By Weir Architecture and Lume Design, the concrete home is innovative on the inside, too.
There’s a secret set of stairs in this seaside home that leads right up to the roof. In a three- storey house conceived by Weir Architecture’s Robert Weir as a tower reminiscent of a lifeguard station, the pull-down steps concealed in the upper-floor ceiling transport its surfie inhabitants to the very top, so they can see what’s up with the waves.
For their second build in Waimairi Beach, the Christchurch suburb they’ve called home for 22 years, Jo and Blaise Chamberlain, owners of this house and decorative concrete business Concrete Masters, have used their favourite material to create a family dwelling that’s much more sculpture than beach shack.
Aside from its tower-like form (which not only offers a bird’s-eye outlook from the roof but also an incredible view from the Kaikōura Range to the Port Hills from the main bedroom), the key architectural features of this house built by Lanyon & Le Compte Construction are its use of concrete, steel and glass, the overall structure crafted from cocoon concrete panels and the tower in coloured concrete by Peter Fell.
“The beachside location gave us the perfect opportunity to use concrete everywhere,” says Jo. “Solid, minimalist and low-maintenance, with superior thermal qualities, it’s a product we love to work with. Robert was excited about using it, and his resulting tower idea was so cool and different from anything we’d seen before that we decided we simply had to make the bedrooms and bathrooms all fit within it somehow.” Meanwhile, the living areas are contained within their own footprint on the ground floor, cavity sliders allowing these spaces to be opened or closed off, providing opportunities to congregate and seek solitude.
Thanks to its hero material, this abode was built more quickly than the average one. “It was incredibly exciting to watch it go up,” says Jo. “Having two 120-tonne cranes on site to take the concrete panels off the truck and put them in place was a sight that drew all the neighbours. Usually, the first floor of a home is built and everyone has time to adjust to that before you see the second storey, but we arrived with an 8.5m-tall tower in one go!”
To ensure the inside of the home matched their vision as completely, the couple engaged the services of interior experts Melissa and Jeff Merrin of Lume Design. “I know what I like, I just don’t know how to put it all together — and they did that and then some,” says Jo. “The beauty of using Lume is they design the entire interior, and having the whole project in mind saves expensive mistakes. Throughout the build, they were on site working alongside our builder and sub-trades to ensure everyone understood their plans. Melissa also got us out of our comfort zone with a few decisions along the way — such as the timber-look tiles in the ensuite — and she was right. It’s not about taking risks outside the things you like, but sometimes you’ve got to make a couple of brave decisions — and then they end up being the things everyone likes the most.”
“Our brief was to ‘soften’ the hard edges of the concrete by introducing colour and texture in the form of soft furnishings, furniture and joinery finishes,” says Melissa, who with Jeff devised a calming colour palette that takes tips from the surrounding sand dunes. “Jo’s love of interior design meant we could be a bit more daring with some of our choices — for example, the different timber grains and hues, the pops of brass, and the use of primarily black light fittings against the white walls and ceilings, which was a way to draw attention to an often disguised component in interiors; we wanted to acknowledge their presence as part of the overall detailing.”
These thoughtful extras are drops in the ocean of a home totally tailored to the couple and their teens Taylor and Tiago’s lifestyle, allowing them to fully embrace the relaxed beach vibe. “The kids and their mates are walking through with sandy feet, we’re outside with the doors open and the sun streaming in, and we’ve also just got a new puppy, so all I’ll say is, thank god I’ve got a concrete floor!” says Jo. “This house isn’t precious at all, and that’s how we like to live. We didn’t build to impress anybody or include something because everyone else has it; this is the house of our dreams, and I think that’s the biggest success. We built this house for us — and that’s why we love it so much.”