I was filling out a thing the other day (oh okay, it was a “deep dive” for our architects so they can redesign our wonky old villa, which we probably can’t afford to do for a while, but my wife is sick of me talking about it so we’ve made a start) and a question asked us about the best houses we’ve ever lived in.
I was taken aback a little, because as my wife will attest, I tend to be quite enthusiastic about whatever house I’m living in at the time, despite their many and varied flaws. (I can find the good in most houses, which is probably why we ended up buying this one: we watched as other people turned on their heel and walked out of the open homes. “Oh no, babe,” said one bloke when he got to the dip in the floor, “let’s just go for brunch.”)
When I thought about it, though, a big part was houses in summer, with doors open and the mozzie coils going and a gentle breeze. Houses where you can sit inside and feel like you’re outside, or sit outside and feel like you’re inside, and where you can eat outdoors for a few months of the year.
It’s a particular function of houses in Aotearoa that you can do this. Other places are too hot or too cold, or there are too many bugs or too much rain. I have clear memories of visiting Austin, Texas in the height of summer and we sat outside precisely once because of the bugs and the overwhelming heat. Turns out “cookout” season in Austin is fall; summer is for air-conditioning.
So in answering that question, I talked about the wonky villa I grew up in, which had a sheltered private deck where we ate from November to March. I talked about our old house in Beach Haven, where the living room felt like a big conservatory, although you couldn’t sit outside much because the deck was so exposed. And I talked about our little rental in Freemans Bay that had a deck sheltered by trees that was basically a second living room with a view of the Sky Tower.
Houses like this let you take a moment and contemplate life.
So at the end of what can only be described as a shit of a year for many, where we’ve all spent far too much time in the one space and have maybe got a little sick of it, we wanted to assemble houses for this issue – our third made in lockdown – that let you breathe.
Some are holiday houses, some are permanent homes, but they all share one thing: they let you have that moment of holiday all year round. Thanks for reading this year – we look forward to seeing you again in February.