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Small but beautiful

Article by Homes to Love

With ANZ, Homes to Love is exploring the ways we live now, under the theme of ‘Small Homes’ – and how this trend allows us to live and build today.

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For a house to be considered ‘luxurious’ it often needs to have a sizeable floor plan, square metres to spare and a hefty price tag. But real luxury is in the details and this is where a smaller, well-designed home has a distinct advantage.

Architect Michael O’Sullivan’s house in Auckland’s Mangere Bridge, which he shares with his partner, Melissa Schollum, and their three children, demonstrates the benefits of compact living. When O’Sullivan first designed and built the house it had two-bedrooms and measured 112 square metres. He has since added on an additional bedroom for the children, but even with the extra space it is still a small home for a growing family.

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There is little wasted space in the O’Sullivan home. There is no formal front door; instead you enter through a courtyard into a carefully planned living and dining area.


The modest size of the house allowed O’Sullivan to focus on the finer details and get creative in a way that he couldn’t have done if he was designing a larger building. There is no formal front door; instead you enter through a courtyard into a carefully planned living and dining area, with a cedar weatherboard ceiling featuring intricate triangle light inserts and a wall of narrow windows that capture the sun from the north while still affording privacy from the driveway.

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By keeping the house small, O’Sullivan could focus his attention on unexpected and clever details, such as these triangle insert lights.


Moving through the house other features standout including a brass kitchen island, velvet curtains that have been used in place of doors and a decadent all-marble bathroom. Not only do these details add to visual interest to house, they also enhance the sense of space. By keeping the budget low, O’Sullivan was able to splurge on small touches of luxury that would have been unaffordable in a larger home.

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A standout feature of the O’Sullivan home is decadent all-marble bathroom.


There is a strong sense of indoor to outdoor flow throughout the house, created by floor to ceiling windows and two outdoor courtyards. The front deck through which we enter the house is a sheltered outdoor space that doubles as an additional living area for the family, complete with dining table and chairs. Through a set of large glass doors coming off the living area we arrive at a second, larger courtyard. In keeping with the rest of the house this area has been designed to maximise space. We see this through simple, practical details such as a sheltered alcove built into the courtyard fencing designed to fit the family’s table tennis table.

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Small houses need good outdoor areas to expand onto. The O’Sullivan house has two outdoor courtyards which double as additional living spaces.


The O’Sullivan house demonstrates that with good design it is possible to make a small home work for a big family.

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Large windows connect the indoor spaces with the outdoor, making the house feel bigger than it really is.


Images supplied courtesy of Bull O’Sullivan Architecture Ltd.

If you’re thinking about building, buying or renovating use the ANZ home loan calculator to work out how you can achieve it. Visit anz.co.nz/homeloans for more information.

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