Bungalow renovation by interior designers at.space
There was a time when the residents of this house felt as if they lived on top of each other. Now Mum, Dad and their two daughters are doing so in a different, entirely more enjoyable way, after a renovation that’s resulted in not one, not two, but three levels stacked with more than enough room for everyone, the finest design, and family-friendly functionality.
Joining the Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland project when construction by Boyd Cox was underway on Brave Architects’ plans for a new, full-height basement floor containing the girls’ bedrooms and bathroom, rumpus room, laundry and garage, interior designers Alex McLeod and Tomi Williams of at.space were tasked with reimagining the kitchen on the second storey and the third-storey master suite, as well as providing direction on a complete interior fit-out and furnishings.
On a corner site in Herne Bay, excavations to the property had been made to provide privacy from the road. Inside, the owners sought the same and also a relaxed openness, expressed in a luxurious-meets-down-to-earth aesthetic with a wink of glam. Achieving this in a three-level home while ensuring it feels cohesive requires an expert understanding. The updated, four-bedroom interior needed to be visually connected and have a sense of flow within it and through to the walled courtyards outside, where espaliered planting forms vertical gardens and there’s a pool you can admire from the kitchen.
In responding to the brief, a starting point for at.space was to devise a simple colour palette with green as the accent hue, then layer it with texture in the form of key elements such as the timber-panelled and plastered feature walls and multi-format tiles. It takes real skill to include special details in every room that make a statement without showing off, and this house is a lesson in how to do that well. Points of difference abound, yet “you walk in the door and any room you go into, you know it’s part of the same story,” says Tomi. “There are individual spaces that stand out, but it all works together.”
Alex and Tomi designed highlights that create an exceptional overall ambience rather than demand individual attention. These details both distinguish and connect the spaces, like the fine line of black steel midway up the wall in the main living area that mirrors the negative detail of the timber panelling in the hall and the steel that appears throughout the house, and one of the more daring inclusions: the statement wallpaper in the rumpus room that reflects the greens used elsewhere and the planting outside.
“Initially, we only wanted to wallpaper one wall, but ended up loving it so much that we decided to do them all,” says Tomi. “It’s bold but quite simple in terms of colour, so it envelopes, defines and creates interest in the room without being too overpowering. It’s magical.”
The open stairwell bound by slatted steel also ensures visual continuity, while channelling natural light from the glazing between the upper floors into the windowless downstairs. On the central floor, a steel-framed pivot door forms a notable entry into the open-plan kitchen, dining and living spaces that allows them to be closed off from the hallway yet similarly maintains visibility and lets there be light. To deliver its artificial counterpart, decorative black pendants have been installed throughout the house. Architectural yet simple, per the desired aesthetic, they’re variations on the same theme — a ploy that subtly builds interest. The shiny copper pendant in the stairwell is an exception — the glam to the grounded.
Previously configured as several smaller spaces (including all of the bedrooms) jammed in under raked ceilings, the home’s top storey is virtually unrecognisable from the original. Alex and Tomi’s spatial recommendations have turned it into one grand main suite in which the bed can at last be oriented to take in the sparkling view over Westhaven Marina and the harbour bridge. It’s accessed via a lobby and through steel-framed, reeded-glass doors, and complete with a walk-in wardrobe, dedicated make-up station and sanctuary-like ensuite.
This reinvention has been a game-changer for the homeowners, who say it’s the project’s most significant enhancement, giving them the option of seclusion while their darling daughters enjoy their own independence on the ground floor. When they’re older, the girls will be able to come and go through an entrance in the garage, making this a future-proofed solution for all the family.
Most of the cabinetry and furnishings at this address were custom-designed by at.space, and many off-the-shelf items personalised with carefully selected fabrics and finishes, so everything melds perfectly and feels one of a kind. Abundant storage helps to avoid clutter — the enemy of beauty and calm. “It’s about trying to make the house as easy to live in as possible, with places to put everything so you don’t feel as if you’re constantly tidying up,” says Tomi.
Tomi adds that if she could begin and end her days here, “I’d love going into the scullery and making myself a cup of coffee, then opening up the doors that lead onto the courtyard and pool. I’d probably drink my coffee on the window seat at the end of the living room looking out over the harbour, or go upstairs to the master bedroom and sit down on one of the chairs we’ve positioned at the end of the bed. The huge sofa we designed for the main living room is all about comfort and lying around, and that’s what I’d want to do at the end of the day — just get in there, put my feet up and watch TV.”
With this sweet fantasy, she’s hit the nail on the head: every inch laidback luxury, this house looks good enough to eat but is ultimately lifestyle-led. Separating the zones while keeping them connected has had a massive impact, meaning this family of four can embrace life together without being in each other’s pockets.