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3 August 2017

Tranquil Sanctuary

Unique is a word that should be used sparingly. However, there are exceptions, and this Westmere house is it – a truly one-off design and something very special indeed.


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Designed by renowned architects Stevens Lawson and finished just 18 months ago, 30 Rawene Avenue is a thoughtfully considered, bespoke home that won’t suit everyone, but will be absolutely perfect for someone.

The current owner and inspiration behind its evolution says it was the site that first drew him in. “The position simply took my breath away – and from the moment I saw the view we realised that this was the place I wanted to live.”

To get a sense of the land, and to work out what they needed in terms of a house, he and his partner lived in the bungalow that originally occupied the site for nearly three years before embarking on the design process. However, he says the inspiration for their new home came from overseas.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia and I particularly like the sensitivity around their temples and monasteries. So that was very much a part of what I wanted to create here,” he says. “The brief to the architects, however, came from an experience we had in America, at the Amangiri Hotel in Utah. It’s a place that lends itself so beautifully to nature that there is no separation between sitting in the lounge and being in the view. It is absolutely extraordinary. We both realised it was that sense of peace and sanctuary that we were looking for.”

Sitting here in the finished house, I can testify that the architects absolutely nailed the brief. The high cathedral ceiling lifts your soul. The owner likens it to walking into a church, or a mosque, or a temple. It’s a feeling that you’re in a special, almost sacred space, he says.

The form of the house is arranged along a central spine wall made from concrete that soars six metres, off which hangs a steeply raked roof lined with sustainably forested Totora. The glass-walled interior spaces are broken up by small, planted courtyards that alternate along the length of the house, each giving a unique aspect. There are no gutters. Instead rainwater flows naturally off the roof, down the cedar shingles that clad the outside walls, and into a manmade ‘river bed’ that surrounds the house.

The result is an airy and transparent home that never loses touch with nature – be it the ever changing views across Meola Reef and out to the harbour, or the mature gardens that have been thoughtfully planted with rare New Zealand natives.

Then there are the environmental and sustainable features. The house employs passive design principles, has photovoltaics on the roof, rainwater harvesting (which is triple-filtered), LED lighting, and even a charging station for an electric vehicle.

It is also a healthy house, specifically designed to minimise toxins, with measures taken to minimise electromagnetic radiation. Finally, the Lutron lighting and security system and the fully integrated audiovisual system can both be controlled from a smart phone.

“I deliberately wanted to create a home where anybody who comes to visit feels comfortable, to connect with the beauty of it.”

This is a beautifully detailed and immaculately finished house. However, it’s not at all showy. In fact, the owner believes the house to be quite understated.

The interiors, by Katie Lockhart, certainly help with that ambiance, and, in line with the feel of the rest of the house, are very understated and restrained. All the furniture – which is available by negotiation – was custom-designed by the designer and made from American walnut.

The thought and the detail the owner has gone to in imagining this home is mind-boggling – he even had a scent created especially for the house, which has been infused into candles and incense. “It was crafted, based on the materials that have been used to build the house. It’s very much part of the house,” he says.

Asked if he’ll be sad to leave, he says he will be happy for the new owners. “It’s something I will celebrate. It deserves to be loved, because a lot of love went into creating it, by everybody.”

So, who does he see living in this unique space? “It’s a very peaceful house. It would suit anybody that wants a connection with nature and who’s looking for a sanctuary and aesthetics. This is somewhere for someone who doesn’t want a regular house.”

That said, he goes onto say that everybody who has come through the house has said it feels so peaceful here, and they feel completely at home.

Sure, this is just a house. It has a great kitchen and fabulous bathrooms – especially the master – four bedrooms, beautiful mature gardens, a great view, and riparian rights… but, without being too effusive, it’s so much more than that.

For more information and to view the property listing click here

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