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Design Review: Volume 4, Issue 3 (June-July 1952)

The Fordham House

page 66

The Fordham House

The house which won its architects the New Zealand Institute of Architects Bronze Medal for 1952 was the subject of an interview recently. Design Review met the owner, Mr. N. W. Fordham, together with Mr. A. Graham Kofoed, of Messrs. Light-body and Kofoed, registered architects and winners of the medal.

Editors: We understand that this house was designed for a family in no great way different from many others in this country. The owner is a business man with a wife, two teen-age daughters and a younger son.

Owner: That is right. A typical New Zealand suburban family. We entertain a bit, and we like to be handy to town.

Editors: You used to live at the Hutt?

Owner: We had a house of 2,200 square feet there, and coming in to town we felt the loss of area was to be the biggest sacrifice. However, with a properly planned house, 1,600 square feet, as we found out, went just as far. In fact, we now have more usable space and greater conveniences than we had before.

Editors: The site, we imagine, played a large part in the design.

Architect: Yes. Briefly, the ground, when we first saw it, fell mainly into three levels, none large enough to use by itself. The size of the proposed house made us use the greater part of the site to build on, so we used the levels with as little earth-moving as possible. The lowest level we used for a garage and basement play-room, and the next, which was also on street level (it is a steep street), we made the entrance hall, living-room and kitchen. Above, we placed the bedrooms about three feet higher than the main floor.

Editors: How is the rest of the site treated?

Architect: There is a paved terrace on the low level, where the car comes in, which is also the drying-ground. The rise to the next level, a boulder bank, dissociates it from the entrance lawn and flower beds.

Owner: At the back, where the retaining wall is close to the house above, we have a small rock garden.

Editors: How do the levels within the house suit the owner?

Owner: We have found them very satisfactory, particularly for the view. We have a small glimpse of the harbour between the hills, and we can see this from all the rooms in the house.

Editors: This dividing by levels has had the effect of keeping the conveniences fairly remote from the rest of the house.

Owner: Yes, we would have liked a toilet by the front door, but finances prevented this.

Editors: Looking at the plan, we notice you have two separate dining spaces side by side. Isn't this a bit wasteful?

Owners: In reality we have most of our meals in the nook in the kitchen, which is well set up with plastic-covered upholstery, and is far handier for my wife. The dining table and chairs are kept for occasions, and when not in use still look a very pleasant part of the living-room.

Editors: How was the interior decoration arrived at?

Owner: I left that to my wife, who acted in co-operation with the architects.

Editors: We wondered about the style of the furnishing. It does not fit in with the style of the general design of the house as well as we feel it should.

Owner: That is partly because a lot of it was already there; we merely had it recovered. The rest we had made to go with it. We didn't want to have the chairs and tables clashing with each other. Another reason was that we did not want to be too modern inside, so we chose things which suited us.

Editors: Another point that interests us is the placing of the fireplace. We think one should feel more enclosed sitting before a fire, and that it is best in a corner of its own.

Architect: In this case the fire is placed to heat the whole area of the room, since it is the sole means of heating, apart from the electric radiators.

Editors: Where do you keep the fuel — in the cupboard beside the fire?

Architect: That is actually where we originally intended it, but the owner finally decided that it was little enough effort to carry one night's fuel in a scuttle and stand it beside the fire.

Editors: We like the windows in the living-room; the size is generous, but we feel sorry that they were not made to open on to the lawn.

Architect: We should have liked to have done that, but we were afraid of draughts in the position they are in.

page 67
The Main Entrance

The Main Entrance

The Living-room

The Living-room

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

Editors: And are the Venetian blinds the result of a desire for privacy?

Owner: One reason is for the sake of privacy, although we intend to grow a hedge along the edge of the lawn for privacy. Apart from our own liking for Venetian blinds, another reason is to keep the sun off the furniture. The grand piano stands fairly close to those windows, and the blinds are easily adjusted when the sun comes round.

Editors: We like the placing of of the kitchen in relation to the entrance and living-room.

Architect: The whole problem of kitchen here was a complex one. In one big space we have laundry, kitchen and meal space, and we tried to arrange entrance and exits (there are four necessary doors in this area) to form divisions in the use of the room. The back porch screens and divides off the clothes from the food, while the door to the hall is handy to both without giving any of those long-range views through the house.

Owner: From our experience we have found this a very good and easily worked kitchen. The quality is in the arrangement. There are few innovations, though I should mention one: The meal table has no legs, as it is cantilevered from the wall with a metal angle, and this makes sitting down to eat much easier.

Editors: We thoroughly approve of being able to come up from the garage without going outside again.

Owner: Yes, we are very pleased with that. In fact, that is one of the points of the house that is thoroughly satisfactory to our way of living.