My first car was a Morris 1100. It was a dreadfully unreliable rust-bucket whose only claim to automotive significance was that it was stolen three times, and each time it was recovered it drove a little bit better than before. It was one of those rare creatures that responded to a good thrashing. Twenty-five years later, I have a perfectly modern automobile whose only fault is that it uses a petrol engine instead of a large solar-powered hay-bale.
Now, I miss that first completely awful piece of machinery for its elegant simplicity. The world is confusing enough without having to worry that the car is a bit overconfident about parallel parking itself. Fortunately, while cars have become modern, houses have stayed reliably the same, give or take a few electrical appliances. Except for the prices that is, which have risen more steeply than Hillary’s final ascent.
If buying a first car takes a deep breath then that first house requires nitrous oxide: “Half a mill, Gov? Then step this way – I think we have a caravan out the back that meets your budget.” The owners of this first home, in the Lower Hutt suburb of Belmont, took a bold step when they decided to bypass the ‘used house’ market to commission Dan Heyworth and Tim Dorrington, of BOX Living, for a new design. Together they have built a deceptively elegant home.
Were this house an automobile it would be one of those Japanese sports cars with the styling of an English classic but with the performance and reliability for a modern world. The kind of car that even those who drive 50-cylinder SUVs secretly envy for the old-fashioned fun they offer on even dour days. By conceiving of a house as a collection of interconnected modules, rather than a bespoke exercise, BOX Living offer a novel approach to the opportunities for a new-build in the local market.
The architectural pedigree here is mid-century modernism via California (an inspiration for Tim) but the setting and construction are decidedly Kiwi. Good post-and-beam timber chassis, sharp exterior lines and an efficient operation under a stained-timber bonnet. The hill gradient means that the concrete slab at one end rises above ground level sufficiently to allow parking and storage, and cladding this volume in corrugated polycarbonate sheeting means that the garage lights also illuminate the exterior spaces when required.
Inside, the performance theme continues in the clear, efficient design. Well-founded leaky building fears prevent houses from having their tops down, but here the well-proportioned windows and sliding doors get this home as close to convertible living as legal requirements allow, and they reinforce the relationship of the house to its bush setting. Clean lines, sharp performance and it can’t be stolen; everything my Morrie wasn’t and yet it shares the same straightforward elegance. Just as well, as nothing gets thrashed more than a home.