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Grinham Chippindale House

This is a two bedroom family home that is intentionally integrated with nature: With a love of Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophies, it has been purposely designed to be “of the land not on the land”: nestling into the landscape and appearing almost invisible against the hillside.

Black home exterior

Sited on an exposed north facing ridge on the lower slopes of the highest peak on Banks Peninsula, overlooking the picturesque Whakaraupo, Lyttleton Harbour, this house has sweeping views and all-day sun. The property adjoins a regenerating native bush reserve and the owners very much wanted it to blend with nature and be ‘one’ with the landscape. The one room wide form snakes its way along the site contours and the roof slope is designed to match the general lie of the land. Changes in the existing landscape are reflected in the building through subtle angle changes in the overall form, connected with soft, curving elements.

Open-plan lounge

Stained black kitchen

The materials of the exterior needed to feel natural but also be reasonably cost effective. The habited side is finished using a randomised, vertical weatherboard pattern. The form has been kept simple and uncluttered, free from vent pipes, TV aerials and the like. It expresses the simplicity of a shed or hut in the bush. The simple form is expressed as an extruded, ‘lean-to’ shape which is all you see when you arrive, belying the long plan in behind.

The landscaping is developing a grove of semi-mature kowhai, that bisect the site and will eventually envelope the house from the street perspective.

Black and light timber - lounge and kitchen

Internally, the design needed to work well with an extensive craft art and cast glass collection, so the choice was made at an early stage to extend the exterior thinking of a natural palette, by using a very light plywood as wall linings. It is both simple and complex in design. The plywood has been meticulously laid out to ensure every single joint aligns so you feel as if you are living inside a piece of beautifully crafted joinery.

Where dark backgrounds were needed, like where the cast glass is displayed, parts of the exterior palette are brought inside utilising the stain colour on the ply and some internalised weatherboards. The overall internal effect is soft and homely with carpet tile flooring chosen to appear like moss on the forest floor in the local valleys. Complementing the moss green flooring are splashes of carefully selected flooring that work with the wall colours.

Nature themed home

Nature themed home exterior

The house sits atop the last lava flow from Te Ahu Patiki (Mount Herbert) and the site is dominated by huge volcanic boulders. The colours found in these boulders formed the key design colours of the dark exterior of the building. The deep brown colour is echoed in the Resene Waterborne Woodsman English Walnut stain as well as the Ironsand cladding both picking out the iron rich volcanic rocks found on the site. To work with this and to further soften the impact, Resene Waterborne Woodsman Limed Gum stain was used, picking up the kowhai’s foliage perfectly.

Light lounge

Stained black home exterior

Internally, the colour scheme was designed to largely use the pure material colours so clear finishes were the key and the Resene Poly-Satin polyurethane was a perfect choice for its even coating and resilient finish.

While excavating the site huge boulders, the size of cars were uncovered, needing two heavy duty diggers to shift them. These boulders were delicately nudged to line the driveway and reflect the house colours as hoped for.

After living in the house for almost a year, the native bird population has become well-adjusted to the house to the extent a number of kereru often sit happily on the pergola frames and don’t move even when you walk up to them.

Architectural specifier: Stephenson & Turner
Client: Sahra Grinham and Dennis Chippindale
Colour selection: Dennis Chippindale
Photographer: Simon Devitt
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2020

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