Existing traces: Baird House

Click to enlarge
Baird House is located on a sloping site in Island Bay, Wellington.

Baird House is located on a sloping site in Island Bay, Wellington. Image: Russell Kleyn

1 of 9
The striking red galley-style kitchen has a staircase behind the bench, with built-in shelving. This enables an open-plan, light-filled living and dining area with views onto the garden.

The striking red galley-style kitchen has a staircase behind the bench, with built-in shelving. This enables an open-plan, light-filled living and dining area with views onto the garden. Image: Russell Kleyn

2 of 9
Sited close to a neighbour, the architect has strategically placed the windows to ensure privacy.

Sited close to a neighbour, the architect has strategically placed the windows to ensure privacy. Image: Russell Kleyn

3 of 9
A recycled matai staircase lines the back of the kitchen bench.

A recycled matai staircase lines the back of the kitchen bench. Image: Russell Kleyn

4 of 9
The double-height living area has a casual lounge above for the children, but is still open to allow for communication with the parents downstairs.

The double-height living area has a casual lounge above for the children, but is still open to allow for communication with the parents downstairs. Image: Russell Kleyn

5 of 9
Atelierworkshop has used coloured plywood – which has colour actually embedded in the fibre of the wood – for the bold red kitchen.

Atelierworkshop has used coloured plywood – which has colour actually embedded in the fibre of the wood – for the bold red kitchen. Image: Russell Kleyn

6 of 9
The all-white bathroom features hexagonally tiled flooring and a bespoke ply-edged vanity.

The all-white bathroom features hexagonally tiled flooring and a bespoke ply-edged vanity. Image: Russell Kleyn

7 of 9
View from the back garden. High windows maximise winter sun and views.

View from the back garden. High windows maximise winter sun and views. Image: Russell Kleyn

8 of 9
Facing south, the front of the old cottage retains a 1970s enclosed porch for wind protection.

Facing south, the front of the old cottage retains a 1970s enclosed porch for wind protection. Image: Russell Kleyn

9 of 9

On a wide dead-end street in the community of Island Bay, a modest Victorian-style worker’s cottage has been transformed into a spacious modern home that still retains the character of the original building.

The double-height living area has a casual lounge above for the children, but is still open to allow for communication with the parents downstairs. Image:  Russell Kleyn

“This was a small, dark cottage,” explains Cecile Bonnifait of Bonnifait + Giesen Atelierworkshop Architects, “but it’s super charming, so we didn’t want to compromise the scale too much. We were lucky to have a dropping-down of the land to enable us to squeeze a lot of architecture into the space – although, being in the Island Bay suburb, we couldn’t do too much; we needed to keep everything under control.”

The house was built at the turn of the last century and, at some point – probably in the 1970s – the cottage’s original front porch had been enclosed, turning it into a sunroom. “We kept it,” explains Bonnifait, because “there was no point in reinstating something that has been enclosed for so long and because of the orientation facing south, there was a need for some protection too.” They also left the entrance corridor, which has a view straight through to the garden.

The practice normally approaches a design by “looking at the traces” that already exist in the building and its context. The original staircase was falling apart so they removed it but used the matai timber flooring, which is carried through into a new addition using reclaimed matai. The addition extends out of the original cottage by about 3.5m; they kept the old bathroom but eliminated a bedroom and kitchen to make room for the new layout.

The striking red galley-style kitchen has a staircase behind the bench, with built-in shelving. This enables an open-plan, light-filled living and dining area with views onto the garden. Image:  Russell Kleyn

“We wanted a vision through to the garden, so we squeezed the open staircase in beside the kitchen. This way the dining room would sit in a prime spot with lovely sun and views overlooking the garden, the valley and the neighbouring lights at night. That meant we could keep the living room basically where it was.”

Oriented full north, with full-height windows and a very open spatial arrangement, the house is very light and airy and utilises passive heat gain, keeping the temperature comfortable.

View from the back garden. High windows maximise winter sun and views. Image:  Russell Kleyn

The real challenge of the cottage was how to make it work both for the parents and the kids – a doctor couple and their three daughters. The architects came up with a simple but efficient layout, which enables all of the family to communicate from every point in the space.

“We created a void for the parents to communicate from downstairs with the girls in the secondary lounge above, where they can watch TV and movies and it’s really nice and sunny,” explains Bonnifait. “Also, we inserted acoustics in the ceiling to reduce any transference of noise and the space works beautifully – it’s great for parties.”

The bold red kitchen and upstairs storage wall are real highlights of the design, also. Atelierworkshop is a fan of plywood – for the coloured versions in particular, which have colour actually embedded in the fibre of the wood. These architects have managed to fit many architectural highlights into a small and simple cottage.

MATERIAL SELECTOR

Architects Cecile Bonnifait and William Giesen explain their choice of cladding.

Cecile Bonnifait and William Giesen.

You typically use New Zealand’s native macrocarpa timber or imported cedar or redwood for the cladding on your designs; how do they compare?

Macrocarpa is local, an environmentally-conscious material and it’s cost effective. We also use imported cedar and redwood, which are imported timbers but are more stable over a longer time period and are, therefore, suited to different applications.

If macrocarpa isn’t as robust over time, what advice would you give to anyone looking to install it as cladding?

Macrocarpa is a softer wood than cedar, for example, so, to avoid the timber splitting during changing weather [when wood is inclined to expand and contract], we recommend that you ask the builder to find a good-quality source of timber that is free from knots. As a cladding, we generally use macrocarpa for screening and decorative elements, as well as for rainscreens over plywood walls, while cedar can be used as vertical weatherboard.

How should these timbers be maintained for longevity?

We usually do not give any treatment but, rather, allow them to grey off naturally. The greying of macrocarpa is one of its best features; however, we have also used various stains and oils.


More projects

Electric by design

Electric by design

Simon Bush-King unravels the new, quirky design within a former electricity company headquarters in Antwerp.
Paris without a map

Paris without a map

From Mondrian to Margiela: a very personal blending of influences make this French apartment a veritable tour de force.
The skyline shifter

The skyline shifter

Ground is soon to be broken for The Pacifica, an apartment complex that will be Auckland’s highest residential tower.
Mirror, mirror

Mirror, mirror

Warren and Mahoney Auckland’s new office is a gold box that reflects the beauty of its home inside an old shipping warehouse.

Most read

Print your own house: WikiHouse in New Zealand

Print your own house

Amelia Melbourne-Hayward chats with the co-founders of WikiHouse New Zealand to find out more about the open source project.
The Kiwi kitchen

The Kiwi kitchen

We asked a few Kiwi architects and designers for some sage advice around the one of the most complex rooms in the house.
Paris without a map

Paris without a map

From Mondrian to Margiela: a very personal blending of influences make this French apartment a veritable tour de force.