Clever spaces characterise this home by Built Chch, Urban Function Architecture & The Home Maker

During their first renovation, of a small unit in central Ōtautahi/Christchurch in their early twenties, Hat Hall and Karl Saunders painted a wall in their kitchen an eye-watering red. While the owners of architectural building co Built Chch’s current home was being constructed, they bided their time in an in-need-of-an-update dwelling with patterned brown carpet (not to mention screaming pipes, flickering lights, lethal stairs and doors opening straight onto the roof). Not before time, the interior aesthetic they now find themselves living with is decidedly more appealing.

ABOVE The couple’s children (from left) Scarlett (6), Sam (8) and Ollie (8). Durable Abodo cladding in the Sioo:x finish brings a beach-house vibe to the home, which is future-proofed for solar. Its gabled form is a simple one, but an abundance of interest is layered throughout, beginning with the position of the entryway. “The fact the brick entrance wall is joined to the neighbours’ actually worked in our favour,” says Karl. “It meant we could have our hallway to the side, so it didn’t cut into our space for the kids’ rooms.”

The couple began this project as they do all their company’s design-and-builds: with graphic designer Hat compiling a moodboard of images and sourcing the products and people she wanted to work with, then checking with builder Karl to find out if it was all doable. “I pass the finer details to Hat and she leaves the more structural decisions to me,” says Karl. “I had to rein in Hat’s ideas a few times because of budget! But not a massive amount.”

TOP Walls in Dulux Cardrona are joined by Marble Sand lime plaster. Stefan Warnaar of Earth Studio did all the plaster work after Hat saw a restaurant she loved with plaster walls and stalked the man behind them on Instagram. “It was amazing to watch his process — it’s a real craft,” she says. “The walls are super textural and you just want to touch them. Unfortunately, most kids do too and run their sticky hands down our long hallway, so thankfully they’re easy to clean.” ABOVE The raw texture of the Malta basin by Concrete Nation became the hero of the powder room. Abbie designed a timber base for it to sit on, which Podocarp Cabinetry crafted. The Appiani Seta Ghaccio mosaic tiles are from Artedomus, and the Vexi mirror, Elysian Minimal tapware (used in all four bathrooms) and Otto hook are by ABI Interiors.

With Built’s dream team of architectural designer Aaron Jones of Urban Function Architecture and interior designer Abbie Herniman of The Home Maker on board, the pair was all set to tackle their first-ever new build for themselves — after exercising some patience. In a lengthy process, powerlines draped across the front of the long, narrow Sumner section had to be buried before construction could start, and an adjoining dwelling initially proved a headache for Aaron, who Karl says had to do some fancy footwork on the original plan to keep the home’s site coverage down below “the magic 40%” necessary to avoid requiring the neighbours’ sign-off.

TOP How well does a mezzanine work with a young family? “I think it could drive some people nuts, but we’re pretty unflappable characters,” says Hat. “I laugh at the kids’ teachers who say, ‘Use your quiet inside voice’ because that doesn’t exist in our world. It can be full noise here with concrete floors and large open spaces, but being such a long house, with the kids’ bedrooms at the front, the living at the back and the hidden room upstairs, it’s easy to separate yourself — and if you stay really still, it can take the kids a long time to hunt you down!” ABOVE Aged ash Melteca cabinetry warms up the kitchen in cahoots with the soft golden veining of the benchtops in Abu Dhabi White Neolith from CDK Stone and the brushed brass Elysian mixer and Seba sink from ABI Interiors. “As soon as I spied the Neolith with the flashes of goldy brown through it, I couldn’t look at anything else,” enthuses Hat. The curved motif seen throughout the home continues with the oversized island, which has fluted timber mouldings by Genia for extra texture and to match the living area’s TV unit and the mezzanine balustrade.

Crises averted and family home finally realised, the two-storey structure sees the street side of both floors dedicated to sleeping in the three bedrooms downstairs plus guest room upstairs, while the rear is reserved for living. “We love the simplicity of the gable form at the front, with the unassuming garage,” says Hat. “You don’t get much of an idea from the street what’s hidden behind it, although the view through the glass front door down to the back of the section hints at it. It’s very entertaining to see people walking past have a wee peek inside, then realise you’re standing in the hallway watching them right back — it’s voyeurism at its best.”

TOP The 6m ceilings have a significant impact in the open-plan living space, where lighting is used for cosiness at night, including Pear pendants by Corcovado (seen in the main image at the top of the page), Coral wall lights by Søktas over the daybed and a Brass 95/96 pendant by Gervasoni from ECC above the dining table (both seen in the dining room shot above), and sconces by We Ponder in the kitchen. OPPOSITE The kitchen was informed by the brass-wrapped rangehood. “Designing a full wall of cabinetry off to the side of the island to house the pantry, the fridge, a coffee/tea/breakfast prep area and a bar area for a family who love to entertain meant we didn’t need upper cabinets in the rest of the space and could create a dramatic moment on the back wall,” says Abbie, who set the rangehood against Skinny Bejmat tiles by Tiles of Ezra.

If passers-by were able to get a good gander inside, they’d see spaces that capitalise on the double-height void created by the roofline to produce a serene airiness. Enlisted to collaborate with Hat and Karl to give them a fresh perspective on their plans, Abbie championed a deliberately limited but highly textural palette of materials within the rooms to retain interest: rendered plaster walls, handmade terracotta tiles, concrete flooring and sinks, ceramic sconces and so on.
“The long, linear house was designed to best fit the section, so my direction was to soften the hard lines of the architecture and bring movement and texture into the design,” says Abbie. “I create interiors that are focused on evoking a feeling, and here we wanted to create a relaxed environment, so we used lots of handmade materials — nothing too perfect, which helps give a new build soul.”

ABOVE Abbie says Hat has beautiful style and a refined eye for design. She already had wonderful pieces that complemented the natural materials and muted palette of the home, so special additions such as the Hume coffee table and side table by David Shaw were able to blend in seamlessly. Under the Abbas rug by Corcovado, the concrete floor by Peter Fell is ultra-forgiving. “We wanted this to be a ‘The more the merrier’ and ‘Don’t knock, just wander in’ kind of house,” says Hat. With that in mind, the floor ensures sandy feet and spilt drinks aren’t a problem.

Abbie’s vision also ushered in curves — “nine in total, as one of Karl’s builders pointed out,” says Hat. “They might have been a bit of extra work for the guys, some of whom weren’t quite so excited by them, but they’ve added a sense of softness and look so good with the plaster.”
It’s all in a colour palette far removed from the aforementioned lurid red and dire brown, one Hat describes as autumnal: olive, beige, terracotta, creamy whites. “When I was a kid, my mum spent hours limewashing our old stone house a terracotta colour and painting the windowsills green, so for me it evokes a sense of nostalgia.”

TOP Cleverly placed windows in the upstairs guest bedroom capture the treetops and hills beyond for a peaceful ambience. The portal to the secret kids’ zone can be seen on the right. “There’s also access from pull-down stairs in the garage, so I imagine we’ll have all sorts of sneaky entries and exits in years to come,” says Hat. ABOVE Space was tight in the main bathroom, so the design pushed into the backs of the children’s wardrobes to gain room for a custom-made vanity and shower. The Hugi bath is from Sone Baths.

Abbie really came into her own in the kitchen, enthuses Hat. “Initially, we didn’t have the curved mezzanine area above it and when she pitched this game changer, as she called it, Karl and I both fell in love with the idea. We crossed our fingers and toes that Aaron was going to be on board, and luckily for us he was, as it couldn’t have worked out better.”
“I was so thankful that Aaron was open and excited about the evolution of the design, and that he made it happen,” says Abbie. “That architectural change really inspired the rest. Curves all day every day!”
As well as a guest suite, office nook and second living space, the mezzanine level leads onto another highlight: a secret kids’ hang-out in the roof cavity. Accessed through a child-sized door in the guest bedroom and pull-down stairs in the garage, it’s the result of an idea Karl pitched to put function and fun into a disused space. “We had to ditch a skylight in the downstairs loo, but the appeal of a hidden room was too good to pass up,” he says. “It’s 18m2! You shut the door and can’t tell there’s a heap of noisy kids in there.”

TOP Illuminating the curved wall behind the couple’s bed are Code pendants by Nightworks that also help to free up the bedside African tables from Corcovado for other things. ABOVE Nothing’s too fussy in their ensuite and the tones are muted. The wall curves around into the shower and a high window gives glimpses of garden and sky. On a vanity custom-made by Ryan’s Kitchens & Joinery is a Terra basin by Concrete Nation.

Similarly maximising the available space, storage was prioritised at this address. Because of the intricacies of the project, it was three years before the family were able to move in, during which time they never fully unpacked. “I feel like we lived amongst clutter for years, and that was on our minds during the planning,” says Karl. “We have built-ins everywhere, there’s heaps of storage under the front deck, the loft above the garage is storage, and the garage itself has surfboard, bike, ski and skate racks for the ridiculous amount of sports paraphernalia that can be accumulated by a family of five.”
“We’re not naturally super-tidy people, so it’s been amazing to be able to throw things at endless cupboards and pretend we’re put together,” says Hat. “When people walk in, they say this house has a calm, spa-like feel. That’s good, because when you inject our family into it, with wrestling kids, competing devices with the sound up too loud, the fridge beeping because someone’s left it ajar and Chief Te Puke the dog manically chewing on things, it’s like the calm to our storm.”

Words Philippa Prentice
Photography Anna McLeod
Styling Abbie Herniman

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