Just two months after moving in, this Clifton Hill family are already delighting in their newly built home, thanks to Steve Brown Builders and team.
Words Kathy Catton Photography Mick Stephenson
Elevated high in the hills of Clifton Hill, your eye is immediately drawn to this striking and impressive home. But what people don’t see is the beautiful story of homecoming that came with the building of this four-bedroom residence. Owners Tracey and Simeon Lucas have a long-lasting relationship with this piece of land, as it was the site of Simeon’s childhood home. At that time, the house was a single storey, breezeblock, 1950s home with its garden towering above the house. Fast forward 30 years and the original home was deemed a rebuild as a result of the earthquakes. After a long and drawn out insurance process, the time eventually came to demolish and start again – on the same footprint, but now with the opportunity to maximise the potential of the site.
Armed with their ideas, Tracey and Simeon were sure about their decision to build with Steve Brown Builders. “Steve had worked with us before, and so we knew the quality of his work and his team,” says Tracey. “Along with Stephen Fitzgerald, our architectural designer, they are both local to our neighbourhood, and it’s always nice to support locals,” smiles Tracey.
What was essential to the Lucases in their brief to Stephen Fitzgerald was the need to use the outdoor space, which had previously been almost inaccessible due to its positioning high above the old house. “We also wanted to maximise the views and make our home comfortable for our growing adolescent children, who would prefer more of a self-contained space to inhabit and socialise in,” says Tracey.
Building on the hill was always going to present problems for some, but Steve Brown Builders loved the challenge and had the years of experience to stand them in good stead. “Hill builders are a special breed,” states Steve. “Over the last 30 years, I’ve come across many challenges, so I’m aware of these before they become issues. I have seen many builders over the years, and particularly through the earthquake reinstatement years, ‘lose their shirt’ following a hill build.”
So, what was important to Tracey and Simeon was choosing a builder that had experience and flexibility to come up with cost-effective solutions for these hill site challenges, combined with excellent communication skills when working with the architectural team and owner. Steve Brown Builders have all of these, with a solid reputation and great relationships with suppliers and subcontractors.
The design solutions that the Stephen Fitzgerald Architecture team drew up were instantly appealing to the Lucases. These included a large double garage and basement with entry from street level and internal access to the upper levels. The top storey was designed with an expansive deck connecting the living areas to the land and garden at the rear of the section, capitalising on the fantastic sea views over Sumner beach and Scarborough cliffs. As the design team at Stephen Fitzgerald Architecture are affiliated with the NZ Green Building Council and are accredited Homestar Practitioners, energy-efficient principles were applied in the design. The home is oriented for passive solar heat gain with use of eaves to block unwanted summer overheating. Specifications included above-code insulation throughout the house and thermally broken aluminium window and door joinery.'
“We love the dark charcoal and exposed concrete blocks of the garage walls,” says Tracey. “And the vertical Linea Oblique Weatherboard gives it a great contemporary feel.” Blending beautifully with the natural environment, each element is visually connected, and of course, the materials are economical and enduring.
Stephen Fitzgerald was delighted with the challenge of the steepness of the site and the orientation of the land sloping away from the sun. “The original residence had the living on the lower floor, reversing this provided a greater connection to the land and the views. As the house is exposed to extreme wind uplift, we worked with structural consultants to develop refined structural resolutions that enabled the building to retain floating roofs and expansive glazed views,” says Stephen. The result is the sense that this building is just lightly touching the land.
Moving inside to the upper floors, you are instantly drawn to the kitchen that is nestled in the heart of the home. Palazzo Kitchens did a fantastic job to provide ideas, solutions and options that really worked. “It was great having a fresh pair of eyes to work with at Palazzo,” states Tracey. “It was pretty exciting seeing the 3D modelling of the kitchen design and the attention to detail is just fantastic.” The placement of the internal shelves, the handle-less drawers, the clean, modern finish and the soft-close doors are all features that Tracey and Simeon are delighted with. “I love the butler’s pantry, which also houses my laundry. I can stack the washing out of sight and still maintain the tranquillity of this kitchen,” grins Tracey.
Tracey and Simeon brought their Clifton Hill house plans to Palazzo and using 3D software, the team was able to design the space and see the look of the finishes before installation started. “We wanted to ensure that the materials selected for their kitchen, scullery and laundry were streamlined and complementary to each other,” states Amanda Kingston, Palazzo kitchen designer. “Tracey and Simeon chose the beautiful finish of a lacquered Touch alpine white for the cabinetry and combined it with a fully-integrated handle style. Primestone Risotto Pebble was the benchtop choice, finished with Riva concrete for a stunning contrast.
Palazzo worked alongside the builders from the onset to ensure the layout of internal walls and services accommodated the proposed designs. Not only did Palazzo create a kitchen design that is nestled in the heart of the home, with its large centre island to congregate around, it also incorporated a walk-in scullery and functional laundry.
Palazzo’s Nobilia Certified installation team carried out the installation. This seamless process ensured that Palazzo was involved from the design concept stage right through to installation and completion. The team take their customer service seriously, and by taking responsibility every step of the way, they can consistently produce quality kitchens that inspire and delight.
An eye-catching feature in the kitchen is the tiles supplied by Brymac Tiles. With a wave-like appearance and texture, these large format, textured tiles capture the seaside feel of this residence and serve to soften the contemporary lines of the kitchen. These tiles are also repeated in the pantry –this time white instead of grey – and make for outstanding splashbacks. “They are neutral enough to pair with various colours, but also they have a longevity about them and a classic look,” says Tracey. Brymac Tiles also helped Tracey choose tiles for the bathroom and ensuite walls. The Piemme Geostone Bianco Natural finish tiles are a modern porcelain take on the marble look, with significant variations within the tile giving a natural stone appearance without the installation and maintenance worries of natural stone.
Tracey and Simeon were clear that they wanted timber as the main flooring product, so The Flooring Centre worked to ensure all products flowed from there. “The Flooring Centre had the stair-nosings designed and custom made for Tracey and Simeon using Forte Blond oak, and this product continues throughout the upper-level living space,” says Lisa Elliot from The Flooring Centre. “Natural fibres were always the main choice for Tracey, so we favoured a loop textured Cavalier Bremworth Levante glazed grey wool carpet for the lounge, office and four bedrooms.” The bathrooms are completed with Polyflor Simplay vinyl tiles, emulating the look of dark grey concrete. “It was great to work with Tracey on this project. We pride ourselves on having the product knowledge to find the perfect fit for the home and ensure that the best products are installed for the purpose.”
It’s often the installation skill and workmanship required to install products that is underappreciated or undervalued. But in this case, the contractors were really put to the test, with the custom stair treads being a great example. And all of the contractors on this project delivered on the challenge.
None more so than Canterbury Balustrade, the company tasked with supplying and installing the frameless glass balustrades, ensuring that they integrated with the aesthetics of the house design. “We used high strength laminated toughened glass to achieve the required strength to meet the requirements of the building code,” states Hamish Gillespie, of Canterbury Balustrade. “We are particularly proud of the full-length glass that we used on the stair void, which forms full protection for the stairs as well as the flat landing area providing a seamless aesthetic.” The frameless glass balustrades on the sliding doors take nothing away from the spectacular views beyond.
Monarch Aluminium may have had the toughest job of all when installing the Metro series suite of thermally broken windows to the property. The matte black framing and windows had to meet the very high wind and spray zone requirements, which standard products would not have met. But carrying around such substantial framing on a hill site was difficult. “We only had one small path in to access the property,” states Wayne of Monarch Aluminium. “Some windows and doors were too big to carry, so we assembled and glazed them on site.” But the results speak for themselves, with multiple glass areas framing the stunning views in all directions.
Supporting the project every step of the way was Placemakers, who provided many of the building supplies as well as the exterior cladding. Steve Brown Builders have a long-standing relationship with Shane Harmon at Placemakers and always find them easy to deal with and cost-effective on their pricing. It’s a seamless partnership. With no significant challenges in the construction of this build, the Lucases can be very proud of what they have achieved.
It’s a home that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. With the wealth of views, even from the deck that is sheltered from the prevailing northeast winds, there are ‘look through’ aspects throughout the property. And of course, the house now embodies energy-efficient design principles that exceed the building code. But giving this home its identity and uniqueness, and making this loved family home something special, is its continued connection to the land.
Involved in this project
Steve Brown Builders Ltd
03 384 4699
Stephen Fitzgerald Architecture
021 379 645
03 366 8187
The Flooring Centre
0800 422 773
03 365 0751
Canterbury Balustrade Ltd
03 366 5511
Monarch Aluminium Ltd
03 384 9477
0274 329 270