Clifftop Captivation

Clifftop Captivation add

An ADNZ award-winning design and a feature in the first issue of Defign magazine, it isn't hard to see why this home and its incredible location captivated and inspired its owners and its designer.

It was the view, sweeping over the Hauraki Gulf on Auckland’s eastern bays that first attracted Bruce and Vivienne Watters to their coastal property after returning to New Zealand in 2008 from nine years living in Melbourne.

After a necessary stint renting on the coast over summer, their initial concerns over a “horrible commute” were quickly allayed. “Coming home from work and looking down on the beach – we were hooked,” explains Vivienne. “We had always liked the bays and we realised we had been away from the views for so long.”

But the house itself was dated, the rooms small, the kitchen faced a neighbouring property and the best views were from the utility area amidst the recycling bins. “We moved in. We thought, let’s see how it works, how we want to live, see where the sun comes in over the year. It was supposed to be a basic renovation but it’s a fine line between knock it all down and start again or persevere with a renovation.” Perseverance was the right call. Incorporating the original foundation slab and existing garage, Rothesay Bay House, designed by Mark McLeay of Creative Arch and 2013 winner of the ADNZ|Resene Residential Alterations & Additions Architectural Design Award, is a succinct cedar shiplap and metal clad home taking full advantage of the sun, the seasons and the sublime views.

Key to a “great design”, says McLeay, director of Creative Arch, is a site with a point of difference or challenges that need “outside-the-square thinking”, a realistic budget for what is trying to be achieved, and great clients “who are open-minded and respect the designer’s vision”.

The result is spectacular. While clifftop homes tend to veer in two directions – an exposed bunker of a building braving out the elements to make the most of the views or a low-lying structure sheltering from the storms behind high hedges or fences – the Watters’ new home is a happy medium. It is warm (double glazing and the thermal mass of the concrete reduce heating requirements to winter evenings in June, July and August). It is relatively protected from the onshore winds which barrel up the cliff face then “jump” over the house and, as one of the few clifftop houses not overlooking the public walkway, it is very private.

It is aesthetically anchored to the site. “We didn’t want it to stand out,” explains McLeay. “We wanted the house to be settled into the site, so we have layered it by stepped levelling with four split levels in the house and two bedrooms over the garage.” At the same time it embraces the views, the sun, the sea, the seasons. “When the doors are closed you are cocooned. Part of it is the black joinery which helps to frame the views – if we went for lighter colours you would lose the joinery to the views. But when the doors are open there is no frame.

And that, says Vivienne, is exactly what they wanted. “You almost feel as if you are on the water. You see all the sea changes and all the different moods of the seasons.”

The full article can be found in issue 1 of Defign magazine – out now.

Words by Sally Blundell