On a quiet street backing on to the Upper Waitemata in the back of Westmere, David Ponting and Matt Fitzgerald of Ponting Fitzgerald have designed an extraordinary house. They describe it as a large-scale piece of sculpture built around the personalities of its owners. Seven massive concrete walls, poured in situ, stand as monoliths, with the house weaving through them. The house is a journey from street to water, land to sea. A fence of modest vertical fins at the roadside gives glimpses through to the house beyond. A narrow pond by the entrance walkway continues through the house and on to the pool, a tributary leading the eye, the visitor and the senses to the open sea beyond.
The basalt-tiled walkway continues on into the house in an unassuming manner, the outdoors merging seamlessly with the interior. The major concrete wall forms a central access which is bisected by a corridor that to the left, leads to a wall of storage, with full height American oak doors, skylit from above, opposed by the utility rooms. Although, here, utility is perhaps not the right word. The powder room is a mirrored delight and the large open laundry with its wall of glass is anything but utilitarian. At one end of this cross-axis is the guest suite with its own private courtyard. At the other, over a bridge across the tributary, are the two children’s rooms, each displaying the character of their occupants, separated by a shared ensuite and a sunken TV room. Here are the brightest colours of the house: vivid wallpapers and deep carpets.
The main body of the house includes the well-proportioned double height living room with its cave-like media room behind. Adjoining the living room is the kitchen with a poured and polished concrete bench and cabinetry of timber, lightly sand-blasted to reveal the grain. The living room is framed by the largest wall of them all: 11 metres long and 4.5 metres high, it houses the fireplace and runs through to the outside deck where it holds the barbecue and an outside fire. This wall is punctured with openings and manipulated with various shapes to bring some subtle curves to its massive form. A waterfall pool, complete with glass cabana, addresses the harbour’s edge. Upstairs are the master suite and the salon, which can be curtained off with a blue velvet curtain. The bed sits in front of a freestanding leather headboard, open to the world; or, alternatively, closed down with discreet curtains that envelope the space.
This house is a complex exercise in layering: of spaces from the street to the sea; of materials, limited in palette, but deftly handled; of light and dark, through the use of curtains and sliding doors. The perfectly finished concrete is robust but not harsh, the oak floors warm and the cedar ceilings reassuring without being oppressive. There is nothing about this house that is garish or ostentatious. On the contrary, a rich and honest relationship between designer and client has developed into a house of integrity; of materials, form, intent and resolution.