Tobin Smith of Common has a long-running interest in distilling things down to their essence – producing houses that are stripped back and deceptively simple, where each detail is perfectly executed. The value of the approach becomes clear with this house, not far from the Ōtakaro Avon River and the centre of Ōtautahi Christchurch: a deft marriage of big moves and beautiful small moments.
The house is composed of three elements. At the ground floor, in-situ concrete bookends frame the living spaces, with full-height glazing on all sides running out to a flat garden; above that, sitting on the bookends, a black timber box houses bedrooms and bathrooms; a third black timber box houses a double garage.
Instead of a forbidding wall and gate at roadside, the front garden is unfenced; one of the bookends doubles as the perimeter wall, with a small courtyard and vertical cutouts to soften its weight. You come up the path and inside the wall, where you’re held before you progress into the house. There’s a clear differential between public and private – but it’s not an aggressive one.
Inside, the palette is restrained and crisp: concrete floors, white walls and full-height glazing. Downstairs, the living spaces occupy most of the ground floor, with views out into the garden; the glass is softened with billowy white curtains. Upstairs, via a skylit staircase and gallery, there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Now six years old, the house’s forms have been softened by established planting, and its materials have worn in beautifully – though the clean lines and clear thinking have remained as crisp as the day it was built. It’s on the market now with Nick Cowdy.
Churchill Street House
8 Churchill Street