A dramatic shift from the trend to build "big, brassy and glassy" houses for wealthy Aucklanders is predicted by architecture lecturer Bill McKay.
Commenting on the winning entry in the Home of the Year competition, Mr McKay said the house on a sea cliff in Westmere was a contrast to the new homes of recent years.
"It wasn't showing off to the street ... it's dark and in some ways seems to be a throwback to the woodsy style of the Group Architects in the 1950s," Mr McKay said.
The four-bedroom house is clad in dark timber like a 1950s bach and features a sunken lounge.
It was designed by Auckland architects Nicholas Stevens and Gary Lawson. They won a $15,000 prize in the competition, which is run by NZ Home + Entertaining magazine.
Mr McKay said the winning design was about a private lifestyle - a shift from big flat-roof, glass boxes that "show off our sophisticated lifestyles and pretend we live in an Eden where it never rains or gets too cold".
Stevens Lawson Architects also won the design competition for the Auckland City Mission's proposal to build flats for 80 homeless people in Central Auckland.
The Westmere home is built around a central hallway that follows the slope of the long, thin site to a lawn, pool and spa pool overlooking the sea. The hall is lined with "pods" that group together bedrooms and other living areas and a small series of courtyards.
The master bedroom suite occupies the second level and the house also has a studio, study, a separate TV room and a sunken outdoor living area around a fireplace.
"It is an unusual but supremely nurturing and comforting place," said Julie Stout, of Mitchell & Stout Architects, who was on the judging panel with Tokyo-based Mark Dytham and the magazine's editor, Jeremy Hansen.
One of this year's finalists was a home in the same street, by architect Pete Bossley.
It was designed for the needs of a blended family with five children.
Other architects in the finals were Lance and Nicola Herbst (Auckland), for a two-bedroom house on Medlands Beach, Great Barrier Island, Christopher Kelly (Wellington), for a Wairarapa house and Max Wild (Arrowtown) for a house in Arrowtown.