Waitī House by Crosson Architects & Ko & Ko

Words Philippa Prentice
Photography David Straight

Like the flax threads of the exquisite hieke/cloak framed in its entryway, everything in this extraordinary home ties in beautifully. It’s connected to its owners’ past and present; to their loves and lifestyle; to the land, sea, stream and sky. If you were to view it from above, you’d also be struck by its intriguing shape, but more gazing up and out happens here.

TOP Oak flooring travels through this part of the curved hallway that connects to the more ‘public’ portion of the home built by Chris Bell Construction, past the tall windows that retain a connection to the internal garden. In the dining space, a Link pendant by Powersurge hovers over the family’s existing table and new Rattan Art chairs  by Corcovado. ABOVE Facing the ocean and duplicating the parallelogram angle of the wall, the kitchen island installed by Precision Benchtops is crafted from Daino Reale marble from CDK Stone, and complemented by oak cabinetry and Wide Clay Bejmat tiles by Tiles of Ezra from Tile Depot in the matte finish favoured throughout. The appliances are by Fisher & Paykel, the Beam fridge handles are by Powersurge, the Rappana drawer pulls and Elysian mixer are by ABI Interiors, and a Faina Strikha Big pendant by Tigmi tempers the vertical lines of the tiles and timber.

Dubbed Waitī House after a star in Te Kāhui o Matariki cluster that has links to fresh water and the protection of life within it, the home’s name reflects its owners’ commitment to care for this  piece of land, alongside which the Wairau Stream supplies a tinkling soundtrack. It also speaks to a passion for stargazing — one of the key experiences enabled within the experience of this out-of- this-world yet down-to-earth dwelling.

ABOVE Decks and a path linking the house, studio, spa, sauna and garage are surrounded by lawn, whereas the rest of the property has received minimal intervention. Swathes of glass mean the main living areas and bedroom soak up the great outdoors, and smaller windows allow for ventilation if it’s blowing a gale. Through the door here, you can spot the circular ‘hearth’ below the suspended Elegente fire from Zen Fireplaces, made from the travertine used in the entryway.

As directors of interior, architecture and project management studio Ko & Ko, Thandi Tipene and her husband Bachelor oversee their clients’ builds from start to finish, finding the perfect piece of land, introducing them to the right architect (in this case, a team from Crosson Architects headed by Ken Crosson), devising the interior design, bringing together top trade professionals and attending to every single detail. Having met entrepreneur Elisa Roorda and advertising agency owner Flavio Vianna after their arrival  in Aotearoa from São Paolo, Brazil in 2020, they embarked on a highly collaborative and responsive project that allowed adjustments to be made as the journey progressed, to ensure the ultimate outcome.

TOP Joining with pine timber in a stain Ko & Ko had custom-coloured to be deliberately warm, without yellow or grey, Terra Vein travertine tiles from Artedomus greet you on arrival. They were broken to create a bespoke effect and laid by Maow the Tiler, who Thandi says “knocked it out of the park”. ABOVE The internal and external gardens were devised by landscape designer Nathan Richardson and installed by Down  to Earth Landscapes. The Dryden WoodOil-stained exterior cedar cladding complements the hues in the Kaitake Range bush beyond and forms the backdrop for a hanging chair from Maytime. Crosson Architects are big fans of such seats. “They’re great little cocoons,” says Ken. “You kind of sneak into them, and here it’s another experience — you fill it up with cushions and you’re really comfy  in there and you can read a book or twist it round and look out.”

Both nature-loving creative types, yogi Elisa and stargazer Flavio share an adventurous spirit that saw them lean into opportunities to design things differently. Asking for an abode in which their story is evident and that’s in harmony with the environment has resulted in a melding of New Zealand and Brazil that toys with the boundary between inside and out.

TOP These lucky residents are able to experience Aotearoa from an uncommonly intimate perspective. In rural areas like this, “the night sky is pretty mind-boggling”, says Ken. “Here, you can get that every evening. Sitting up on the roof, you feel vulnerable and exposed but exhilarated as well.” ABOVE The graceful steel balustrade took several iterations to perfect and was craned into position.

In addition to the stream, this special property in Ōākura, Taranaki, has a bush backdrop and epic rural and sea views, all of which Crosson Architects set out to facilitate engagement with. Of course, with this kind of west coast outlook comes a certain level of exposure, so several sheltered external spaces were designed — along with an internal courtyard. A circular structure inserted into the four-bedroom home’s parallelogram-shaped floorplan to complete the replication of the Brazilian flag and its blue disc dotted with stars, the courtyard spirals up to an observation platform.

ABOVE Able to be closed off with a heavy timber slider to offer separation for kids’ movie nights or after-dinner conversations with friends, the sunken lounge was designed, says Ken, to be “a batten-down-the-hatches kind  of space”. It features oak seating built in by the project’s joiner, Jake Styles of Style Joinery, and curves into oak bookshelves to provide weight and warmth along with Samurai Bokuto carpet by Bremworth. The Bandy side table and Otis coffee table are from Jardan. “It was important to select furniture that connects with the understated palette and doesn’t overpower or distract from the form, but rather brings everything together,” says Thandi. In the main living space outside the door, an artwork by Meg Gallagher hangs on a travertine-tiled wall above a sideboard from Bohème Home.

“We wanted to give the family that classic Kiwi experience — a home where you can retreat inside and live outside — and get Flavio into the big sky,” says Ken. “He sets up his telescope and has an uninterrupted view.”

ABOVE Each space is intended to be contemplated as a whole, without any one element standing out. In the main living area, the Lemmy sofa from Jardan is ultra-soft to encourage you to sink into it, and curtains in Montenegro fabric from Warwick Fabrics ameliorate the light along with pendants by Arturest from Etsy and a Bonbori table lamp by Brokis. The August coffee table is by Jardan and the Bamboo & Silk rug is by Nodi.

Just past the entryway (the travertine tiles in which were deliberately smashed then laid in an organic arrangement)  and into the curved, pine-lined hallway (enhanced by Ko & Ko’s meticulously custom-developed timber stain), the  leafy oasis is a key part of the overarching family narrative that’s woven through this home. Described by Thandi as “the  oxygen of the house”, its garden combines Aotearoa and Brazil in its natives and tropical and floral plants, which surround you as you float in the hanging chair or climb up to the 360-degree deck to breathe at all in — or check the surf.

ABOVE Simplicity was a paramount concern in the  sleep spaces, to ensure they’re as relaxing as possible. Elisa and Flavio appreciate art, so the team chose a large painting by Marcia Priestly as the focal point of their bedroom. A pleated Mika lamp by McMullin & Co and fluted Podium Rillo table by Broste Copenhagen from Maytime supply visual texture beside their Adobe bed by Futonz, with bedding and cushions by A&C Homestore and Città.

The home’s social kitchen/dining/living area stays connected to the greenery via slender windows in the hallway, while  on the other side of the space, generous joinery frames the vista. So as not to compete with the view and to instil a sense of calm, the interior design champions tone and texture over colours or objects that demand attention, with the material palette placing a firm focus on raw, honest, unobtrusive products and finishes.

ABOVE The décor in the children’s bedrooms was directed by their tastes and interests. In Nina (15) and 12-year-old Sofia’s rooms (their brother is six-year-old Martin), ladders step up to individual loft spaces that further improve the efficiency of the floorplan. The furniture in these photos includes chairs from Soren Liv.

“The natural environment is at the forefront of everything we do,” says Thandi. “When designing interiors, my favourite mood to create is one that truly settles your spirit. The purpose with this one was to make it fit with the site, and create a feeling first and foremost, rather than a celebration of objects. I find real comfort in an interior that’s not full of  highly processed materials or styled according to a specific genre. Natural materials hold a story that’s long lasting and can develop over time.”

ABOVE Sharing a common design language, the bathrooms are all about accessible luxury. The same tiles used in the ensuite (below) appear here — honed travertine from Artedomus and Isernia Sandblasted tiles by Tiles of Ezra from Tile Depot — the latter in a pinker hue to bring in a bit of extra energy for the kids. A Coral Duo light by Søktas and Hugi bath by Stone Baths join a ledge that runs around the room for displaying objects and increasing the already ample storage space supplied by the custom Ko & Ko vanity.

Crafted around the family’s lifestyle, variation in the architecture offers spaces for occasions, and cleverly uses vertical volume to expand the relatively modest 228m2 footprint. “We’ve got high spaces and low spaces,” says Ken. “In the more powerful zones like the kitchen, dining and living area, there are lofty ceilings that give a bit more height, and then in the sunken lounge, for evenings and wintery days, it’s much more enclosed and snug.”

ABOVE “When you’re in the country, you can challenge some norms, so in the ensuite we created a closer link to the outdoors with two full-height windows,” says Ken. One opposite the shower and one opposite the loo, they include louvres you can open and close, but the rural location means there’s no need for any type of screening on either side of the glass. The Loop mirror in this corner of the ensuite is by Powersurge, that’s another Coral Duo pendant light by Søktas and the tapware is also by ABI Interiors.

As in this cosy sanctuary, the children’s bedrooms are fitted with smaller windows to inspire rest — though the older kids’ spaces also boast an exciting detail: each has a ladder that leads to its own private playroom in the roof cavity, hidey-holes that have circular hammocks inserted into the floor that bulge down into the ceilings below. “It’s another interesting take on living,” says Ken. “When you’re given a bit of rope, you can come up with some extraordinary things.”

TOP & ABOVE The studio comprises a kitchen, dining and living space, a bedroom and bathroom, an outdoor shower and a curved deck. In the living area, Arch chairs by Snelling have a heart to heart with a Solomon coffee table by McMullin & Co.

Set back on this site towards the bush, there’s a self-contained studio that functions as a yoga space and guest quarters. Like the hammocks, the link to the flag continues with a circular skylight over the bed.
Here and in the main dwelling, the colour palette is dedicated to warm neutrals, but, says Thandi, “coming from Brazil, which  is traditionally much more lively than New Zealand, Elisa and Flavio are drawn to colour, so we’ve pulled it in in places — like the blue tiles in the studio bathroom, for example — and it has a really nice balance.”

ABOVE As with the main house, slatted timber screens on the exterior of the studio help to control the sun and create patterns of light, and pine detailing pops up around the skylight. The absence of shutters to close off this aperture means your body can respond to the rhythm of the day. “When the sun comes up, the sun comes up,” says Ken. On the wall by the bed is Ki Tua o Te Ārai by Thandi’s sister Callè Swanepoel of Rukua, who also created the hieke (not pictured) in the entryway.

She identifies a similar duality in the home overall. “You open the door and feel  a sense of peace and also excitement — it’s quite awe-inspiring, but not in a fancy way. When you take your shoes off at the front door, you can feel the different heights of the tiles under your feet, then run your hand along the wall and feel the crevices  of the timber. You look up and there’s the door opening into the lush internal garden with a chair that immediately invites you to engage with the space, then the light play when you go into the living spaces feels enjoyable from every point.
“Sometimes when you walk into a very beautiful house, you can feel like you’re an outsider, like it’s at a different level to you,” she continues. “That doesn’t happen here — it’s welcoming and casual enough that you develop a relationship with it straight away. It feels like it’s the place for you.”
Now that’s quite a talent — genuine  star quality. 

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