Design House Architecture’s River House

In association with First Windows & Doors.

The leafy outlook of this recently renovated home on the western bank of the Waikato River doesn’t give away many hints that you’re in central Kirikiriroa/Hamilton. In fact, the water’s-edge setting is so serene, it practically had the new owners sold on the spot — well, one of them, builder Nick Holcroft, at least. He knew the site well; when the property’s previous owners subdivided, his team at Holcroft Prestige had been charged with building their new house next door.
“I remember Nick coming home from work one day and telling me he wanted to show me something,” says his partner, hairdresser Janelle Hipper. “We hopped in the car, drove over, stood on the deck — and that was pretty much it, we were in.”

MAIN IMAGE & TOP With all the action happening on the riverside part of the property, the street front and arrival courtyard were left simple to function essentially just as transition zones. This also allows the louvred screens and cantilevered roof in the entryway to remain the focus in this area. ABOVE “We wanted big planes of glass to maximise the view, so we replaced the existing French doors with Metro Series stacking sliders from First Windows & Doors,” says Nick.

The location of the dwelling originally constructed in the 1960s then renovated in the mid-’90s was a major plus for the couple, but it was let down by a lack of connection to the view. Renovation plans ensued.
“We had a fairly good idea of what we wanted to achieve,” says Janelle. “The hardest part was probably marrying our two personal styles. Nick prefers quite a modern, minimal look, whereas I like something that’s a little more layered and rustic.”

ABOVE Louvres from First Windows & Doors in locations including the kitchen, main bedroom and ensuite enhance natural ventilation and light while offering a little more security and privacy. The Matt Flaxpod joinery and Urbo hardware used throughout matches the stained timber that’s a standout feature of the material palette.

Moving into the home before the renovation began gave the couple plenty of time to hash that out, while establishing an understanding of how the house responded to the seasons and would perform for their family. Wishlist then in hand, they enlisted the expertise of Kris Wilson, director of Design House Architecture.

TOP Before the reno, the house was one big pavilion that lacked a strong link to the land. To better connect the new home to its surroundings, Kris says they created larger openings, covered outdoor living areas and terraces down towards the river. “The urban context informed the areas of concrete facade, while the depth of colour in the river and vegetation inspired the dark cedar cladding.” ABOVE Nick is a firm fan of getting the fire going as he loves the ambiance it offers, so much so that Janelle often ends up opening the sliding doors to let out some of the heat!

“Working with the form of the existing house offered a clean and clearly defined two-storey volume through the centre of the site,” says Kris. “From that central, dark and private pavilion, we reached out to the street and river with solid structures to ground the home, including multiple cantilevers to offer shelter, and horizontal planes.”
“Kris did just one drawing and that was it for us,” says Janelle. “Ben Quinn of Quinn Landscaping did the next drawing — further connecting the house to the environment — and we went with his first draft too. They both absolutely nailed it.”

ABOVE Walls were removed and rooms reconfigured to improve functionality and comfort, and “one thing we’ve really noticed is the difference between single and double glazing,” says Nick. “That’s been huge for us, not just thermally, but also in terms of noise. It’s mind-blowing how quiet it is inside now.”

Modernised with a monochromatic palette, the main pavilion is clad with black cedar. Aluminium louvres — their blades carefully aligned with the ribs of the roof — screen the street side of the home, heightening the linear look while providing privacy. Concrete boxes extend out on either side, expanding the footprint of the ground floor.

ABOVE “Living here through a summer and autumn before we began the renovation meant we got to see how the layout was affected by the sun,” says Nick. Being uncovered, this deck was previously exposed to both heat and cold, but not so its upgraded counterpart, which is now a real pleasure whenever.

Enhancing the flow of the home was integral to the update, and for the interior, that meant opening up what was previously several smaller living spaces to create one communal open-plan zone linked expertly to the environment by joinery from First Windows & Doors. A wall of Metro Series stacking sliders opens the kitchen, living and dining spaces onto a covered deck on which Janelle, Nick and their children Maddy (22), Miller (7) and Billy (18 months) can experience alfresco living year-round. Cascading down the hill, the outdoor connection continues with a spa and swimming pool positioned so they’re concealed from the public walkway below.

TOP Joining with a courtyard via a hinged Metro Series door, with an awning window above it for extra ventilation, the new and improved laundry lends its charm to an everyday chore. MIDDLE In the ensuite, the colour palette softens to deliver a restful energy, and the louvres and fixed windows are partially frosted. ABOVE “One of the best things about this aspect is that we get such beautiful light in the morning,” says Nick of the main bedroom. “It makes sense to let as much of it in as we can.”

Also accessed from the deck, the couple’s bedroom wing with walk-in-wardrobe and ensuite feels so lovely it inspires the whole family to start the day together in it. “Mornings in here are a bit of a ritual,” says Nick. “The [younger] kids jump into bed with us while we have a coffee and watch the sun rise. It’s always a pretty special time.”
Janelle appreciates how this room serves them at night too, and says the louvres were one of their best decisions to optimise air flow for a restful sleep. She and Nick joke that if your relationship can survive a renovation, you can do anything together. For now, that means enjoying the bolthole they’ve created here — their own slice of riverside paradise.

Words Alice Lines
Photography Simon Wilson


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