Standing pride of place on its corner site, this design was all about reimagining the traditional family home. Words: Luci Morris Photography: Charlie Jackson
While at its essence architecture is about providing shelter, warmth and a functional living space, it is also about eliciting a response. Driven by the ethos that architecture should be ‘visually powerful, intellectually elegant and above all timeless’ Tobin Smith and Blair Paterson of CoLab Architecture are producing results that are getting people talking.
“Whether you love it or hate it, getting feedback means we have done our job,” laughs Tobin.
Emerging from a long-standing friendship the collaboration between these two talented designers resulted in a design firm destined to forge its own way in our post-quake city.
“Right from the start we knew we wanted be part of the new architectural language of Christchurch and reference what the city has lost through a new style of building,” Tobin says.
Nestled on a prominent Fendalton site, one of their most recent designs embodies exactly that. While embracing their characteristic minimal palette of natural, honest materials, at a closer look the property reveals it is a new take on the traditional family home.
For homeowner and builder Blaine Horton the brief was simple: create something unique while reworking the typical family home.
“There is beauty to be found in simplicity,” enthuses Tobin, “and this was an opportunity to showcase that. Our focus was on not being too complex, or shape making for the sake of it. But rather to pull back the ideas and achieve a timeless end result.”
From the street, the two-storey gabled form, with its single level adjoining pavilion, ignites a sense of familiarity, drawing on the ’60s and ’70s modernist style of architecture that dotted pre-quake Christchurch.
Part of the success on the exterior is the uninterrupted lines of the vertical cedar paneling across both the home and the garage. “The cladding over the garage is flush mounted,” explains Tobin. A design decision that transforms a mundane, essential component of the home, into something beautiful.
While inside the simplicity of the design continues, there is no disguising that the home is something special. Welcomed into a double height, voluminous entry you are enveloped in a light, bright interior – in total contrast to outside.
“It is a nice surprise,” offers Tobin. “There is a sense of connection achieved between inside and out, with the black cedar paneling running the length of the entry and up the stairwell, but this is off-set by the contrast of the white living space and windows out to the garden.”
Breaking the mass of the house, the entry provides a beautiful connection between inside and out, and also between the upper and lower levels with a custom-made floating staircase leading to the master suite and two of the three double bedrooms.
Painted Resene Black-White, the interior colour palette is simple in its offering, but vast in its appeal with, once again, a sense of elegance and timelessness drawing you in. Running the length of the gabled pavilion is the heart of the home, the open-plan kitchen/living/dining area. Essential to family life the large space effortlessly acts as one, while is also seamlessly able to function as individual spaces with a considered lighting plan working to provide definition.
Breaking down the requirements of a traditional family home, Tobin and Blair recognised the need for privacy when it came to family bedrooms (all discreetly tucked away on the upper level) and multiple living spaces.
The southern side of the home (located behind the garage) is single storey in its form and houses a formal living area and guest bedroom. This wing of the home brings a sense of longevity to the livability of the home, with the second living area providing scope for a growing family, and the guest bedroom and bathroom the option for an alternate master should the stairs become too much.