Interiors: Built to their own design

By Leanne Moore

A Christchurch couple enjoyed designing their own home from scratch.

The Hills' dream home came through Christchurch's earthquakes without trouble. Photo / Your Home & Garden
The Hills' dream home came through Christchurch's earthquakes without trouble. Photo / Your Home & Garden

Having bought and altered existing homes over the years, Colin and Helen Hill relished building a home from scratch.

While some might be daunted by the prospect, the Christchurch couple had distinct advantages: Colin is an architect and Helen ran an interiors store for many years. With that combined knowledge, the construction of their home went without a hitch.

Surprisingly, it’s only the second home the couple have built together — the first being one they built to Colin’s design but on a limited budget in the 1970s. Since then they have renovated homes they have bought to suit their family’s needs.

“It’s certainly liberating to work on your own new project,” says Colin. “When you’re designing an alteration there are all sorts of compromises you’ve got to make because you don’t have a clean slate to start with.”

For their new home, they chose a 500sq m site close to the centre of the city in St Albans.

“The neighbourhood is quite eclectic,” says Colin. “It’s got a mix of some modern houses and apartments and some old, established cottages. It was originally designed around workers’ cottages so they are small sites, but they all face due north and south, which is what we were looking for so we could create private outdoor living spaces to the north.”

The three-bedroom, three-bathroom house design “came together without too much disagreement”, says Colin. “We knew what we both wanted in terms of space and size and it just developed from there. Most design is constrained by the city planning rules — by the time you draw all those constraints on a piece of paper, you’ve only got a certain envelope to work within.

“Design starts with a need and it doesn’t matter whether you’re working for clients or yourself, you have a requirement for a certain space, while at the same time meeting the rules of good design.

“We wanted an open-plan living space where we could entertain, a place where we would enjoy living and where our three grandchildren would feel comfortable.”

The home is unmissable from the street, with a two-storey arch that is repeated at the northern end of the building to create the effect of a spine, anchoring the design.

“I guess it is what people would call boxy, but it’s not one of the all-white Miami Vice-type houses they did 20 years ago,” says Helen. “It has more personality.”

After three years of living in the home, which has come through the city’s recent spate of earthquakes without trouble, the couple wouldn’t change a thing.

“This house has got a lovely feel about it,” says Colin. “We’re extremely happy with it.”

Style tips

Fresh angle: Colin set the house on the site at a slight angle to the side boundaries. “Other places are parallel to the boundary and very regimented, but I wanted to slope it away from the boundary, which opens the courtyard to the west, to more sun and light.”

Drawing board: Employing an architect gives you a home that is purpose-designed to suit your site.

Leanne Moore is the editor of Your Home & Garden. For the full story on this house see the latest issue of the magazine.

- NZ Herald

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