Closing time for open-plan living?


Is anyone else over open-plan living?

I, for one, have found myself craving walls and doors for the last year or so. Honestly, where did all the walls go?!

The whole open-plan movement seemed like a great idea at the time. It was hailed as the answer to the modern lifestyle, where the kitchen is often the hub of the home.

But it definitely has it drawbacks and they’re starting to become more and more apparent in our household.

“Isn’t this great guys, we can chat while I’m cooking dinner.”

“What did you say? I can’t hear you over the rangehood, TV and little Robbie’s iPad.”

The competing sounds, the unwelcome smells – I’m pretty sure no one really took this into account when we all decided to get out our sledgehammers and let loose on the kitchen wall.

More architects and homeowners are now moving away from open-plan towards split-level or “broken-plan” living with areas that are linked yet separate.

If you’re thinking of the sunken lounges and split-level arrangements of the 70s you’re not far off – but picture that with less orange and garish prints.

Broken-plan living allows for living spaces to be visually linked but have separate, distinct areas that can give families more room for privacy.

Steps, different ceiling heights and contrasting textures are what sets broken-plan apart from open-plan.

Here are some great examples:

                                                                                                                          Novak + Middleton Architects




                                                                                                                                                 Patrick Reynolds

I don’t think this layout hugely helps with the noise-pollution issue but don’t worry researchers are working on combatting this problem.

Quiet kitchens without noisy kettles or deafening range hoods are on their way.

An instant hot water tap could have you kicking that kettle to the kerb and a rangehood with a motor outside the home will mute that annoying humming sound.

Researchers have even come up with a sink with deadening pads to prevent the metallic sound when water hits the bottom.

I’m still not sure that’s enough to bring me back around to open-plan living – but broken-plan sounds like a great compromise.


What do you think about open-plan vs broken-plan living? How do open-plan or traditional living areas work for you? Let us know in the comments below or on our NZ and AU Facebook pages.




The most important house in the country…

treaty house

The Treaty House, Waitangi. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library

It may look like just a humble homestead, but it’s the most symbolically important and most visited building in New Zealand. So on the eve of Waitangi Day, let’s take a look at the house where New Zealand’s founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi was signed.

Situated in the beautiful Bay of Islands in New Zealand, what is now known as The Treaty House was originally the residence of James Busby who was the British government’s representative in New Zealand from 1833 to 1840.

Busby was born in Scotland, his family emigrating to New South Wales in 1824. He was a teacher of Viticulture, training in France and Spain before returning to Australia in 1828.

When he arrived in the Bay of Islands as British Resident of New Zealand in 1932, he planted a vineyard from the vine stock he brought with him after constructing his house in Waitangi.

As well as being regarded as the father of the Australian Wine Industry, James Busby was also instrumental in gaining official recognition for a New Zealand flag and helped draft the Treaty of Waitangi, signed at a great gathering at his residence on 6 February in 1840.

Waitangi Crowd

Crowd at Treaty House during Queen Elizabeth’s 1954 visit. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library.


Square and symmetrical in shape, with panelled front door, the single story Georgian style home was to be a much larger, more stately and elaborate building with famous Sydney architect John Verge commissioned by Busby for the design.

New South Wales architect, Ambrose Hallen modified the original plans and imported Australian hardwoods from Sydney to construct the now, more modest house which included a detached lean-to kitchen and servants quarters at the rear made of native timbers. Two additional wings were added to the house over the following decade.

The estate was eventually sold by the Busby family in 1882, slowly falling into disrepair until the 1932 purchase by the then Governor-General of New Zealand, Lord Bledisloe and his wife. They formed the Waitangi National Trust Board which in turn hired leading architects William Gummer and William Page to undertake a major restoration of the almost derelict building, which was then gifted to the nation.

The Treaty House. Image: Sids1

The Treaty House today.

Many changes have been made to the house over recent decades but it remains a symbol of importance in New Zealand History. Visitors can view the Treaty House, still exhibiting some of its original features with rooms set out as they would have looked 1840.

The Treaty Grounds take in the beautiful panoramic views of the Bay of Islands and is also home to other significant structures such as the exquisite carved meeting-house, Te Whare Rūnanga (opened in 1940) which sits opposite the Treaty House, the two buildings symbolising the partnership between Maori & the British Crown.

Meeting House

Interior of Te Whare Rūnanga. Image: Phil Whitehouse

Did you know…

– The Treaty House is one of the oldest surviving buildings in New Zealand.

– Is New Zealand’s earliest imported dwelling.

– Was the the first house purchased as a state monument in New Zealand.


If you’re thinking of visiting the Treaty Grounds, take a look at the Waitangi website for more information.

If you’re visiting Waitangi this weekend, share your pics with us on instagram.

One man’s trash: unique ‘recycled’ homes…

‘One man’s trash, another man’s treasure’. That saying couldn’t be more true when it comes to these houses. All are made (or decorated) using salvaged or recycled materials. Would it inspire you to build something as interesting and unique as these?…..

1. The Beer Can House


Photo credit: “Beer Can House” by Andrew Wiseman

What started out in 1968 as a project for John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, The Beer Can House is now a folk art house in Rice Military, Houston, Texas,covered with beer cans, bottles, and other beer paraphernalia. 

2. Horace Burgess’s Treehouse

Photo by Joelk75

In 1993, after a visionary commandment from god, Horace Burgess, using tons of reclaimed wood, began construction of his 10 story treehouse. Unofficially the worlds largest treehouse, the structure was closed to the public in 2012, as it had become a public attraction, but did not follow fire safety codes.

3. The Paper House

Paper House OutsidePaper House Inside

You guessed it. An actual house made from newspapers. Built by Mr. Elis F. Stenman, a mechanical engineer who designed the machines that make paper clips, began building his Rockport summer home out of paper as a hobby in 1922. Not only is the house made of paper, but much of the furniture as well.

4. The Tombstone House

Constructed from the tombstones of Union soldiers, if you’re the superstitious type, this home in Petersburg Virginia USA probably wouldn’t be for you, because it would be haunted for sure! In an apparent cost-cutting exercise by the Poplar Grove Cemetery,almost 2000 marble headstones were removed and sold to Mr. O.E. Young who built the 2 storey house.

5. The Scrap House

The Scrap House

Photo by Cesar Rubio Photography via Scrap House.

Although only temporary, The Scrap House was a rather stunning building. Constructed on Civic Center Plaza in front of San Francisco City Hall for World Environment Day in 2005, using only scrap and salvaged materials.

6.The Junk Castle
The Junk Castle

The Junk Castle is a magical little building, built by former art teacher Victor Moore and his wife Bobbie in a defunct rock quarry in Washington State. It is constructed from many salvaged materials found at a local junkyard and around the site itself, all for just $500!

7. Villa Welpeloo

Villa WelpelooConstructed in 2005 by Superuse Studios, Villa Welpeloo is a house and art studio in the Netherlands. 60% house is made up of from materials salvaged from the local area. The main structure is made out of steel profiles that previously made up a machine for textile production, an industry once very important in the region. One of these machines gave us enough steel to construct the whole villa.

8. The Glass Window House

Quit your job, move to the country and build the home of your dreams. Sound like bit of a fantasy? Well, young artists Nick Olson and Lilah Horwitz did exactly that. And their dream home is built out of salvaged window frames! Quite beautiful don’t you think?….

Could you downsize to a Tiny House?


In November last year we posted a blog about Tiny Houses.

For those that aren’t familiar with the Tiny House Movement, it has been growing in popularity over the last few years, particularly in the United States, where many lost their homes during the recession. Simply put, it is a social movement, where people downsize the space that they live in. However, the movement isn’t only about finance, it’s also about looking at the way you live your life and taking steps to simplify it.

With home ownership seeming to creep further out of reach for many, could Tiny Houses really be a solution to housing affordability for some? Can living in a Tiny House declutter your life? Will it allow you to live a simpler, eco friendly lifestyle?

Well, Bryce Langston and Melissa Nickerson, are embarking on their own Tiny House journey that may just answer some of those questions.

With the support of a small design team, they will be designing a tiny house, uniquely built for New Zealand conditions. It will be sustainably constructed, completely off grid, will generate it’s own electricity and capture it’s own water and, will treat it’s own waste materials.

Their entire journey, from design and build, to their first six months of occupying the Tiny Hpuse will be documented on film and also shared on their project’s website

We caught up with Bryce to check in on the build progress and talk about the challenges and surprises so far:

Q. What stage are you currently at with your design & build?

Our trailer is currently under construction, and we are just working out the final few details on our drawings before we begin framing. It’s been an incredibly challenging design process, as we are trying to make the house as eco-friendly as possible, which means we are very limited in regards to the materials we can use. We also have a lot of people following our project and so we feel a great responsibility to really get the design right.

Q. Biggest challenge and/or surprise so far?

There’s no question that the design of a Tiny House isn’t easy. Each and every element has to be well considered and thought out and every millimetre of space has to be well used. Perhaps the biggest challenge has been designing some of the off-grid elements into the house as many off-the-shelf systems are not easily downsize-able. A great example of this is our hot water. From the beginning, I have been against using gas in the house, primarily because I am heavily against fracking, so the use of a gas califont wasn’t really an option for us. As we are electrically off-the-grid (and with a small PV system), it was difficult for us to heat with electricity, and most solar-thermal systems are too large and very heavy. So, when you are creating a small, mobile structure that has to be under a certain weight, there are a lot of limitations. You’ll have to wait and see the system that we have eventually designed for the house.

Q. What do you think will be the biggest adjustment you’ll have to make once you move into your tiny house (compared to your lifestyle / living situation now?)

I think I’m going to have to learn to be a lot tidier. I won’t be able to cook dinner, walk out of the kitchen and forget about doing the dishes. I’ll certainly have to be a lot more conscious of anything that I buy. All in all, there are many minor changes and adjustments that I will have to make, but I think they are all changes that will make a positive impact on the person that I am.


Q. The tiny house movement seems to be just as much about a way of living, as it is about the actual houses. What tips would you give to people who want to try and live a more simple, eco friendly lifestyle, but don’t yet have the resources to make their own tiny house?

One of the reasons a Tiny House helps us to live an eco-friendly lifestyle is that it puts us in a space where we have to be aware of everything that we are consuming, not just in terms of material possessions that we bring into our lives, but also (as we will be off-the-grid) the energy that we use, the water that we consume and the waste that we generate each day. Of course, you don’t need to live in a small space to make yourself aware of these things. Experiment with water and energy conservation, try having trash free weeks, set yourself goals for not purchasing new items. If you do need to buy anything, consider purchasing something second hand, or up-cycling.

Q. In your opinion, what’s the biggest benefit in building & living in a tiny house?

For me, it’s really about freedom and security. I love the idea of owning my own home, and I especially love the idea of being able to accomplish that dream for the equivalent amount of money as a few years rent. The implications of that are of course a lot greater. When you live in a house that is mortgage and rent free (or at least very little land rent), with no utility bills and growing some of your own food, money is no longer all absorbed by the basic necessities of life, but can instead be focused on other things, such as travel, and enjoying life. I believe that’s a huge benefit.

Undoubtably, it’s also about living a lifestyle that is congruent with my values, changing my consumption habits to tread lightly on the earth, and also freeing up my time to do more of the things that I love, with the people that I love.

We look forward to watching Bryce & Melissa’s Tiny House build progress over the coming months. To keep up to date with the latest news on their project, visit the official website

How long before we can 3D print ourselves a new home?

Contour Crafting technology developed by the University of Southern California

Contour Crafting technology developed by the University of Southern California

A few years back when I first heard about 3D printing, and there was talk about being able to print off a new set of lungs or a new heart valve, I just couldn’t visualize exactly how that was possible. ‘Back to the Future’ stuff as far as I was concerned.

Today, for not much more than the price of the latest laptop or iPad, you can buy your own desktop 3D printer and print away at home until your hearts content. Now that I’ve seen them in action, I can fully comprehend the potential…

Want to refresh your home decor? Custom design a new lampshade!

lamp shade

No shoes to match that new outfit? Print some off overnight!


There are online marketplace’s, like where you can design, print and sell your products:

Endless creations of desk toys, gadgets, knick knacks, oh, and everyone needs a Mobius Strip of Bacon right?

Weird and wacky to one side, 3D printing has impacted many industries with some very useful and practical applications, particularly in the field of medicine, but apart from a bit of home decor & miniature modelling  it’s still very much early days for 3D printing in the architecture and construction industries.

While the potential is huge, the fact is, that in order to print something as big as a house, you need to build a massive printer and this is probably one of the main factors that’s been holding progress back, until now…

Dr. Bahrokh Khoshnevis, a professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California and his team of scientists have been developing new technology that will soon allow giant 3D printers to build entire multi-level houses…in one day.

This technology named ‘Contour Crafting’  is a process by which large-scale structures can be fabricated quickly in a layer-by-layer fashion – like 3D-printing a building. 

So just how long until we can go down to the local hardware store and hire a printer to Contour Craft a new home over the weekend? We’ll that may be a wee way off yet.

In theory, Dr. Khoshnevis and the USC team have the ability to print a whole house in one day right now, but due to a lack of lab space and construction permissions, they are currently only able to print smaller samples (walls etc), but are hopeful that entry-level construction models of the printer will appear on the market within two to three years and with NASA keen on the technology to build structures on the Moon and Mars for human colonisation, we have to hope that we get some traction here on Earth before too long.

3ft wall constructed by Contour Crafting

3ft wall constructed by Contour Crafting

Just recently, a Shanghai Engineering company printed 10 houses entirely out of recycled materials, in just under a day. Although the construction wasn’t one continuous build, rather, the various components were printed separately, then assembled, it’s still a great leap forward in the world of 3D construction. 

China has announced the first 3D printed house project will be launched in Qingdao, Shandong Province. A 3D printed building will be located in the Hi-tech Zone, Qingdao International Sculpture Park, to showcase new technologies.

These buildings are now being used as offices in an industrial park in Shanghai.

These buildings are now being used as offices in an industrial park in Shanghai.

So while there has been much comment online about this technology only enabling the building of ugly little concrete boxes, it’s currently a case of ‘walk before you can run’.

If 3D printing construction fulfils it’s potential, it wont be long until we’ll be seeing something that could look a little more like this:

Dupli Casa by J. Mayer.H

Dupli Casa by J. Mayer.H

or maybe even this?


protohouse by Softkill Design.

For sale: one clever, beautiful, award winning home/studio

Open2view ID288906 - William Denny Ave 24A

There is much talk in Auckland at present about land supply and the housing shortage. If everyone took a leaf out of Liz Sharek’s book, however, these issues would quickly resolve themselves.

The UK-born artist (check out her work here) has lived in Westmere for the last eleven years in a home she and award-winning architect Andrew Lister designed back in 2001. Lister’s job, alongside Warren Adolph of Warren & Adolph Construction, was to build a house that fitted Liz’s character while simultaneously fitting into a 15 metre wide section. No mean feat.


Some glass rabbits out and about at Auckland Domain. Liz’s art ranges from the stunningly beautiful to the sublimely quirky.

And yet it works perfectly. The long, narrow 200 square metre house-slash-glass studio still feels incredibly roomy thanks to a combination of open plan living, a large deck, a skylight in the bathroom and bifold windows that open up onto the garden. For his work Lister received a New Zealand Architecture Award in 2003, and the house itself has graced the pages of many a magazine.

Liz has put the 12 year old house up for sale and Open2view were privileged to shoot the photographs. I asked Liz if she was feeling any sense of loss now she was moving on.

“Oh! Yes!” was her adamant response. “This is a pretty special place and a great community. But I’m ready for a new adventure and something has to give!”

010 - Open2view ID288906 - William Denny Ave 24A

A recent House & Garden article talked of Liz’s plan to one day buy some land in Matakana and open her own ‘Huttenpalast’. Liz stayed at one in Berlin last year; she described it as “an indoors “glamping” [glamour camping] experience with caravans and huts as designer sleeping quarters all inside a vacuum cleaner factory.”

So is her dream about to come to fruition? Maybe by next summer, she says. “[There’s] no old vacuum cleaner factories in Matakana but part of the plan is to develop a homestay/B&B experience loosely based on this kind of thing which, I think, would go down a treat in New Zealand with our love of retro caravans and camping.” In the meantime Liz is looking forward to experiencing “some country living with more space to develop a garden, grow veggies, that kind of thing.”

Cover pic 020413

Making the most of space has clearly not been an issue for Liz in the past, as her unique house demonstrates. Liz says she could not have done it without Andrew Lister’s skills.

“It was his vision and interpretation of my brief which created this home and which changed very little over the build period. The way the property sits on this smallish inner city section and its use of the “borrowed landscape” to give visual space and light is genius.”

“Andrew has an exceptional eye for detail and the innovative use of materials and textures on the exterior; his use of glass and reflective surfaces throughout the house’s interior lends a lightness and complexity to the spaces and forms of the house.

“I just had the fun stuff to do like choosing the tapware and lighting!”

012 - Open2view ID288906 - William Denny Ave 24A

In their award citation, the NZIA described the house as “an extraordinary synthesis in which architect and client seem to have drawn more from the other than each expected, creating an engaging whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.”

She was so pleased with his work that Liz has enlisted him to design her new house. Like her old place, the Matakana home will reflect her offbeat artistic style.

“It sits beautifully on the land but has a very similar aesthetic,” she says. It will feature floor to ceiling glass windows looking down the valley in quite an austere shell, softened by the use of cedar cladding. “And as if to demonstrate her aptitude for utilising space, she adds that “The studio space/glamping spot is under the house as a self-contained unit.”

Her award-winning Westmere spot is available right now. Check out our other photos, and floor plans, on the Open2view website; if you’d like to see it in person there are open homes this Saturday and Sunday from 12-12.30pm. (UPDATE: There will be another open home on Sunday 28 April at 12pm) (UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: no there won’t – it’s been sold!) 

Get in quick – it is a stunning, yet very practical, work of art.

Home is where the art is: Jane Evans’ cottage of colour

Jane Evans' house Open2view

Open2view photographs thousands of great homes for sale every year. Recently our Nelson team got to photograph a particularly special cottage. 41 Russell Street, Stepneyville was home for 27 years to one of New Zealand’s most colourful, successful artists.

Jane Evans (1946-2012) spent almost her entire lifetime painting. She won her first art competition at 15 and held her first of more than 60 solo exhibitions all the way back in 1965.

Jane Evans

Jane Evans

It was not an easy life. From her teenage years Evans suffered chronic cases of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and was under strict orders to avoid direct sunlight as much as possible. Through her art, however, she could instead bring nature’s vibrancy to her. If looking to describe Jane Evans’ style in one word, this non-arty guy would just say ‘colour’.

This more authoritative description comes from Wild Tomato magazine:

Often home for long periods due to ill health, she began to paint the flowers and colours of her garden. This bold, bright artwork quickly became her signature, although it was often considered precocious as colour was just beginning to emerge, replacing the earthy tones of landscape painting at the time. She still draws on those earlier roots in her more contemporary work.

Jane Evans house Open2view 2

Inside, and out, Jane Evans’ house provided ample shade and natural light while avoiding the harmful effects of direct sunlight.

Friends spoke of her as someone who never complained about her ailments and always looked for the bright side in everything – a bright side that shone through her work, and the cottage where she lived for 27 years.

The story of her house dates all the way back to 1878. It was built originally for Captain Vickerman, a notable seaman in Nelson’s early history. When he wasn’t at sea he would spend his time looking at the sea through a telescope on his property. It would be fair to say that Captain Vickerman liked the sea.

Vickerman was a mate on the Charles Edward before being promoted to captain of the Murray. Vickerman was a popular captain: the West Coast Times declared that this promotion “will give general satisfaction to traders here, as he has always been found courteous and obliging in the discharge of his duties.”

Vickerman captained the Murray for many years. One of his most important missions was transporting budding young scientist Ernest Rutherford, his family and all their belongings to the North Island – including horses, flax milling machinery, timber and trillions of atoms for Ernest to play with.

Captain Vickerman’s land base had served him well, but when Jane Evans purchased it in 1985 wholesale changes were inevitable. Not least because the weatherboard was rotting, but an artist of Evans’ style was always going to put her own mark on anything she owns.

With the help of prominent Wellington architect Ian Athfield they set about transforming it into a Mediterranean style home and studio – reminiscent of what she saw when travelling as a young woman. And, of course, she filled it to the very top with colour.

Jane Evans house Open2view 4

The interior is as colourful as the outside, thanks to Jane Evans’ eye for fashion and plenty of examples of her work.

The house is unique for another reason: according to an NZ House & Garden interview, Evans and her design team invented “a method of cladding an old weatherboard house in clay that, to my knowledge, had never been done before.”

Whatever they did, it worked. 27 years later this still-sturdy cottage is brimming with Evans’ personality. No matter where you are in or outside her house it would be near-impossible for even the most amateur artist to not come away inspired.

Friend and publisher Craig Potton paid what is perhaps the best tribute to Jane Evans: “she was not a turgid, self-involved sad-sack like some of us.” Words I would love to see on my headstone when the time comes.

41 Russell Street is, just like its late owner, one of a kind. Admire this work of art for yourself, and read more about Jane Evans’ life and times here and here.

Jane Evans house Open2view 4