Inside homes

A Lyttelton family battles a steep site to create an impressive newbuild

This modest, new-build family home not only perches lightly on the land as it leans out over Lyttelton Harbour, but leaves behind only a small eco footprint

Pippin Wright-Stow, 37 (architectural designer and owner of F3 Design), Erica Viedma, 37 (yoga teacher), Jordi, 10, Rafi, 7, and Ariana, 3.

Who lives here? 

Pippin Wright-Stow (architectural designer and owner of F3 Design), Erica Viedma (yoga teacher), Jordi, 10, Rafi, 7, and Ariana, 3.

Background

The Wright-Stow-Viedma family’s new-build on the slopes of the port town of Lyttelton, close to Christchurch, hasn’t been plain sailing. From a problematic steep section to Mother Nature running interference with flooding and earthquakes, to the site’s location in a narrow cul de sac which meant that every time a truck visited (which was often) 15 neighbours found their access blocked. Oh, and did we mention that the brave duo at the helm of this build, Pippin and Erica, had a baby during this time, joining their other two littlies? Yep, very brave.

The site

Pippin and Erica had been scouring the ‘Sections for Sale’ pages for ages. Many of the sections they were interested in became red-zoned after the quakes, but eventually this little slice of paradise came up. The price was right – its small size and steep slope put most people off – but architectural designer Pippin saw it as a creative challenge, and the location was good. “It is close to Lyttelton village for a sense of community,” says Erica, “and the expansive view is amazing. It makes you feel part of the rugged Banks Peninsula landscape.”

The expansive view is amazing

it makes you feel part of the rugged Banks Peninsula landscape

The challenges

There were a litany of challenges to overcome for this build. The steep slope meant they had to take a lot of precautions to make sure neither the digger nor the hill slid down into their neighbour’s property below. Flooding had caused the closure of their tiny, steep street for a year, which meant the giant trucks had to enter from an adjacent street and then slowly back down their narrow cul de sac. Pippin reports that getting busy contractors on site required pulling in favours, constant communication and sometimes straight-out bribery.

You need to make an effort to keep neighbours happy

because you’ll be living side by side with them afterwards

It wasn’t easy for the neighbours either – trucks would frequently block access to or from their driveways for hours on end, but a savvy move by Pippin and Erica pre-empted any complaints. “Before we started, we went door to door with brownies and a note giving them forewarning,” Pippin reveals. They kept the lines of communication open through the entire build, texting and ringing and doing a morning walk-around before trucks and cranes arrived. “You need to make an effort to keep neighbours happy because you’ll be living side by side with them afterwards,” laughs Erica.

Size doesn’t matter

The living space in the home is small by normal standards – two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom fit tightly into the 66-square-metre home (about the size of a small unit). In addition to this is a four-bay carport with storage underneath and extensive patios and outdoor areas.

The three children have the two bedrooms – the 2.8-metre ceiling height meant Pippin could create a kind of loft for 7-year-old Rafi above one of the bedrooms, with enough clearance for him to stand without bumping his head.

Erica and Pippin have moved into the living room since these photos were taken, and there are plans down the track to add another box on top of their home to turn it into a four-bedroom, two-bathroom dwelling. This will happen as the family grows and their budget recovers.

Pippin designed and built Ariana’s bedroom and Rafi’s loft using galvanised steel pipe and locally sourced, re-purposed macrocarpa.

Material world

This is a build with an enviable environmental footprint. Most of the materials were found, scavenged or bought second-hand. “Pippin would collect what looked like junk to me,” Erica says. “Taps, bits of wire, fittings, wood, steel beams, kitchen sinks, blinds… endless things that drove me crazy!” Somehow, though, Pippin has managed to turn all these items into an incredibly beautiful home with a cohesive look.

He is like a magpie

but he only collects items that he knows are durable, beautiful and functional

“He is like a magpie but he only collects items that he knows are durable, beautiful and functional. Where I saw a dusty old beam, he identified ancient kauri that could be reclaimed and would last for ever,” she says. As well as industrial salvage from places such as hospitals and warehouses, the house also contains rimu framing from earthquake-damaged homes.

“Old items have a story to tell,” says Pippin. “They are often made of great quality materials and crafting, otherwise they’d have been dumped long ago. They help us look after our environment and they shift our perceptions about how we do things and the ways we can live our lives.”

Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Juliet Nicholas.

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