Curvy coastal home

20 April 2014
Written by Sacha Kenny | Images by Sacha Kenny
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At the time this house was built it was considered futuristic.  Now, 20 years later, it still represents great design - upheld by its young-at-heart owners   


I would have loved this house as a child - I love it now, but when I was a child I’m sure I would have spent endless hours lying on the plush white carpet staring up at the high centre-point ceilings dreaming I was a Native American Indian in my tepee or a horsewoman from the Mongolian plains relaxing in my yurt.

It’s a visual wonderland – curved walls lead to a labyrinth of beautiful spaces filled with enough treasure to fill the imagination of children and adults alike. 

Designed in 1981 by Auckland-based architect Ian Burrow for owners Ian and Gloria Welch, this north-facing house overlooks Paremata inlet, north of Wellington. With stunning views of the water banked by rolling hills and farmland, the house is made up of three main rounds consisting of nine interlinked and free-flowing levels. 

For the Welchs the decision to have Burrow design their home was an easy one: “We had been living overseas and were going to move up to Auckland, we’d seen some of Ian’s work and the homes we saw were quite extraordinary. One house in particular, which he designed and built in the 1960s, was timeless – it had sunken pits and big fireplaces, just beautiful," Gloria recalls.

“We just really loved his work - he’s an artist, quite a visionary, so his ideas are quite different and unusual. The idea to build the house as a group of circles came from him."

A feast of texture, shape and colour, each level effortlessly compliments the next, providing ample space for Ian and Gloria to display and enjoy their individual passions – steam engines and mosaics.

Descending from the kitchen is Ian’s space where a bar, lounge area and sunken, semi-circle, red velvet recline surrounded by train memorabilia invites you to sit and relax. Ian is, by his own admission, ‘train-mad’, a point made evident by the fact that he owns one of the world’s largest private collections of full-size steam engines… and then there’s the mini-trains and other collectables.

From this point the view out over the inlet is spectacular - a view Ian never tires of. “From up here we can see the stingrays come into the bay below. They move in packs, in families, it’s like watching a ballet as they glide through the shallow water in search of food – it's fantastic watching them.”

Gloria’s studio, where she crafts beautiful clear glass mosaics, is a lovely light-filled room downstairs from Ian’s area. With a wall of glass over-looking the surrounding trees and water below, it’s easy to see why this space has become Gloria’s haven.  

“I come down into the studio to do a particular design then I start playing and do something completely different – there’s a 101 ways of filling in the spaces.”

Gloria’s work is sold at the Ground Up Café, Pauatahanui Inlet and has been featured at Paraka Museum Porirua.

With an eye on the future, Ian and Gloria have commissioned work to begin on their next home. Also designed by Ian Burrow, their new residence takes the ethos of their current house to the next level. Consisting again of a number of rounds the design features three two-storey wings with circular rooms at each end and joined in the middle by a central domed, glass-roofed atrium.

Although excited by the project, Gloria does admit the couple have mixed feelings about leaving their current home, which they love so much. "I might move down there and Ian may stay here," she says with a laugh.

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0 #2 Malorie 2014-06-24 00:43
A lot of people don't know that high heels: are not originally created for women!
+1 #1 Michael 2014-06-05 10:24
yes - i was wondering why another house when the one you have now is such a lovely place. in reading this i see that the design for the new home is done by the same person :)
Very nice

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