Auckland is in the midst of a housing crisis with an increase in housing stock and diversity of typologies required to meet unprecedented demand. Smaller homes, infilling existing urban sections have been proposed as a solution to increase density without contributing to urban sprawl. However, smaller dwellings present their unique challenges such as availability of storage space and limited floor area for furnishings and as a result, clutter can accumulate very quickly. In late 18th Century America, a religious movement called the Shakers designed their dwellings around tidiness. Using design principles from the Shaker movement, this project seeks to respond to Auckland’s vision of denser homes by designing a small space that does not compromise on style and liveability.
The space is a 30sqm self-contained room, located alongside an existing boarding house situated in the suburb of Ōtāhuhu, Auckland. The brief required a unit with built-in furnishings that would create a sense of warmth and comfort for occupants whilst making it easy to keep clean and tidy. The unit faces the Tāmaki estuary that looks over a dense population of New Zealand native mangroves (Avicennia marina). The coastal wetland environment has directly shaped the colour palette of the interior, grounding the home and creating a sense of place. Dark and muted greens are reminiscent of the mud flats, soft blues mimic the serene quality of the tidal sea whilst accents of black, deep reds and light orange acknowledge the surrounding native flora and fauna.
Furniture was an important element to the Shaker communities as it assisted them preserving tidiness in their spaces. Their furniture, mostly made out of solid timber was designed with simplicity, without any superfluous detailing and were highly functional. It was built specific to a purpose and specific to its spatial surrounding. This principle was applied to the unit as the program of each space would dictate the shape, scale and functionality of its furniture. A space for everyday washing and hygiene, a space for light meal preparation, a space to sleep and meditate, a space to work and study, a space to dine and a space to entertain and relax have all shaped the specific furniture that surrounds them. The cabinetry for instance, becomes a prominent organizational force throughout the space. It partitions and demarcates areas, such as the L-shaped cabinet between the bedroom and the corridor and offers a playful array of volumes and platforms that either function to conceal or display things. Just like the shakers, timber is used throughout the joinery to add a layer of warmth. The wood chosen is recycled rimu which contributes to environmental sustainability whilst adding a touch of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Another important organizational feature, directly borrowed from the Shakers, is the continuous wooden peg rail placed just below the lintel that runs around the perimeter of the lounge and the bedroom area. It provides a framework for the occupants to fill their own content on the walls without requiring fixings.
This project aims to further the conversation around what Auckland’s future housing stock looks like, providing an alternative to cookie-cutter McMansions. The effective use of furniture and design, that acknowledges and draws upon the surrounding natural environment, creates an efficient, liveable space for people to make their home.