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house at Hahei

From Habitat magazine - issue 01

Architect Michael Fisher describes a bach he has designed at Hahei in the Coromandel as a cantilevered pavilion set against the bush.

Sitting high on a hill overlooking Hahei beach, the house is surrounded by native bush. Its exact location on the property was predetermined by a small section and the position of a now-demolished A-frame home on the same site.

It was a tight site, says Michael. There was a neighbour hard on one side and it fell away steeply on the other. We used the footprint of the previous house, which was demolished to make way for the new structure.

Michael describes the plan as very simple almost a rectangular box, divided over two levels. It has four double bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge. The upstairs covers an area of 135 sqm while the downstairs spreads over a smaller 60 sqm.

His brief from the owners was to create a holiday home that flowed beautifully from indoors to outdoors, was maintenance-free, used cost-effective materials and, just as importantly, provided a high level of security. The design also needed to take advantage of the panoramic view out over Hahei beach and the islands beyond. The house had to accommodate large numbers of guests comfortably, but also function just as well for the couple and their family.

Outside diningThe outdoor dining area is effectively a covered outdoor room.

The security aspect was addressed by covering the openings into both the lounge and the outdoor dining area on the hill side of the house with large sliding Zincalume-clad panels over the glazing. When the owners are away, these are rolled into place, sealing off the home. The outdoor dining area is effectively a covered outdoor room, with a corrugated opaque screen along the neighbours side and a flat painted wall on the other.

Eucalyptus timber decking stretches the length of the house at the rear, facing into the bush. Corrugated Zincalume steel was chosen for the exterior and the roof because of its low cost as well as its easy maintenance.

One bathroom has been lined as a wet shower room and the other designed to contain a bath. Both feature rubber sheet flooring and rooflights that open up the rooms to the sky.

Outside decking They wanted a fresh, clean palette for the interior - a white-on-white look.

My clients were heavily involved in the look of the house, says Michael.

In keeping with the clean colour scheme, the plywood sheet floor overlay was finished with Resene Waterborne Colorwood in Rock Salt to create a blonded look. This was then sealed with a matt polyurethane finish.

The owners live in Singapore and have shipped much of the furniture from Ikeas store there, including the complete kitchen unit, which complements the interior. On a fine day, when all the sliding panels are open to the weather, the house is bathed in sunshine. The white colour scheme contributes to the summery feel, and the front of the house is a wall of glass to get maximum impact from the stunning view, says Michael.

kitchena and lounge

In winter, the house is easy to heat, using a wood-burning stove upstairs and underfloor heating downstairs.

Fisher Architecture often gets involved in the landscape planning of its projects, particularly in the case of holiday homes.

Its easier to landscape flat sites. With holiday houses on difficult sites, the landscaping can often let them down. Houses have an unfinished appearance until the landscaping is completed, says Michael. With the Hahei house, there was an existing garden at the front, which we've tidied up and planted with natives, so that eventually it will blend in with the rest of the bush surrounding the house. There is also a grassed area at the front where the children can play. The rear of the house is nudged by the bush and so didn't require any further work.

We're very pleased with the standard of workmanship on the building. We were lucky to be able to engage the services of a very good local tradesman. We've achieved a good look with low-cost materials; one that is complementary to the site, comfortable, and easy to live in and maintain.

Points to consider when briefing your architect on your holiday home:

Dining and outside deck
Lounge and Bathroom

Alternative solution

a style revolving around natural hues would draw on warm colours...

Megan Camp, interior designer for Bailey Architects, suggests this alternative look:

A style revolving around natural hues would draw on warm colours, natural materials and strong textures to enhance the connection to the surrounding environment. Deepening the wall colour to a grey-green would bring the outdoors inside. A built-in fireplace with integrated timber shelving could become a feature in the room, and offer storage and display space.

A warm floor stain might be repeated in the shelving and kitchen benchtop. A recycled timber bench-style table might be surrounded by Paco Capdell Xuxa chairs and positioned beside the bi-fold doors for indoor/outdoor dining. Drawing the sofa into the room and defining the seating area with a textured rug in a deep grey, flecked with sandy colours, would help clarify the kitchen, dining and living areas. The sofa, in a deeply woven pumice-coloured fabric, with scatter cushions in sea blues and fern greens, would reinforce a relationship with the native bush and the sea.

Alternative solution Megan Camp

Alternative solution

a modern retro style in this room – kind of Karen Walker meets Alison Durban...

John Mills, of John Mills Architects, suggests this alternative look:

A modern retro style in this room – kind of Karen Walker meets Alison Durban – could start with a high-gloss charcoal stain on the floor. The feature wall might be painted Resene Karen Walker Weathered Blue, while the other walls and ceiling would be painted Froth Green from the same range. Eight recessed ceiling lights above the blue wall would provide subtle downlighting, accompanied by free-standing lamps.

The kitchen benchtop might be extended in an L-shape well into the room. Made from plastic or fibreglass, it could be underlit to create a translucent appearance. With a pedestal base and seating on both sides, it would replace the dining room table. Suspended cabinetry would screen the kitchen from the stairway.

A contemporary sofa and chairs could be used both indoors and out, and there might be a fireplace outside for alfresco entertaining. Heavy, thick drapes in a 1970s design might be complemented by a 3.5m square floor rug in a rich red or orange shag pile to complete the look.

John Mills alternative

Alternative solution

a contemporary, relaxed design would draw on natural materials...

Milvia Hannah, designer for International Interiors, suggests this alternative look:

A contemporary, relaxed design would draw on natural materials and textures to create a sense of dimension and warmth.

Complementing the architecture, a built-in fireplace with simple, solid lines and a wide, flat chimney could be integrated with low, long cabinetry in a light timber veneer, extending to either side. This feature would give a different form to the space, accentuated by painting the surrounding wall a warm, muddy cinnamon colour.

Adding to the contemporary look, two long glass skylight panels above the living area might add light and height.

On the benchtop, honed stone in a light colour with speckles would contribute texture to the workspace. Emphasising simple lines, the dining and coffee tables could be glass-topped with aluminium legs. An upholstered chair and matching ottoman, and a long sofa with sumptuous cushions, set on a large plush flokati rug, would create a luxurious space for relaxing.

Milvia Hannah alternative


words: Sue Reidy

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