A young family’s home in Cambridge that was shortlisted for the Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand (NZIA) Architecture Awards is proof that the more you can do yourself, the more you can save.
Matt and Winnie Waterhouse, who have a very steep site in Leamington overlooking the Waikato River, commissioned architect Michael O’Sullivan to design their three-bedroom home. And they were inspired by a visit to the architect’s own home in Māngere, which O’Sullivan built himself.
“Matt saw what we did 10 years ago and said, ‘I can try,’ and then he did so much better,” O’Sullivan said.
Waterhouse hired a local contractor to build the main components – piles, beams, walls, flooring and cladding – but he built all the door and window joinery himself and lined the interior with dark wenge plywood .
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He purchased a new CNC machine for his two businesses (Fiasco and Work From Home Desks) and fabricated all of the wenge built-in furniture, sun shades, door locks and approximately 50 recessed triangular light fixtures that are found throughout the home.
Plywood and glass for about a quarter of the cost
Another big way for the couple to save money was to make contacts in China. Waterhouse sourced the wenge plywood and glass from Guangzhou (compliant materials) for about a quarter of the purchase cost from a local supplier. “Everything went together. Nothing was broken. Everything was perfect,” says the architect.
“He did it on the smell of a greasy rag. It takes courage to ignore the usual pitfalls of traditional New Zealand building materials supply lines when building a home for your young family. And having never built a house before either.
Waterhouse admits it took a long time to build the house because he did so much himself. “It was six years ago when we started, and while we moved in before Covid, we’ve only just finished. The savings (buying from China) were very good at that time.
“We saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on the house, and probably $60,000-70,000 on the doors and windows, but that includes the time I spent on the carpentry. And it took me a whole year to do the carpentry – Michael drew a lot of the windows there.
“So that’s another factor to consider. How much is a year worth when you still can’t live in the house because it’s not finished? But even though it lasted about a year, it was super rewarding, even though nothing else really progressed in that time. It is a very good result. »
Building the house was a family affair – Waterhouse’s father also helped with metalworking, building gutters, rainwater outlets, downspouts and a shower alcove.
Waterhouse says he and his wife ‘found’ O’Sullivan after reading a book about mid-century New Zealand architecture called ‘Down the Long Driveway, You’ll See It’ by Mary Gaudin and Matthew Arnold .
“Winnie called one of the authors and asked for a recommendation and got the names of a few architects. We called them and most were more interested in telling us, ‘our minimum build rate is xyz.’ They were a little indifferent, but Michael just said, ‘I’ll come tomorrow’.
“He came back the next day. And he did the preliminary design, and we didn’t change anything. He even suggested the color of the carpet, and that was fine with me. I could just keep finding materials and doing it.
The house won an NZIA Auckland Housing Award last month, with judges describing the house as ‘well designed, functional and empowering’.
“The large cedar shutters create cross ventilation, while the double doors on the lower levels are combined with the dramatic pitched roof allowing for passive ventilation. The owner designed and built the elements of the house himself, learning as he went. His passion for the project is reflected in this resulting labor of love.
The project also won a Resene Color Award, with the Resene judges saying, “A fun color palette and clever material choices such as natural cork floors and chocolate-colored plywood walls make this home a welcoming and welcoming place. perfectly happy to grow”.
Waterhouse says now that the build is finally complete, he and Winnie, Finn and Reese can begin to appreciate all the work that has gone into the build. “For so long all I could see was a construction site, but it’s finally starting to feel good. There are still a few small projects that I am planning.
O’Sullivan also has a Cass Bay home up for the awards – the project featured on Grand Designs NZ in 2020.
There’s a lot to love about these 12 NZIA Housing Award winners at the 2022 NZIA Waikato and Bay of Plenty Awards.