Box™ has made impressive inroads into a very particular niche of the housing market: the perfect packaging of smart home building. Their designs sit nicely in the gap between high-end bespoke architect houses and builder-driven construction, which involves less outlay but sometimes not as much style. A recent Box™ build in the Junction neighbourhood is perched high above Mangawhai. The French clients wanted a holiday home where their family could hang out and entertain with ease. They also wanted a sunken firepit, to the delight of head architect, Tim Dorrington. An L-shaped footprint was decided upon; it fitted the contour well and created sheltered pockets of outdoor living on the exposed site. The living area has glass both sides so the marvellous views to the Hen and Chickens are available, whatever the prevailing wind.
A polished concrete floor was utilised for passive heat storage. Concrete was repeated in the big solid fireplace, which has a window seat beside it – a cosy spot to curl up on a winter’s day. Exposed truss ceilings continue the industrial look, but sleek beech ply on the walls gives a natural feeling of warmth. “It was our first building project,” says owner Adeline Lemaitre, “and I did not want to think about every detail such as tap or tiles or towel rack or door handle. Box suggested everything within our budget. We got just what we wanted: a single level, functional home with a fireplace, underfloor heating, spa, multi-user bathroom, decks facing both ocean and sunset – and our firepit! It was pretty quick and very easy.” The true genius of Box™ is just that: they take the stress out of the process. In fact, there’s a huge amount of psychology built into the Box™ modus operandi, which takes advantage of the fact that for most people, building your own home is a bit scary.
First you book a Box Sprint™ session. This is basically the same as any first meeting for a build – except that, like Box, it comes neatly packaged. A team will visit your site, template your needs and workshop the results with you in a four-hour meeting with Box™ architect, builder, quantity surveyor and planner to develop a brief. You’ll then have a good idea of how your build will progress – and what it’ll probably cost. You could go with a classic home from the various designs that Box™ have on their shelves, or a full custom build. But even the custom builds use modular components such as posts, beams, wall and glazing panels to avoid waste – it’s good for the wallet and doesn’t, as they say, ‘cost the Earth’. Box™ champions ecologically-friendly buildings. Their builds always orient the house for the sun and usually utilise some form of thermal mass (like concrete floors) for passive heating. They over-insulate and double-glaze, and can advise on solar energy, rain collection and grey water use. We asked Tim Dorrington if the whole modular thing made his job as architect a little bit boring. “Nope,” he said. “There’s a certain ‘Box™ DNA’, a general aesthetic, sure – but out of around 240 homes we’ve built so far, only three were the same. There are many permutations according to client requirements, the site and other factors. And we’re open to all sorts of ideas.”
Tim’s been to Palm Springs a few times now with his family. He’s hugely inspired by such mid-century design giants as Joseph Eichler and William Kessler, and Box™ owes much to their legacy. It was a golden era of design which Box™ has fully embraced. Heck, even their logo looks like something out of The Jetsons. External post and beam structures, industrial sawtooth rooflines, full-height windows and doors, great indoor-outdoor flow – and firepits – all came from the fifties and sixties in California – and this type of design works particularly well here. “Box™ has always been about ‘accessible architecture’, which simply means being able to offer well-designed homes cheaper. Think IKEA for homes,” says CEO Dan Heyworth. “The next stage in the Box™ journey is fully embracing the potential of pre-fabrication. The key to this is simplifying architectural design, standardising building elements and systems and doing things at scale. Only then will the vision of truly accessible architecture be realised.”