Written by John Williams
Photography by Jamie Cobel
Five years ago, when Nye and Claire O’Shannessy were first given the keys to their 1940’s bungalow on Springleigh Ave, they already had a plan in mind for their new acquisition.
“We wanted to subdivide, move the original house to the back of the section, with a driveway down the side, and build a new house at the front,” says, Nye. “I’m a builder and Claire’s a designer. For me, this place was a blank canvas for us to do exactly what we wanted, and to the standard we wanted it done.”
To help them with their design, the couple took on the services of local architect, Jan Bernau. “I’d worked with Jan before – particularly on this really tight site in Point Chev, where he’d used the space really well, which is exactly what we needed here.”
It isn’t a huge section, so the key was to maximise it, right to the boundaries. To achieve this, the architect chose to design an inward-looking, courtyard-style home that used internal and external spaces to create the flexible family home the O’Shannessy’s had requested.
Bernau’s design has given the couple an internal floor area of just over 180sqm, incorporating a voluminous open-plan living space, with a separate TV/family room, two comfortable bedrooms and a full bathroom on the ground floor, and a self-contained master suite above, complete with private balcony. There is also a double garage on the street front, which can be opened from the courtyard end, too, giving another usable space for parties, or a separate kid’s play area.
“With the design, we deliberately focussed on having really generous living spaces, with a separate family room that could be closed off.”
“Proportional to many houses, we’ve got a lot more living space than bedrooms,” says, Nye. Even though these living spaces are large, they have a cosy, homely feel to them.
As well as a huge amount of built-in storage throughout the house, one very clever design detail is the moveable wall that slides between the living area and the TV lounge, or family room. It reads as a solid partition wall, complete with artwork, but can be slid back to open up the entire room – all fifteen metres of it. Eleven of those metres can be opened along the western side to reveal the beautifully landscaped courtyard garden, thanks to a bank of six, double-glazed sliding doors.
At the far end of this living space, is well spec’d kitchen, featuring top-end appliances, black, honed granite benchtops, loads of storage, and a stylish, custom-designed rangehood. “Claire and I came up with the idea of the hanging rangehood unit, then got a metal fabricator to make it up for us,” says, Nye. “It defines the kitchen area, and it needs to, being such a large open-plan living space.”
The material palette throughout the home is a well-balanced mix of in-situ board-form concrete, wide-plank floorboards, and plain white walls, all punctuated with the black accents of the aluminium joinery, the granite benchtop, and the aforementioned custom-designed extractor unit above the kitchen island.
However, it’s the beautiful wall of solid concrete that runs the whole length of the home that catches the eye. “I wanted the in-situ concrete, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s interesting and different,” says, Nye. “At night, the recessed LED strip washes light down it, highlighting the board-form effect.”
Some of the lights in the house can be controlled and programmed by a smart phone, as can the underfloor heating, heat pump, hot water cylinder, soaking tub, and the bank of photovoltaics on the roof that are capable of generating up to 3kw of electricity. “In the summer months, we often don’t pay anything,” says, Nye. “We even get a small credit back from the power company, thanks to the inverter pushing back power to the grid.”
Nye says that the cost benefit of setting up a control system was a long-term investment. However, he reckons that being able to regulate the heated towel rail alone will pay for the entire control system within ten years.
The landscaping, which is ever present in this home, was conceived by renowned Auckland landscape designer, Xanthe White, and has a lovely lush tropical feel to it. The sunken outdoor dining area, just one step down from the rest of the garden, is subtle, yet gives it a retro feel. A recent addition to the outdoor area is the large, cedar hot tub, big enough for eight.
In many ways, this is a perfect family home. It’s well built, it’s child friendly, it’s efficient, it’s warm, it’s private, and it looks great. So why is the O’Shannessy family moving on?
“It’s going to be very, very sad leaving here,” says, Nye, citing the fact that his expanding business means he needs more space for his equipment. “The other side is, that as painful as it is, there is immense satisfaction in doing something like this, and we’d both like to do it again.”