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

A House at Avondale

page 77

A House at Avondale

Here is a house for a family to live in. The owner decided that unencumbered floor space was essential for a house that would be more than a place to come home to each night. The architect was able to plan following a pattern of living—not merely the pattern of houses past and present.

The result has been a spacious and easy-to-run house. The editors feel that new experience has been added to the design and building of the house in New Zealand. It is simple and at the same time exciting.

Since builders often are wary about new types of construction, and cover themselves in their prices, the owner engaged labour and became the contractor himself. The construction proved far cheaper than normal types; the whole house of 1,800 square feet without builders' profit cost £3,800, £2 2s. per square foot.

Planning.—The factors considered in the planning were (concurrent with method of building and cost) eventual family of parents and three children; flat site with a view down a creek to the N.-W.; wind and neighbouring houses and some high bluegums to the south; a car and a piano.

The entrance is from the east. Opening the door, you walk down a bluestone floor between the wall and the garage, looking down the length of the house through to four glazed doors in the far wall and beyond. At the end of the garage the space page 78 suddenly opens up to the full width of the house and overhead to the full height of the two storeys. This large carpeted space is where the family lives. The returns of the brick walls under an 8 ft. ceiling at the west side of the house form areas for the piano and the divans. The glass between (four 8 ft. high glazed doors) opens out on to a future terrace which will be on the bank of a creek lined with trees. From the divan there is a long view down the creek.

The dining table is under a seven-foot-wide gallery which is also the connecting link between the bedrooms. There are 8 ft. high plate glass doors here too, and above, on the north and south walls, are large areas of glass set in the wall in the same way as glasshouses are glazed. The high glazing allows the sun to enter back into the two-storey part of the living area, warming the house, while the balcony prevents direct sun reaching the dining table.

A view of the tops of bluegums can be seen through the high cathedral-like windows to the south. Glass here stops 8 ft. from the floor, as neighbouring sections would otherwise look straight in.

The kitchen is in the same wall as the entrance but on the other side of the garage. There are plenty of cupboards, painted white, and a white refrigerator. Washing is done in a Bendix in the kitchen, thus saving the space usually occupied by a laundry.

The bathroom is immediately above the kitchen, and all plumbing and vent pipes go into the garage—a factor in keeping the clean appearance of the walls.

The north boundary of the section is being planted in fruit trees and natives—flax, cabbage trees and tapa, affording a degree of privacy and a fine view while having your meal.

At the top of the stairs is the gallery connecting the two parts of the upper storey. This gallery is 7 ft. wide, which allows plenty of room for chairs and has 2 ft. deep cupboards and shelves along the wall.

To the west is the children's sleeping area—the full width of the house and 10 ft. wide—capable of being divided up into a number of sleeping alcoves.

The parents' bedroom, on the other side, has a separate dressing space. This bedroom, from which one of the photographs was taken, has a 3 ft. high by 7 ft. long work bench instead of a full-height wall on the west side, so that from the bedroom you can see across to the opposite wall of the upper floor space and down to the living space below.

There are high windows along the top of the east and west walls page 79 giving light into bedrooms and bathroom. These are strips of 2 ft. glass joined by lead cames. Ventilation along these walls is by hinged flaps between the 8 ft. × 2 ft. rafters. North and south walls are ventilated by vertical 8 in. × 1 in. cedar hinged flaps.

This is a large house and more open in its plan than is usual even to-day. The problem of heating was important, since there is no small room to be enclosed and heated by itself. It became a matter of heating the whole area of the house. An open fire obviously would not do this without burning whole forests at a time. Central heating would have been too costly. Success was achieved, however, by placing a large slow-burning combustion stove fairly near the centre of the house. By this means it has been proved possible to heat the whole house in half an hour.


Ground Floor.—Concrete floor with bluestone extending from entry right through to west fin of 42 ft. south brick wall—concrete is covered with carpet. Eight-foot-high brick cavity walls with timber frame on top.

First Floor.—4 in. thick ‘mill’ (or solid) floor (4 in. × 2 in.'s dressed all sides and nailed together, the bottom forming the ceiling to ground floor). The mill floor is supported by 12 in. × 4 in. Oregon beams which extend through the west wall 7 ft. to support the verandah to the future terrace.

Roof.—8 in. × 2 in. rafters at 3 ft. 8 in. centres with diagonal pine sarking, dressed face down. The sarking forms the ceiling. A similar finish has been used for internal partitions. The roof covering is impregnated asbestos fabric laid on top of the sarking.

The doors to the ground are 8 ft. to the underside of the floor. The joinery for the doors and windows is simple and inexpensive.

The owner, Mr. Kevin George, is to be congratulated on his awareness of the possibilities that can be realised in a fresh and imaginative approach to house design at the hands of an able architect.

Mr. James Hackshaw has recently gone to France on an architectural scholarship granted by the New Zealand Government.