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Redefining Luxury

Cityscape caught up with award-winning architects Tobin Smith and Blair Paterson from CoLab Architecture to discuss the changing face of Kiwi luxury design.

Architectural photography: Jamie Cobel

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Over the last 10 years we have witnessed a major shift in what we consider to be ‘luxurious’ when referencing domestic architecture in New Zealand. A term that once seemed to resonate with large dwellings and palatial styling has surrendered to a new, more modest archetype.

Finally, a sense of place is winning over indulgence, with greater consideration being placed on context, quality of space and materiality. This is music to the ears of many architects.

It’s not unusual nowadays to see a small courtyard house in Auckland being celebrated as New Zealand’s ‘house of the year’, or a high-end accommodation development on the Banks Peninsula picking up a ‘small project’ architecture award. These are the projects that are defining luxury in New Zealand, and are seen to be creating a vernacular that is far more suited to our humble ‘Kiwi’ mannerisms.

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It is our belief that genuine luxury in domestic architecture can be found in many areas. It can be a relationship to a landscape or the framing of a critical view. It can be the creation of space and volume and a celebration of detail and material. Above all, it should be purposeful and serve as a personal sanctuary for the owners and occupants.

One of our recently completed central city projects (pictured) adopts these principles. It is a thoughtful design of modest scale and sits as a strong statement of contemporary architecture within its street context without being ostentatious.

The brief from the client requested a gallery space to display a collection of their daughter’s art, as well as a ground floor living space free of walls to offer unobstructed access to a north-facing courtyard.

The result is a house that manipulates space and volume to create an internal environment of two extremes. To the south is a double height gallery space flanked with walls either side for displaying art.

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Sunlight is drawn through a large skylight that pierces the ceiling over a feature steel and timber stair. Conversely, the living space to the north is open and free of fixed partitions.

Large doors slide back to connect the interior and exterior spaces, extending the living experience and blurring the line between in and out, while a generous master suite on the first floor is positioned to maximise morning sun and overlook a private garden.

This is a house rich with detail, volume and material that prioritises quality of space over unnecessary exuberance – an inner-city retreat for our busy professional clients.

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