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Small changes yield big results for this petite cottage

 

Architect Pam Ingram collaborated with graphic designer Peter Roband to renovate the Arch Hill apartment he shares with his partner Lindsay Spedding. The apartment now has a completely fresh feel without any changes to the existing footprint.

“He could visualise what I was talking about,” says Ingram, “and he wanted something that was well-designed. We both speak the same language. We both believe in good design.”

Arch Hill renovation. Photograph by Patrick Reynolds.

A view from the kitchen area through the dining space towards the home’s front door. The zinc-topped dining table from Zinc+ in Wellington is paired with ‘Tolix’ dining chairs from Madder & Rouge. Photograph by Patrick Reynolds.

Sometimes small change can yield big results. Case in point: the Victorian semi-detached home in the Auckland suburb of Arch Hill owned by Peter Roband and his partner Lindsay Spedding. The aim of a recent renovation was to better connect the lean-to containing the home’s kitchen and bathroom to the north-facing garden behind it. The surprising outcome was how this renovation added not a bit of floor space to the house, but transformed the feeling of even the spaces that weren’t touched by it. “It’s had a huge effect on the house,” says architect Pam Ingram, who collaborated with Peter on the design. “More people these days are approaching their projects this way – not doing very much but achieving a lot. People are more savvy about what good design can achieve.”

Arch Hill renovation. Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

The concrete table (left) was designed by the couple and built in situ by Ally Metcalf. The simple galley kitchen includes a stainless-steel bench that reflects sunlight into the adjoining spaces. Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

 

When Peter, a co-founder of the Auckland graphic and product design firm pHd3, purchased the house almost 18 years ago, the kitchen looked forlornly at the garden through a small window above the sink; the only way to reach it was via a “dippy door” that opened off the bathroom. These days, a wall of glass louvres and a door from the kitchen open to the back yard, making the garden visible from the front door and bringing light deep into the house. It feels like a completely different place.

Arch Hill renovation. Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

An exterior view of the Arch Hill apartment (left). Bookshelves painted in Aalto ‘Undercover’ line the hallway leading to the dining area. The artwork on the far wall is by Kate Hart. Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

 

Before he met Pam to discuss the project, Peter had prepared a sketch of what he envisaged, a drawin­g that is remarkably close to the finished result. Presenting this to Pam challenged his self-imposed dictum that “designers should stick to their own discipline.” But despite having a clear picture of what he thought the house could be, he recognised the potential pitfalls of the journey from drawing to reality, and the need for an expert to smooth out the potential bumps in that process. For her part, Pam – who had completed a renovation for Peter’s sister over a decade earlier – was happy with the concept Peter had developed, and immediately started work resolving the details. “It was a superb sketch,” she says. “I loved the idea”.

Arch Hill renovation. Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

When Peter purchased the house nearly 18 years ago the garden (left) was only accessible via a “dippy door” that opened off the bathroo­m. These days, a wall of glass louvres and a door from the kitchen provide a better connection to the back yard. Small design changes completely renew the feel of the apartment. Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

 

One of the first tasks was to assess whether the design would be energy efficient. The louvres are not double-glazed, so to get building consent Pam had to prove that the renovation would make the building more thermally efficient. This was achieved by insulating the slab on which the bathroom and kitchen were constructed, and adding insulation to the walls and ceiling. (In addition, the new north-facing glass wall warms up the home by allowing so much more sunlight into it, with the heat retained in the concrete floor.) For much of the year, the louvres are open, allowing cooling breezes to circulate through the house.

Arch Hill renovation. Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

The wall (left) features a stanza, hand-painted by Peter in DIN Engschrift font, from the 1938 A.R.D. Fairburn poem ‘Dominion’ on the dining area wall. A peek at the apartment’s petite bathroom, which was made slightly smaller in the renovation to give more room to the kitchen. Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

 

There were other details to resolve: the bathroom was reconfigured and reduced a little in size so that a sliver of space could be donated to the kitchen. The level connection between the indoors and outdoors required careful consideration of flashing and drainage beneath. There were long discussions over the spacing and width of the mullions on the back wall. Peter and Pam are designers from different disciplines, but they enjoyed the collaboration. “We both spoke the same language,” Pam says. “We both believe in good design.”

Arch Hill renovation. Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

Lindsay and Peter in the new galley kitchen (left). The garden is visible from the front door and brings light deep into the house. A ‘Louis Ghost’ chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell sits beside a 1930s painted half-table that was a French junk shop find. Gin and tonics are the perfect complement to the new green splashback (right). Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

 

The end result, of course, belies the sweat that went into the details. The simple galley kitchen features a long bench, the oven and cabinetry on one side and a small table on the other where Peter and Lindsay eat breakfast and dinner if they’re not entertaining. A simple stainless-steel bench makes the space appear to shimmer in the sunlight. In the bathroom, where the louvres are opaque to allow privacy, Pam moved the bathtub to a position beside the louvres and placed the shower over it. She also enlarged the space by combining it with the separate toilet. She designed floor to ceiling cupboards adjacent to the stacked washing machine and dryer, a general decluttering that makes the space feel clean and serene.

Arch Hill renovation. Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

Peter Roband in the apartment’s new living space. Photograph by Patrick Reynolds.

 

The renovation inspired a minor do-up of the home’s other spaces, with new paint colours in the small living area facing the street and, in the dining area, the striking addition on one wall of a stanza from a poem by A.R.D. Fairburn that Peter hand-painted in DIN Engschrift font.

Arch Hill renovation. Photograph by Patrick Reynolds.

The kitchen splashback features Bisazza ‘Aria’ tiles from Jacobsen. Photograph by Patrick Reynolds.

 

The renovation is unabashedly contemporary, but thoughtfully in tune with the rest of the house. Pam points out how the wall of louvres echoes the rhythm of the exterior weatherboards, and how the proportions of the revamped kitchen and bathroom mimic those of the original lean-to. “I think that it’s very important to allow existing buildings to maintain their own qualities, to be what they are while accommodating the necessities of modern life,” she says. “It’s respecting the scale and proportions and material and the density of them.” –Jeremy Hansen

Q&A with Pam Ingram

HOME You’ve added no space to the house, yet it feels entirely different. How’d you do it?
Pam Ingram That’s right, we didn’t change the footprint. More people are looking to approach their projects this way – people are more savvy about what good design can achieve. Anyway, to build anything bigger would have had the neighbouring property in shadow, which wouldn’t have been a nice thing to do. I have to give Peter credit for coming to me with a superb sketch. I was very enthusiastic about the wall of louvred glass, but we had to make sure the wall could work thermally and then solve the technical problems. The louvres replicate the pattern of the weatherboards, and I like that you go through the front door and your eye is drawn towards the garden. It continues the notional hallway to the exterior. It just broke down the barrier. It has had a huge effect on the house.

HOME You’re an architect, and Peter is a graphic designer who presented you with a pretty detailed sketch. How well did you work together?
Pam Ingram The process was a shared decision-making process. We talked about size and spacing of mullions, how there’s no step between inside and out to create a seamless flow. He could visualise what I was talking about, and he wanted something that was well-designed. We both speak the same language. We both believe in good design.

Arch Hill renovation. Peter Roband's sketch.

Peter Roband’s original sketch for the renovations.

Arch Hill renovation floorplan.

The Arch Hill apartment’s floorplan by Pam Ingram.

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