Megan Edwards expands an Eden Terrace bungalow into a family sanctuary that filters out the city with a raft of sustainable features.

Salad Days

Salad Days

There is no objective way of proving this, but there’s something of a sea change happening in the raffish inner-city suburbs – Arch Hill, Eden Terrace, Kingsland – on either side of the Northwestern Motorway in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Long the haunt of student flats and first-home buyers, this area has become a desirable end point in itself, attracting a community of like-minded liberal types who enjoy how connected and yet slightly separate this valley is. It’s in the heart of the city, five minutes to everywhere on excellent bike lanes, and yet it retains its own, slightly messy character.

Which is all very nice, until you might – as Ben Campbell and Fiona Parr did – end up with three children in a 100-something-square-metre house on a south-facing 350-square-metre section through 18 months of lockdowns. Seeking a slightly better house with an extra bedroom, in the same area, the couple kept coming out of auctions for badly renovated homes empty-handed. Eventually, they realised they might get what they need – and spend less – by renovating their bungalow. “We always said we’d never renovate,” says Parr. “And then we tried to move.”

Which is ironic: this is one couple well-suited to building. Campbell is the innovation manager for Abodo – which has developed a system to treat New Zealand pine so that it performs as well as old-growth, imported hardwood – and Parr is an acoustic engineer. If they were going to renovate, it needed to do more than look nice. “I knew they’d be good clients,” says Edwards of the family, which also includes Evelyn (13), Jeremy (9) and Marvin (6), “because the five of them had just got through Covid in that tiny house and they still seemed sane at the end of it.”

At that point, the house had three bedrooms, one of which opened onto a small living room; the kitchen-dining and bathroom were in a small, dark lean-to out the back. The family has lived here since 2009 and they’d made some improvements over the years – upgrading appliances, installing new hot-water systems – but it was largely original, with a familiar hodge-podge of sun-challenged spaces. Edwards’ approach was simple. “Honestly,” she says, “I think you’d have to be a bad architect not to come to this plan.”

She proposed demolishing the lean-to, building a service block containing a bathroom, laundry and second toilet, and dedicating the original house to four bedrooms, introducing a new open-plan living space under a large sheltering roof that kicks up to bring in northern light. “The roof shape is just really nice,” says Edwards. “It forms a gentle space between the old house and the garden. There was a sweet spot that I thought we needed to hit in terms of how much space the extension takes up relative to the garden that’s left over.”

The design nailed the brief. “We liked it immediately,” says Parr. The couple also specified a raft of high-performance features, including water tanks set into the slab, a ventilated roof in the extension, and a ventilation system similar to that used in passive houses. The motorway is a couple of streets down the hill and, depending on the wind, the noise can be intrusive, particularly in the front bedrooms. They wanted the option of closing the house down completely and filtering out pollution without overheating. “We wanted a warm dry home, but also one that was reasonably high-performance,” says Campbell.

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The garden was key from the get-go, designed to work in concert with the extension. “I think her consideration of drawing the landscape into the house is so special,” says landscape designer Zoë Carafice, who worked closely with Edwards to ensure the garden and the house synced up. There are sliding doors to outside, and a covered eating area under the roof – it almost feels like another room, and there’s an intimacy between the two which is really quite lovely. “It’s that level change,” says Carafice. “You come down the main axis, and you see the green, and in the living area you’re looking at green.”

Her design is hard-working and practical. “I knew there’d be kids and probably a trampoline,” she jokes. It mostly uses natives – 57 varieties of them, in fact, which is remarkable in a small space, but vital for diversity. The approach drew strongly on that taken by pre-eminent New Zealand gardener Muriel Fisher at Fernglen, which utilised natives in a gardenesque way. “I wanted to keep the garden quite low to create a kind of carpet – you’re sitting in it and relating to the garden in quite a different way,” she says. “It all needs to be a little bit softer, a little more gentle.”

The family moved out for eight months while LnB Construction got to work on the build, and moved in at the end of 2022. Today, the garden is well established, and the feeling of quiet enclosure is undinted. The water tanks feed the garden, the toilets and the washing machine: this family of five now uses the same amount of city water as a two-person household, and the house stays a consistent temperature year-round. “It just seemed logical to us,” says Parr. “It seems weird to me that people don’t do it.”

From the street, the extended home presents as a small old bungalow, with various additions and adjustments; there’s a double garage and a deep verandah. Inside the yellow front door, you come down the hall and a couple of steps down to a flat-roofed service block – bathroom on the right, toilet and laundry on the left. Then, you come into a big, sheltering living space through a full-height glass-and-timber door.

The roof swings up and away above you, then draws down towards the garden. And that’s lovely. But the main reason the space works so well is Edwards’ use of cabinetry and built-in furniture. It gently divides spaces, creating multiple places to sit and draw away to, inside and out. In the living area, a shelving unit subtly delineates the lounge from the dining area, while a built-in daybed provides another nice spot to sit and look out to the garden. Outside, a seat built into the retaining wall elegantly curves around a corner, snug against the plants.

And as you’d expect, there is a lot of timber – in particular, Abodo timber, which in this house sequesters about four tonnes of carbon. It’s used as sarking on the ceiling, on the window reveals inside the aluminium joinery, even on the big door into the space. The rough-sawn unpainted weatherboards on the extension are slowly silvering off, while the link building is painted in recessive dark tones. Charmingly, the soffits are clad in the same timber as the ceiling inside, only unpainted, and now weathering nicely.

It’s serene, restful – something you can’t always say about a house for five. The garden is right there at eye level, and there’s a lovely play of light. The cork floor softens the noise, as does acoustic lining in the ceiling behind timber slats; the air-circulation system works away to gently filter out the city. “It’s quite comforting,” Edwards says of the effect. “In a way, it’s quite prosaic, just a big lean-to, but it feels like a cocoon there, looking out to the garden.”

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