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Design Review: Volume 4, Issue 4 (August-September 1952)

A House in Karori

page 90

A House in Karori

The Plan on the Site.—The Wellington site for this house had a very strong influence on the form of the plan. There was a steep grade of about 1 in 2, with a westerly aspect. The road which turned a corner at the boundary, however was able to be used as access to the top and to the bottom of the slope. This made it possible with the aid of the bulldozer to form two steps or terraces. At the lower level was built the garage and workshop, entered by a level drive.

On top of these rooms were built the living quarters, which are then able to open out on to the upper shelf. Thus have been made an open terrace and lawn which are protected by the rock bank of excavation on the north-eastern side and by wings of the house on the southern and western sides.

The gully at the bottom of the slope was filled with spoil from the excavations for a vegetable plot.

Bulldozing proved an economical method of improving a ‘low-value’ site.

The Plan of the House.—The chief feature is the complete avoidance of internal corridors and dark unusable corners. Thus the 1,150 square feet area is ample for two adults and two children (ages 10 and 7) with full possibilities of additional guest beds and occasional entertaining. There is separate study and work space for each member of the family.

There is a minimum of internal divisions and doors which saves the cost of framing and wall lining and ensures great flexibility in rearrangements when the household expands or contracts.

The living area is divided into two wings. A large children's wing to the west, which has double doors to the terrace, provides ideal play space for children and friends. It is planned to be divided into double and single bedrooms off a sunporch later on. Open internal layout separates the children's activities from the rest of the house without their feeling cut off.

The north-south wing has its entrance in the middle between the dining area and the living room. A HARCO 25 space heater keeps the whole area warm, and the draughts usually present in houses with each room separate don't exist here.

The kitchen and the dining table page 91
Living Room

Living Room

Plan of House and Section

Plan of House and Section

are almost alongside one another, but the view of the preparations of a meal, pots and saucepans, is screened by a bank of cupboards. These cupboards do not extend up to the ceiling and so give a confined appearance to both rooms; rather is the spaciousness increased as the eye can follow the plane of the ceiling beyond the cupboards suggesting the presence of space on the other side.

The living room is entered through a partition lined with ply with a matching flush door. This is a large comfortable room with double doors opening on to the terrace and plenty of glass through which you can see down the valley to the east.

Bedrooms and study for the parents open off the living room and are screened when required by page 92 strongly patterned curtains. These three rooms are capable of being completely separated from the rest of the house.

Living in this house has convinced the owner-architect of the even greater effectiveness of open planning where low-cost housing is concerned. The house not only feels and looks spacious; it is in fact very generous.

Visible beams at regular intervals and structural posts throughout the house unify space and add a note of order and firmness as counterpoint to the openness of space arrangements. Space division is further emphasised by the raised floor level of the children's wing. The raising of the floor here also permits afternoon winter sun to enter through clerestory windows.

All plumbing is concentrated in the corner of the house nearest to the sewer drain.

Structure and Cost.—The frame was initially designed on an approximately regular grid of posts and beams at 4 ft. to 5 ft. centres with 1 1/2 in. solid T. and G. roof decking and 2 in. floor planks (see sketch). The large glass areas now commonly demanded would fit this wide grid without further trimming timbers.

However, out-of-date bylaws in this town prevented the application of this modular structure. Subsequent building experience shows that the conventional bylaw structure raised the cost of labour more than the cost would have been for the heavier dressed planks, which would have eliminated the multitude of rafters and the lining of ceilings.

Except for base plates, which are totara, all framing is of Pinus insignis. The exposed and varnished Pinus beams meet with admiration from all visitors.

Concrete floor slab: The floor of the children's wing was cast in concrete direct upon firm ground. It was insulated with 3 in. of clean crushed stone and reinforced building paper (sisalkraft). The concrete itself was of 3,000 Ib./sq. in. strength and 1/2 in. bituminous emulsion was laid on top. The finish to the floor is Eldorado tiling, which, warm in the winter, entirely eliminates the need for carpets or mats. This has proved a most hygienic and labour-saving floor, and is the relief and pride of the housewife.

This type of floor, in contrast to the suspended floor slab, needs next to no boxing and only dwarf foundation walls. It has proved decidedly economical, and has also the advan tage of eliminating the need for steps down to the garden level.

Finish.—The exterior sheathing is resin-bonded Weldtex, a striated (grooved) plywood with matai or white pine veneer. The vertically grooved texture prevents the wind from sweeping water into the joints and guides the rain straight down to the base.

Denso tape, a seccomastic tape inserted behind the joints in the sheathing, seals the entry to the small amount of moisture which may penetrate the joints of closely butted plywood sheets.

The Weldtex received two coats of a mixture of 50 per cent. raw linseed oil and 50 per cent. pure turpentine. It is believed that the addition of a small percentage of boiled oil to the second coat would form a surface film as well as protective penetration.

The basement has concrete walls and asbestos sheets on framing to be finished with a latex base paint.

Materials Used

External Sheathing:

Weldtex exterior resin-bonded plywood (Dominion Sales Corp. Ltd.), flashed by ‘Denso tape’ (A. R. Hislop Ltd.).

Interior Lining:

Gibraltar board from Winstone Ltd., one interior wall rimu plywood.


Three-layer Malthoid with pebble finish (J. A. Redpath and Sons).


Timber on joists and Eldorado cork tile flooring on concrete in playroom (Odlin Timber and Hardware Co. Ltd.).


Concrete by Certified Concrete Ltd.

Door furniture and hardware from G. A. Lang and Co. Ltd.

Washrite washing machine: Electric Refrigeration Ltd.

Neeco electric stove: Smith and Smith Ltd.

Stainless steel sink: Mercer.

Harco 25 oil space heater: J. F. Hargrave Ltd.

Electric heater from Taylor's, Christchurch.



Living Room

Living Room

Children's Room

Children's Room

External Sheathing

External Sheathing

page 93
External Sheathing

External Sheathing