's a toss-up: block the view or block the noise. We feel as though we are part of all the activity."
Tropical plantings mirror the palms across the road on the water's edge and, in time, as the palms and lush under plants grow, their landscaping will frame the seafront view.
A big front door and two- storey foyer cavity create an impressive entrance. Above the entry foyer, the hallway on the upper level is a glass-sided bridge leading from the bedrooms to a lounge/media room. Glass sliders open to a glass-fronted balcony. It is as though the hall morphs into the living area.
An over-height recessed slider is hidden but can be pulled across to close the room off. The space doubles as a guest room and third living area. The upper level balcony provides an excellent viewing platform for activity at the yacht club and on the water.
Polished concrete contrasts with blue-stone-tiled feature walls and oak flooring. Walls that are not concrete or stone are a uniform white, as is the kitchen joinery and bench top.
Local designer John Gaynor was hired to design the kitchen and bathrooms. A scullery with superb views is located in the passage that leads from the kitchen to the utility rooms at the back of the house.
The garage has double doors at both ends and at the back opens to a paved courtyard with an outdoor shower - ideal for sluicing down boards, boats and bodies after sessions on the water.
Large cedar shutters on the exterior can be drawn at night to provide privacy. During the day they offer respite from the sun.
Construction was completed just eight weeks before the February 2011 quake and the house sustained little damage.
Madison-Jones says: "When building you can't have everything; you have to make choices. But I will be happy to live here forever."
- The Press