An architect built his home to be completely private from the front, open at the back and with a surprising night-time element



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To the lighthouse

Fiona Hawtin, editor of Your Home & Garden speaks with Tim and Polly Dagg about their recently completed Christchurch home with a surprising night-time element.


With no windows you can casually peer into from the road, Tim and Polly Dagg’s home is a mystery by day.

“One of my pet hates is having big windows facing the street and looking into someone’s bedroom or having the curtains permanently pulled,” explains Tim, architect and partner at Sheppard & Rout.

Come night, it’s a different story altogether. The front facade of the mostly brick, cedar and steel-clad house in the Christchurch suburb of Strowan can, and often does, light up and change colour due to the LEDs behind the polycarbonate covering the front bedroom window and successfully obscuring the view.

The illumination has been a hit with neighbours and passers-by. “We have it red at Christmas and green for St Patrick’s Day,” says Polly. “And we have special requests. One neighbour asked if they could ‘have it pink for my birthday’.” They are always happy to oblige.

They previously lived in the old bungalow on the site, but wanted to design and build a home to their specifications on the land that would always have a verdant outlook as, beyond their boundary, it’s unable to ever be able to be built on. As for their own section, established natives such as lancewoods, cabbage trees and kowhai were carefully considered during the design phase.

For Tim, the starting point was to design a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home that was an ode to natural materials. Aside from the polycarbonate front facade he ensured there were “no real embellishments to the design that weren’t necessary” because features such as the rubber tread on the stairs, the non-ground natural concrete floor, the Fijian kauri slatted wall complete with hidden handleless door to the downstairs bathroom and the timber ash kitchen joinery.

“Tim listened to some of my requests,” laughs Polly.

“I grew up in an old house that had a large walk-in pantry and wanted that here.” Most of the cooking for Polly, a caterer, happens in her large second kitchen secreted away from the kitchen that is part of the open-plan living and dining space. It’s here that they get on with more convivial activities such as rolling out great lengths of pasta on the exaggerated island.

But it is the double-height living space complete with a floor-to-ceiling library, the mezzanine with a second living area and “all the glass” Tim is most pleased with.

Having worked on residential projects, as well as large commercial buildings such as Burwood Hospital and a conversion of the Gothic Revival building Cranmer Court into apartments, “Vantage would be our window supplier of choice.”

For a house so enclosed from the front, the house is fully glazed at the back with large sliding doors opening to the outdoor living area and fixed windows in the upper living space. But it is the upstairs ensuite bathroom and walk-in wardrobe that have one of the most eye-catching features – an enormous bank of overhead glazing set into the roof that is so large it had to be craned in place from next door. The window cleaner is not a fan, confesses Polly. Tim and Polly are though, as they are with every aspect of their house.

Region Canterbury

The double-height living space makes this home extraordinary

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