Beautiful Constraints

Designing a modern extension for a house rooted in history.

Beautiful Constraints

Designing a modern extension for a house rooted in history.

If an architect were to conjure up their ‘model client’, the couple behind this Grey Lynn villa renovation wouldn’t be far off. “Cool, creative and invested,” as architect Evelyn McNamara describes them. “They had ambitious ideas and the ability to pull them off,” she says. Their brief to McNamara and fellow designer Chris Tate was clear: the home’s street façade was to respect its heritage, while its interior should give way to an ultra-modern addition to serve the owners’ love of entertaining. If the extension offered room for their DJ decks on both levels, even better. Charged with such freedom of design, the pair describe their clients as a ‘dream’. 

Which is fortunate really, considering the planning process would prove to be anything but. With every aspect of the renovation being approved by the Auckland Council’s heritage-consent process, an 18-month volley of plans ensued before building could even commence.

The villa had to be painstakingly brought back to its original form, and now houses bedrooms and bathrooms. Behind it is a new, black-latticed timber extension hovering over an enclosed courtyard.

The new addition is crisp and horizontal, a sort of gigantic verandah flooded with light from two directions – with neighbours hard on the side boundaries, there were limited opportunities for openings. “We treated the addition as if it was a new build,” explains McNamara. The floating charcoal structure houses kitchen, dining room and living areas. Here, floor-to-ceiling sliding doors from Altherm’s APL Architectural Series open across the entire back of the house behind a glass balustrade, giving the room a view of trees and the back garden below. Yet more light, meanwhile, comes from a custom 4.2-metre pitched-roof skylight using Altherm overhead glazing, giving the illusion of height to the space, which has a lower stud than the original house.

Downstairs, a bar, dining area and sunken conversation pit (complete with central fire) are sheltered by the overhanging extension. The final entertainer’s touch is the tree-punctuated boardwalk that leads guests directly from the front gate down the side of the house to the backyard and pool. Sitting by the pool on a hot summer’s evening, the struggle seems utterly worth it.

This story was produced in association with Altherm Window Systems. To see more, click here.


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