This new house brings some of the playfulness, informality and communal living we associate with beach culture to a Wellington suburb.

Beach houses in New Zealand were once very informal places, and some still are. Property boundaries were seldom understood, let alone protected by high fences. Cricket on the beach was the most serious event of the day and children roamed between houses grazing from fridge to fridge. 

While you can still find these places, they’re not as common as they were, and they’re even more rare in the suburbs of our contemporary cities. Like most other suburban houses, the fridge in this house is behind locked doors, but we did make a few gestures that invite the kind of informal sharing we once expected at the beach.

Firstly, we created a common garden between some existing steps on the neighbour’s site and some new steps on our site. One day, those steps could extend to the bottom of the site and across public land to the beach below. 

Perhaps there will be a time when our concern for individual security gives way to a bigger concern for collective resilience and the path can become more of a suburban alleyway – a shortcut to the beach for a wider circle of friends and neighbours. 

We devoted the rest of the outside area to a modest garden and space to hang the washing. Being the only flat and private outdoor area, we wanted to avoid a standard issue washing line that might compromise the ambience, so we integrated one into the house itself.

We didn’t know who would live in this house, but we imagined they would be the sharing type with a need to do lots of colourful laundry. In any case, both the suburban alleyway and built-in washing line provide the framework for a certain kind of creative lifestyle. One that has its roots in the playful informality we so often find at the beach, and could so easily set the tone for a contemporary suburb.

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Design Architect: KebbellDaish
Associate Architect: ArchitectureLab
Builder: MHR Builders
Structural Engineer: Spencer Holmes Ltd
Photography: Copyright Andy Spain