When opportunity drew these New Plymouth born-and-bred clients away to France, they yearned for the laid-back climes of beach-meets-mountain peculiar to their childhood stomping ground. So, they approached First Light Studio to design them a place for long holidays – a place of return.
Architect Ben Jagersma, himself a Taranaki kid, understood their motivation instantly, yet the design vision was not as swift. “It was a flat site in suburbia with no massive views and little immediate natural context to draw inspiration from,” he says. Instead, he looked further afield.
Two definite elements make up the form: an L-shaped footprint that hugs a deck. This inner courtyard, accessed via triple-stacking Altherm Metro Series ThermalHEART sliders, is all about connection. “The clients also own the rear house on the section and the deck is shared between the two,” says Jagersma. A centralised space, it’s a magnet for gatherings, rather like the common space in a campground or at the bach where everyone meets.
The lower level of the dwelling is a simple gable that runs along the street edge. It contains the living zone and is clad in dark-stained cedar weatherboard to reflect the language of the neighbourhood. Rising up and over the top, a second element in random-width boards in honeyed tones, contrasts the base. “We played on the provincial colours of amber and black,” says Jagersma.
References to the region might be too subtle for outsiders to recognise, but they are there. Viewed from a certain angle, three ‘peaks’ of the roofline are an allusion to Mt Taranaki, Fanthams Peak and the Pouakai Range.
A relaxed aesthetic permeates the interiors. Wax-finished concrete floors, walls lined in tongue-and-groove and birch ply ceilings all enhance the easy-going mood. On one side of the living room, a built-in bench seat with bi-fold windows by Altherm is an invitation to sit for a while. “Bi-folds open right up and the window is shrouded with a steel awning to provide a bit of shading, but also give a 3D perspective to the façade,” says Jagersma.
If that relaxation zone is occupied, there’s always the kitchen where the mountain-theme continues as a triangular ‘peak’ above the island, clad in amber-toned boards. Here, a wrap-around corner window by the breakfast bar allows occupants to check out the surf conditions over morning coffee.
With friends and family often in residence, the addition of a flexi-room with a mezzanine was a smart solution. At times it’s a TV den, but it also converts to a bedroom, and older kids enjoy scaling the metal ladder to play pirates, gaze through the telescope or simply escape from the older generation.
When Covid-19 forced the owners back from Europe on a more permanent basis, the house was waiting. The nearby beach, too. “It’s only a couple of blocks away – you can pick up your surfboard and walk,” says Jagersma. Coming home never felt so good.