Designers Institute of New Zealand Best Design Awards 2020

Announcing the Gold Pin winners in the spatial residential category.

Waiheke House by Cheshire Architects

SUPREME WINNER PURPLE PIN & GOLD PIN — Residential architecture

Photography: Samuel Hartnett

Covered with native bush and with a steep contour running down to the water’s edge, much of this property located on the furthest reaches of Waiheke Island is unhabitable, but the owners had long used it as anescape from their fast-paced city lives and saw an opportunity to establish something special here. Entertainers, they sought a home in which they could dine with up to 30 guests, and wanted to concentrate on this living aspect without the need for endless supporting spaces such as guest bedrooms. This presented Auckland’s Cheshire Architects with a wonderful opportunity to build with control, placing value on space and selecting just a few special materials with which to gild the home’s surfaces. 

The owners had camped and picnicked on the building platform for many summers, developing a close relationship with the lawn, the vines below it, the Gulf and its islands. This was the natural resting place for their new home. It’s very exposed up on this ridgeline, though, so a sense of permanence in the shifting landscape was important, balancing exposure with containment. The home needed to sit low and be discreet within the landscape. It needed to be made from natural materials that offered a sense of mass and perpetuity, as if the house had always been here. 

The dwelling was intended to support a version of life that rejects the digital and leaves the hum of the city far behind, delivering a slower rhythm that’s tuned in to the environment.
The expert planning of the spaces, their volume or lack of, the degree of exposure to light and view, and the sound of footsteps crunching on fine pebbles or pattering softly on solid stone bring into focus what already existed. Tall and full of light, the living rooms are open to the outlook, while the more private spaces face inward and are contained by stone rather than glass.

Split House by Pac Studio

GOLD PIN — Residential interior

Photography: Simon Devitt

How do you design a beacon of cosiness in a way that connects to the landscape and provides spaces large enough for a growing family to come together and celebrate in them? This was the challenge of the alteration of this villa in Sandringham, Auckland.
Pac Studio’s response addressed two main elements: space and palette. The site has a reasonably steep crossfall over the northern end, so the house gradually steps down through three split levels to create an easy connection between the landscape and the living spaces. The lofty spaces are enclosed within two split hip roofs that span over the stepping spaces below. The form of the roof also separates the acoustic qualities of each space, reducing the transmission of sound. Along with an addition that provides a new kitchen, dining room, living room, media room, bathroom and even a ‘G&T nook’ with an integrated drinks cabinet, this project included the restoration and interior design of the original villa. The architecture forms spaces that are visually linked but carefully composed as individual entities in their own right. Key diagonal views between the different levels of the home were imagined during the design. These views cut across the orthogonal planning of the interior and create dynamic connections between the spaces. 

The palette is one of rich, warm colours, materials and fixtures that filter and reflect light. It begins with the sarked cedar ceilings, which throw rays from high-level windows down into the spaces below. Providing visual weight, the flooring is boards of deep walnut timber, which meet
a generous amount of bespoke walnut cabinetry.
Mustard and burnt-orange upholstery softens the daybed in the sunken living room and the seating booth of the G&T nook. The window trims are painted in a deep heritage red to match the villa’s existing exterior accents and provide warm, reflected light off the joinery. A darker dado, set to the height of the original home’s floor level, is carried through the new spaces as a quiet measuring of the shift in levels between them. 

Awaawaroa Bay House by Cheshire Architects

GOLD PIN — Residential architecture

Photography: Jackie Meiring

Winding over a landscape of valleys and vistas, the journey to Waiheke Island’s Awaawaroa Bay prepares you. Nevertheless, it’s a surprise when a steeply pitched form punctuated by a single aperture appears on the skyline.
The owners of this home fell in love with the site and the idea of turning it into a retreat — a place just for them, a place for others, a place to gather inside and out. In kind, Cheshire Architects proposed not a house but an encampment connected to nature, a home that celebrates its location, and its owners’ deep connection to the land and dream of a different way of life.

A single gable and a couple of cabins, the home was conceived carefully, built simply and dressed informally. The three buildings are clustered around a courtyard that forms an outdoor room to move through and congregate in.
The strong, sculptural external forms enclose finely detailed interior spaces, full of materials that add warmth and even scent. The canvas-cloaked sleep spaces are lined with timber; window boxes offer framed views; there’s a bunk- room that feels intimate yet comfortably sleeps 10; and a sofa is carved into the living area, a space where fabric lines each face of the aperture and dampens the sounds of the site. 

Canvas let Cheshire Architects intensify the intricate woodiness of the cabin thresholds by contrasting them with a skin that’s both taut and soft — a detail that’s important in shaping an atmosphere of relaxed encampment. What the canvas hides is the clever engineering required to keep the apertures taught, enable occupation of the thresholds and dissipate wind load on the fabric. The canvas is held precisely at the apertures but lashed and overlapped at each corner to  allow maintenance and tensioning as the material stretches in response to climate and time, creaking softly like a yacht’s sail. 

Island Bay House by Alex Walls & Special Projects

GOLD PIN — Residential interior

Photography: Sophia Bayly

Amplified through floor-to-ceiling glazing, the natural beauty of this home’s outlook on Auckland’s North Shore is so arresting it could easily have outshone the interior elements; however, through the considered and creative use of natural materials, subtle texture and colour, a synergy was achieved between the home’s décor and surrounds that enhances the overall experience of this sophisticated family residence.
The guiding proposition of the interior was to achieve interest in the details, yet simplicity in its totality. A mix of materials and textures such as split-face travertine stone, American oak timber, custom-routed panelling, plaster, paint and tiling creates points that catch the eye at every turn, harmoniously balanced with neutral tones and open spaces for a modern, minimal aesthetic.

On entering the house on the upper level, you’re welcomed by an open-plan kitchen, designed to be the centre of the home. On either side of this, it’s a tale of two living spaces: one designed for everyday family living and the other for quiet time. They’re linked by a grand travertine wall that adds texture to the length of the upper level and is complemented by timber flooring.
As you descend the floating staircase to ground level — home to the bedrooms and bathrooms — the interior takes on a subterranean mood. The travertine remains an important element, only now it’s teamed with the gentler textures of wool carpet, linen window coverings and earth-toned soft furnishings. With a nod to the environment outside, the main bathroom and nearby ensuite have been designed to offer a feeling of being outdoors, with floor-to-ceiling windows and finishes with an organic nature, such as white-brick tiles.

Furniture & lighting


ABOVE Città Design Studio’s modular Point Lighting series (a collaboration with Alex Buckman) can be combined to form everything from a single pendant light to a grand stairwell feature using a daisy-chain connector system. 

ABOVE Inspired by the fluted detailing of ancient Greek pillars, the Io pendant by Astro uses gravity-fed glass extrusion to take a circular 2D design and extrude glass upwards to create a perfectly ribbed cylindrical form. 

ABOVE By Cheshire Architects, the Fulcrum lamp has a shade that can be gently rotated, allowing it to take on new forms and altering the light output.

ABOVE The dynamic Noho chair by Formway promotes freedom of movement and comfort via its auxetic pattern that enables the seat shell to change form, flexing with you to support your body.

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