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bright spot

St Heliers house designed by Robert Railley

The stair tower offered potential to use colour as a feature within the space...

The clients approached DMA after purchasing a 1970s St Heliers house designed by Robert Railley, which had been poorly maintained but had fantastic potential. The architectural relationships of a 1970s house paired with the scale of the rooms, allowed the design team to explore different spatial processes to what they may have considered in a new build. The design language combined with more enclosed rooms and changes in levels and heights, led to the experience of energetic and adventurous spaces while still using relatively humble materials.

Dark exterior with bright front door

A key issue for the clients was that the living areas were not arranged around the sunny outdoor living spaces, which included the pool. The design response was to retain as much of the existing structure as possible, while completely changing the functions of the northern and western wings.

Due to a deteriorating roof that would have needed to be completely replaced, the proposed design included a new level to the dwelling. Located at the top end of the site, this level allowed the design to step down, following the natural topographical slope, engaging with the proportions of the original built forms without overpowering them.

The project reinterprets Railley's vision to accommodate a contemporary set of ideals and requirements. Making use of existing housing stock, investing in good design and adapting the home to the 21st century was an inherently sustainable task. Wherever possible, the primary architectural language has been revitalised in subtle gestures such as the height of transoms and an identical sized slot window. Much of the cladding has been recycled in retaining walls around the property.

The transformation has re-equipped the building to serve new families for another 40 years and onwards into the future, providing precedent for others as to what can be achieved with good bones.

Exterior pool area

The original house was clad in stained black cedar. Unfortunately due to poor maintenance most of the original cladding was removed and repurposed as landscape wall cladding. At some point the house had been highlighted with a baby blue around the trims and inside the stair tower linking the pool area with the carport.

The stair tower offered potential to use colour as a feature within the space. Inspired by the porticos of classical Italian and Spanish public buildings where the strong colours are struck by the sun and radiate light into the surrounding areas. Fresh use of Resene Lumbersider in Resene Happy (bold yellow) radiates golden light when the evening light hits it. The stairwell also features a living roof with bright blooms of yellow and red. The yellow is a bold accent for the other exterior finishes of Resene Pitch Black (tar black) wood stain and Resene Lumbersider in Resene Half Whiteout (chalky pearl white).

Bright stair tower
Bright exterior seating

Any alteration project is particularly challenging for multiple reasons. The way people live has changed so much in 40 years, so the priorities of open plan living had to be accommodated within an existing footprint that was very much inward looking. The design work carefully balanced the radical change to the form and plan of the house while maintaining the original intent in terms of styling and scale.

This project won the Resene Total Colour Residential Exterior Award. The judges said “sunshiny yellow shines from the stairwell, inviting you to enter. This clever punch of colour within a black exterior knits together old and new seamlessly. As a studied accent to powerful black robust architecture, the Resene Happy yellow lights up this project with its exuberant personality. It’s a reminder to all of us how the right colour in the right place makes a project memorable.”

Architectural specifier: Daniel Marshall Architects
Building contractor: Hargraves Homes
Painting contractor: Kingdom Decorators Ltd
Photographer: Sam Hartnett
Winner: Resene Total Colour Residential Exterior Award
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2019
From the Resene News – issue 4/19

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