An architect’s own self-built family home | Michael O’Sullivan
This light-filled home sits in a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. It was designed and built by architect Michael O’Sullivan for his own family of six.
The modest house has an L-shaped floor plan with a shed-roofed living pavilion running across the site and a lower bedroom wing extending into the backyard. The kitchen and dining spaces feature banks of tall, slender windows on three sides, making for constantly shifting light patterns as the sun arcs across the sky. Even the kitchen cabinets on the north wall are translucent to allow light through.
The family lived on site in an old portable classroom during the home’s construction, which allowed O’Sullivan to devote long hours to the project — essentially all his free time for nearly two years. Neighbors also lent their assistance, with some putting in many hours of work as well. With no labor costs to cover and by making creative use of building materials, the architect was able to complete the 115 m2 (1,240 ft2) house for NZD 152,000.
To keep costs in check, O’Sullivan made extensive use of plywood as a finish material, putting it on the walls and the bedroom ceilings. But he splurged in key places, using materials that enrich the whole house and give it a Mid-Century Modern sophistication.
The living area ceiling is finished with cedar siding boards, fastened with an overlapping step pattern that adds texture to the room. A scattering of triangular cutouts conceal the recessed low-energy light fixtures. The centerpiece of the room is the kitchen island, wrapped in brass with a mirror-like sheen. Over in the bedroom wing, the home’s only bathroom is eye-popping, finished entirely with a green marble.
There are two bedrooms, one of which is a large bunkroom shared by all the children. However, O’Sullivan did design the floor plan to allow for the later addition of more bedrooms. Not only does that kind of phased approach make the house more affordable to start with, it also keeps the project down to a more manageable size for an owner-builder who doesn’t have prior building experience.
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