New Zealand Home & Building, October-November 1985
Room at the Top
The room at the top of this house was a good idea from the start, providing panoramic views over Auckland city and harbour denied the rest of the 60-year-old villa.
But the execution of the original room was, according to the architect who designed its replacement, "primitive".
"The windows were all at nose height — you had to climb on a chair to see the view," recalls the architect, Malcolm Walker.
"And it had a flat roof made of corrugated iron which leaked."
His brief was to re-create the room to take advantage of the views. The room at the top was to be a study and lookout, with a bed for guests within, but not intruding on, the room.
There were constraints: the staircase page 26to the room could not be altered without extensive restructuring in the main house below, and Auckland City Council height regulations limited the possibilities for increasing the area of the room.
But eventually all that was left of the original room was the staircase and some of the structural work supporting the floor.
The room was re-oriented by the construction of a bay window which creates a focus toward the main harbour view.
It also has the effect of dividing the room into two separate areas. The living portion looks toward the harbour, and the study area of the room toward the city.
Opposite it, across the room, Malcolm Walker came up with a novel solution to the problems of height restrictions and the need to partly separate the "spare bedroom" from the rest of the room. He placed the bed in its own alcove.
Tucked beneath a steeply sloping ceiling and flanked by its own low windows, the built-in bed is quite separate from the rest of the room. It has large roll-out drawers beneath it and a wardrobe at each end.
All take maximum advantage of the limited room available under the roof which slopes so steeply to comply with council height restrictions.
The placing of the bed in its own alcove is reminiscent of a ship captain's cabin. Malcolm Walker says a lot of the feeling of the room is nautical, and certainly sweeping views could be from the bridge of a liner.
It was in keeping with this theme that page 27clean white walls, uncluttered by architraves and mouldings, were used.
The varnished cedar joinery maintains the nautical theme, lies well with the rest of the timber joinery of the house, and can stand the rigours of exposure to wind, sun and wet.
The architect and owners contemplated blending the exterior appearance of the room at the top with the main house, which started as a villa but was converted in appearance into a Californian bungalow.
But they eventually decided to make the room a stand-alone feature. It doesn't look part of the house, but neither does it clash.
Builder Greg Powell constructed the framing components of the room on the ground and lifted them into place to keep to a minimum the period under tarpaulins.
Although the overall execution of the room at the top is one of planned simplicity, there are novel features too.
One is the use of solid timber opening sections in the windows above the bed. The glass panes are fixed, with glued corners, and the small wooden opening sections are much more interesting than tiny window panes would have been.