To listen to Charlotte Ryan's playlist inspired by this house, click here. The development at Rangitahi Peninsula on the outskirts of Whāingaroa Raglan is so new that if you’re not careful, Google Maps might send you up a back road, since it hasn’t yet cottoned on to the newish bridge that connects the peninsula with the mainland. When you finally get there, you’ll find circuitous roads and rolling, hilly sites dotted with houses built in cedar and corrugated steel, in a palette of white, black and timber. Most have double garages and are situated to the front of their sections, allowing for private back gardens beyond. It’s pleasant – if a little bland.
In the middle of all this sits a new home by Georgia Peacocke of Edwards White Architects, which she designed for herself and her two sisters as a sort of family retreat. Set way back on its section, out of step with its neighbours, the house hides behind a wide forecourt and a generous lawn, and faces the street with a broad, windowless, bagged-brick wall instead of the regulation double garage. A discreet, black front door firmly yet politely terminates this conversation with the street frontage. Behind it sits a feathery timber box, all battened screens and flat roof. It is mysterious, a little closed, and unmistakeably elegant.
Peacocke’s family have developed the land here and, when a section was given up by a prospective purchaser in 2019, the three sisters jumped at the chance to build. It was a huge opportunity for Peacocke, but the family also wanted a retreat that, in time, they could all come together in – a kind of long-term family bach that Peacocke herself could also live in for the next few years.
The architect worked on the design at nights and on weekends, with able assistance from her kindly bosses at Edwards White, who provided input as the design developed. “It was the best experience to dive in at the deep end,” Peacocke says. “It’s the first house I’ve detailed from start to finish.”
The house occupies a lovely site on a knoll above a stand of regenerating kānuka, with a generous view over the estuary to rolling hills and native bush. It gets sun all day; while there are neighbouring houses on either side, the grassy paddock across the road is a reserve, preserving viewshafts at either end. “I liked the idea of being really closed off from the street – revealing nothing,” says Peacocke of the front wall. “But then you walk in the door and it’s all revealed.”
Because it sits further back, the house is out of step with its neighbours, which allows it to borrow those adjoining views and create a sense of expansion. There’s an immediacy to the outlook, borne of sitting on the edge. “We had to do quite a bit of underpinning,” says Peacocke of the siting, “but I think it was worth it – just to feel like you’re on that edge.”
That brick wall snakes inside, and wends its way through the bedroom wing, which includes three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a generous laundry and a mudroom for surfboards and bikes in place of a garage – because, let’s face it, no one parks a car in their garage, right? The wall was crucial to the design – both from the street, but also in the plan; it almost feels like a remnant of a previous building, off which the living pavilion hangs.
It also gives a small house two very different spatial experiences. The bedroom wing feels hunkered down, close to the ground, with the floor stepping down slightly in the main bedroom; the brick forms a thick, comforting wall. Windows are smaller here, and carefully placed for privacy and to modulate the light. The living spaces, by contrast, are glassy and lightweight, with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors and timber screens. “It was a way to ground this quite feathery form,” Peacocke says, “and lead you into that view. I wanted something to run through right into the interior and bring the landscape in.”
That “feathery” form gives you somewhere to go, whatever the weather or time of day. There’s a generous deck on the estuary side, and a sheltered courtyard to the southwest, allowing glorious west-coast afternoon sun to filter through timber battens. Throughout the house, Peacocke has rubbed and softened the edges with a dance of push-me pull-you – the shower in the main bedroom’s ensuite bathroom pops out under the eave, creating a glassy experience of showering in the garden. In a bedroom, the brick wall pushes along past the end of the room to produce a private garden moment. Courtyards, decks and screens provide shelter from rain and wind.
The effect is both purposeful and romantic – practical and delightful. When you come back from a surf, for example, you go around the side of the house, rinse off under the outdoor shower, then step in under a sheltered porch. You put your surfboards in the store, rinse your wetsuit in the laundry: eventually, you wind up in the living room. It’s a progression that has been carefully thought through, and was a key part of the sisters’ brief in this surfing-mad town. “I imagined a retreat we’d all come together in one day,” says Peacocke. “We’re a really close family – we’re all in on this together.”