A pair of striking architectural townhouses delivers the best of both worlds: the excitement of the inner city just beyond the gate, with all the peace and privacy found in sleepy suburbia.
When the opportunity arose to build right in the heart of the city, Chris and Christine Sweeney didn’t hesitate. And, with the design drawn up by their favourite architect, their decision to move to the city was an easy one. ‘Our only thought was, if not now, then maybe never’, shares Chris.
Having already worked with Chris Prebble, Principal Architect at Three Sixty Architecture, on three previous building projects, the Sweeneys were confident their new central-city abode would deliver all they desired. ‘We were very taken with its impressive street appeal, and inside it is so spacious, filled with light throughout the day, and the outdoor living on offer is just as we envisioned’, the couple share.
Seizing the unique opportunity to design a pair of buildings on adjoining sites – unrestrained by recession planes between them – Chris Prebble created these two quietly spectacular ‘pod-like’ forms. Linked together by a glazed bridge, each home harbours ‘wonderful lofted interior spaces’ that are open and light-filled.
Contracted to realise Chris's design was architectural building company ZBuilt. Specialising in high-end architectural and energy-efficient homes, Managing Director Joshua Smith says their wealth of experience in these specific areas has delivered a pair of inner-city townhouses that offer exceptional style and energy efficiencies.
Preparing the TC3 ground – which, Chris says, was ‘essentially a swamp’ due to its proximity to the Avon River – required careful planning. To create a stable foundation, 12-metre-deep screw piles were capped and attached to a Muscle Slab system, and to maximise the thermal performance of the heated floor extra underfloor insulation was added.
Working within the confines of a compact inner-city site provided its own special challenges. Due to the limited space, Joshua says the project required careful planning in terms of logistics and the management of the numerous subcontractors involved.
Overseeing the project, Joshua acted as the liaison between the various suppliers, subcontractors and designers, while keeping the clients abreast of any changes or decisions that needed to be made along the way.
The arresting forms are wrapped in black Colorsteel, with a longitudinal standing seam that gives the profile a sharp minimalist finish and dramatic shading effects, and this is married with band-sawn vertical shiplap cedar to provide a striking contrast between the natural and manmade materials.
Blending into the black roof, solar panels of the same colour have been specially designed by Air Con NZ. Due to the positioning of the neighbouring properties – meaning that one home receives only morning sun, the other only afternoon sun – Air Con NZ devised an ingenious practical solution to serve both.
A somewhat unusual, but highly effective approach was taken whereby each home could use the energy generated by the other. This specially designed Photo Voltaic Generation System enables the homeowners of both homes to work in tandem – saving on bills, and able to sell any unused energy back to the power board.
Inside the Sweeneys’ home, Fiona Renton from Sandalwood Design added her expert flair for colour and texture to complete the interior décor. From flooring and tiles, to kitchen materials, appliances and furniture choices, Fiona carefully considered each element to create a cohesive whole.
Setting the tone for simple, modern living in a warm colour palette, Dulux Oamaru paint was used on walls in the home’s main areas, and to complement this hue Dulux Half Haast was used on all the trims and doors. ‘Owing to the different architectural planes in the stairwell, and the way the light bounces off the different angles, a variety of shades are naturally created using just one paint colour’, Fiona explains.
Designed by the architect, and refined by Fiona to suit the couple's individual requirements, Gem Kitchens manufactured all joinery throughout the home. From the wall divider in the upstairs office, to the walk-in robes and bespoke bathroom vanities, to the kitchen and laundry, the fine craftsmanship of the team at Gem Kitchens brings an executive look to the interiors.
A harmonious combination of materials was used in the contemporary kitchen. Specified by Sandalwood Design, a chunky Appaloosa granite countertop takes centre stage with a sleek white Caesarstone benchtop running parallel to it.
These were teamed with glossy Dezignatek drawers and a mix of Prime and Bestwood melamine panels in white, while Tasman Elm veneer was used for the cabinetry and built-in shelving in the hidden pantry. And, for a touch of European luxury, quality fixtures from Blum feature on all doors and drawers, while twin Gaggenau ovens complete the look.
Executing all tiling throughout the home, including the fireplace surround, MO Tiles took particular pride in laying the mosaics in the master en suite. Laying mosaic tiles requires the utmost precision – especially ones with a stony texture like these – and the experienced tilers from MO Tiles achieved a flawless finish that forms a glittering backdrop to the contemporary bath and custom vanity.
The couple's favourite place to spend time is in their outdoor entertaining area. Completely secluded from their neighbours and sheltered on all sides, this is where they come to relax with friends, luxuriate in the spa, or take a refreshing dip in the pool.
Originally designed to be a water feature only, the couple decided that ‘for the sake of another 800mm’, it was worth turning it into a lap pool – a size, they say, is ideal for inner-city living. It also provided Chris with the perfect opportunity to try out new products and equipment sold by his company, Pioneer Pool & Building.
Always a logistical challenge when building on long, narrow inner-city sites like this, Chris says ZBuilt was instrumental in managing the delivery of materials and overseeing the positioning of the spa and palm trees that had to be craned in.
By designing the outdoor area with the pool as a ‘continuation of the landscaping’, Chris says he and Christine are particularly pleased with how it has all come together. ‘Even though it’s a very compact site, we have been able to comfortably accommodate everything we needed and wanted.’
Using a range of quality products from Pioneer Pool & Building, Chris says, together with his landscape designer friend, Chris Goom, they ‘pulled out all the stops’ to create the ultimate urban backyard retreat. Inspired by ancient building techniques and boasting greater energy absorption to prevent cracking, fibre-reinforced shotcrete was used to create the pool’s structure.
Finished with glass mosaic tiles and interior polished plaster Durazzo, the lap pool is flanked by a polished concrete slab on one side, and a natural wooden deck on the other, which features a top-of-the-range stainless steel spillover spa. Low-maintenance, cost-efficient and extremely resistant, this stainless steel model from renowned Austrian manufactuer Berndorf is second-to-none, Chris says.
Complete with coloured LED lighting, both the spa and the pool’s water feature come to life at night, bringing a heightened sense of drama to their beautifully landscaped outdoor area. ‘We love retreating to this secluded corner at the end of a long day to soak the stress away.’
Creating shelter from the elements, Louvre Solutions installed their own louvre system over the outdoor entertaining area. The Canterbury company engineers, manufactures and installs all their ranges, which can be customised to fit particular specifications.
In this instance, given the long span of the proposed louvre roof, Craig explains that a bespoke engineering solution was devised to ensure the structure was strong enough to withstand wind and snow. And a powder-coated aluminium finish was selected so the louvre would blend seamlessly with the home’s contemporary architectural design.
With a user-friendly remote, the motorised rotating blades are easily controlled to give just the right amount of shade and protection from wind and rain. And, with intelligent rain sensor technology, the couple's outdoor furniture is protected even when they're not at home.
Reflecting on the final result, the Sweeneys say their slick new home is living proof that, with clever design and skilled workmanship, inner-city dwellings deliver the best of both worlds: easy access to the vibrancy of the central city, while providing a sense of seclusion and space.
Words: Majka Kaiser Photography: Mick Stephenson