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wash of blues

Compact sustainable home

The brief for this new build was to design a sustainable and affordable home for a young family on a subdivided site in Auckland.

Cockle Bay home

With the increasing demand for housing in the city, there is a need for quality yet cost effective houses that respect the environment and are designed from the start to be energy efficient.

The whole site was considered as a series of overlapping spaces that could provide shelter for the family, help feed them, reduce energy use, and respond to its environment. This resulted in a compact house footprint that enables the inside living rooms to open up to the private vegetable and fruit garden, enlarging the sense of space.

Lounge, dining

It was important to keep in mind the big picture of how compact suburban homes (in the age of suburban densification) can be designed to a tight budget yet be sustainable and have a unique character to them. The local context of Cockle Bay, historic Fencible cottages, beachside baches, and brick and tile dwellings, inspired forms of the simple lean-to and the creative use of affordable materials of brick and metal.

The house stays cool naturally in the summer and warm in the winter using passive design principles. External verandas help modify the light so that winter sun can penetrate deep into the rooms to naturally heat the space by warming the concrete slab, and in the summer they have been dimensioned to keep the sun out and maintain a cool internal temperature. High insulation and thermally broken joinery mean that the temperature remains comfortable and stable year round. Eco gadgets are kept to a minimum, the house relying instead on the scientific principles of natural cooling and cross ventilation, however it maximises the use of the available free resources of sun and rain with solar panels to provide hot water, and rain water tanks to serve the garden, laundry and toilets.

Lounge, patio

A palette of new and recycled natural materials provides a rich spatial and tactile experience. At its heart a light well allows light penetration into the southern side of the building and creates a play of light through the vertical battens. The finishing timbers to the balustrade and handrails are recycled rimu joists from an old hospital. Materials were also carefully selected to ensure a healthy indoor environment, so Environmental Choice approved paints, with low or no VOC components were used. The low sheen finishes were chosen to create tactile light surfaces and are also useful in the stairwell where the light is cast against the walls.

Being able to consider materials from a recycling perspective was also important to the client’s sustainable philosophy and the added advantage of the Resene PaintWise recycling programme meant that waste was kept to a minimum.

Stairwell cubby, bathroom

The interior colours were designed to link the house to the natural world, and provide a calm haven for the family. Sand, sea, sky and stone colours were selected to ensure that the spaces flow together as you travel through the house, and to bring the outside in. Blue walls shift in hue in a similar way to the sea changing colour over the course of the day. The white ceiling flows from inside the house to the outside veranda, enabling a blurring of the boundary between garden and room. Colour accents are placed in rooms where the neutral sandy brick or natural recycled timbers are the predominant colour theme. The colours for the children’s rooms were selected to offset their colourful toys, and ensure that those rooms are a calm backdrop to their busy lives.


The low sheen finishes of Resene Zylone Sheen VOC Free and Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen were selected to soften the light and colours for a natural effect. Glossy pops of colour are used on cabinetry in one of the children’s rooms using Resene Enamacryl waterborne gloss enamel in Resene Killarney (fresh green), Resene Splish Splash (bold blue), Resene Rocket (bright red) and Resene Balloon (bold orange red).

Resene Blue Bayoux (muted smoky blue), Resene Blumine (deep blue), Resene Nepal (grey blue pastel) are set against walls in Resene Half Barely There (cool grey) and Resene Alabaster (blackened white) on ceilings, trims and doors.


This project won the Resene Total Colour Residential Interior Award. The judges thought: "Bringing the outside in, this colour scheme is sensitive to the exterior environment bringing elements indoors without overpowering the home. The palette shows understanding of the changing of light, and the effect of natural light and reflection on colour. The interior effortlessly links the house to the natural world, and provides a calm haven for family life. Inspired by sand, sea, sky and stone these colours seamlessly flow together as you journey through the house.

A colour scheme that remains a calm backdrop to busy life."

Architectural specifier: Donnell & Day Architecture Ltd
Building contractor: Robson Builders
Photographer: Duncan Innes
Winner: Resene Total Colour Residential Interior Award
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2015
From the Resene News – issue 1/2016

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