Seear-Budd Ross 8 Sailors Grave House

  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Director
    Sophie Hamer
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Member
    Sam Macaw (builder)
  • Client
    Diane & Eric Thorne-George

House at Sailor’s Grave is a humble yet refined rural home, with a carefully layered interior that draws on the rich tones and textures of the client’s collection of carved wooden bowls, traditional spears and other objects from their travels and lives as aid workers in the Asia-Pacific region. Dark stained plywood, soft cedar and rough poured concrete form a simple and hard wearing palette for living.

The house was designed to be achieved within an affordable budget, and for the couple who call it home to be involved in the construction process alongside the builder. Concrete benches, vanities and retaining walls were hand poured on site, ply panels were stained by the owner, and spaces have been simply dressed.

Clad in soft-toned vertical cedar boards, the L-shaped house sits unobtrusively on its site. Nestled into the slope of the hillside, the strong horizontal lines of the oversized external fascia boards direct the eye to the view across Te Karo Bay. To the south, the building defines a planted courtyard, protected from the prevailing westerly winds and framed by rough poured concrete garden walls. With the bi-folding doors completely open, the courtyard, outdoor room and front deck become a singular space, projecting through the centre of the house, connecting the bush, timber-lined interior and ocean.

Across the sunny northern facade, the idea of a traditional timber verandah is reinterpreted. Distinguished by a continuous lower cedar-clad soffit, the verandah space is sometimes exterior and sometimes a protected interior, but remains visually open from one end to the other. Within the envelope of a relatively small two-bedroom home, spaces of both openness and retreat are carved out. Ceiling planes shift, compressing to define thresholds and rising to offer volume in living spaces. Private sleeping and bathroom zones are tucked into solid masses of dark plywood clad joinery. Cross-views through the home continuously connect both internal spaces and frame exterior views, offering a richly layered experience of the site and house.