A window into CAAHT Studio Architects’ house on Takapuna Beach

In association with First Windows & Doors.

It’s not often that sites become available on the sought-after Takapuna beachfront on Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland’s North Shore, so when Anna Tong of CAAHT Studio Architects was called on to design a home here, she didn’t take the opportunity lightly. There are several roles a new dwelling can play on the main stretch of this popular beach, which meant privacy was a consideration but so was the home’s visual contribution to its coastal neighbourhood.
“There was an existing modernist house on the site, which was lovely but rundown and unsuitable for our clients’ needs,” says Anna. “We felt a lot of responsibility to design a house that would honour what had once stood in its place, and were keen to achieve something that would have a sense of permanence while sitting comfortably within this environment.”

MAIN IMAGE APL Architectural Series joinery from First Windows & Doors was used throughout the home (including the generous bi-parting sliding doors upstairs and the sliding stacker doors downstairs), with Miro hardware powdercoated Matt Black. A cantilevered vertical-batten fence lets the couple’s dogs run free without obscuring the sandy scene beyond. ABOVE The first view of the house — a monolithic form realised in a palette of predominately concrete and timber — is beautified by the plants that trail down towards the copper-clad garage door. The tinkling sound of a water feature comes into play as you move down the driveway to the front door, which is also clad in copper and sits among picture windows by First Windows & Doors. Both the garage and front door are developing a chic patina as time goes by.

Setting out with the aim of working within the property’s existing use rights, Anna used the original home’s masonry blade walls as the starting point for her design. The space between them gave rise to a sort of L-shaped plan spread across two storeys. The communal living spaces on the ground floor wrap around a covered courtyard, while upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms barrel off towards the seaward end of the building, the main bedroom taking pole position.
“The home is accessed by a long driveway off the end of a tight street, so we were very mindful of the compact site and built-up surroundings,” says Anna. “I maximised every opportunity to integrate greenery and nature throughout the house to provide privacy from the neighbours, soften the built elements and enhance key outlooks.”

TOP Here in the entry atrium, the main stairs wrap around an internal sunken garden, where climbers inch their way up double-height battens. The inspired planting at this address by landscape designer Graham Cleary and his team at Natural Habitats achieved Anna’s goal of integrated greenery. ABOVE The exterior concrete and shiplap cedar cladding continues into the atrium, where it’s met by light-stained shiplap walls. A polished terrazzo ramp with a fine brass trim (Anna’s nod to the central ramp in the original home) descends from here to the main living spaces.

This intention is evident on arrival. Plants grow down from the upper storey’s battened facade towards a copper-clad garage, the patina of which makes it appear like a living surface itself. Double-height picture windows from First Windows & Doors offer a view into the atrium, where potted palms provide a flash of flora as you continue the journey inward.
On the other side of the house, facing the beach, a pair of mature pōhutukawa trees tangle together to frame the view out to Rangitoto Island. Thanks to the slight elevation of the building platform, they do double duty as a natural screen and tool to facilitate the visual transition from the public beach below up to the private home. Opening wide to let the outside in, 9m of APL Architectural Series stacker sliding doors take full advantage of the sweeping view.
Upstairs, the main bedroom projects out into the branches of the pōhutukawa and features bi-parting sliding doors that create a feeling of waking up in a treehouse, albeit a very sophisticated one! “We were keen to include generous glazing with seamless thresholds around the edges,” says Anna. “It was important for the joinery to essentially disappear when the doors are pulled back, minimising the interruption of the view.”

TOP The homeowners were keen on a contemporary home with lots of space that also had the feel of a casual beachhouse. To that end, the refined furnishings curated by Lynette Lochhead of Design on James have a Hamptons-esque aesthetic. With the exception of the pendant lights, which were selected by the owners, the lighting design on this project was by Omar Shahab of Switch. ABOVE “We were deliberate in the way we detailed the First Windows & Doors joinery frames, aligning them with structure or walls and ceilings to maximise glazing lines and form flush transitions wherever possible,” says Anna of the virtually unencumbered view from the main bedroom.

This home’s architecture explores contrast — structured and irregular, light and heavy, rough and smooth. Using rough-sawn boards to create the cast in-situ concrete walls has provided a textured finish that’s emphasised by the dark-stained cedar exterior cladding, and both materials extend inside. Subdued greys and blacks teamed with the warm copper speak to Anna’s desire for the home to blend into its surroundings.
“I love the textured quality of the concrete walls, which comes to life with the light play over the course of the day,” says Anna. “The builders, Synergy Build Group, with input from concreteologist Ross Bannan of Bannan Construction, plus structural engineer Matt Gilfoyle of Sullivan Hall behind the scenes, did a wonderful job with them.”

ABOVE In the kitchen by CAAHT Studio Architects in collaboration with Carolyn Prier of Caro Design, clerestory windows throw lovely light across the concrete walls during the day and create a glowing lantern effect when lit from within at night. “They also give you a glimpse of the grass on the green roof on the upper level,” says Anna. The glazed nook at the end of this space seems to float under the copper canopy over the covered seaside deck.

Given privacy was high on the list of priorities for this build from the outset, the owners are happy to report that it now isn’t an issue at all. The relationship between the green and man-made elements is a healthy one, providing a buffer between the home and its surroundings, creating visual connection and softening the built form — nature and architecture working together to form the ultimate beachside bolthole.

Words Alice Lines
Photography Sam Hartnett

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