The 80-meter multi-generational home puts children at one end and grandparents at the other

“Our neighbors in Mangere have four generations in a dilapidated, uninsulated two-bedroom house with a skyline shed, and all we hear is nothing but prayer, laughter and singing from them.”

This is how architect Michael O’Sullivan presented the multigenerational project “Gustorob” on his website – he also quotes a phrase from a Samoan friend that translates: “Everyone belongs to a family, and every family belongs to a person.”

He goes on to tell the story about his neighbours, saying “it’s not very common among white families in New Zealand”, most of whom choose to donate “obscene amounts of money” to retirement villages.

The house is located on the east-west axis - this is the south side.  The end of the grandparents' house (left) is separated from the family living quarters by a large deck and garage.
Patrick Reynolds

The house is located on the east-west axis – this is the south side. The end of the grandparents’ house (left) is separated from the family living quarters by a large deck and garage.

But, there are examples of multi-generational living in all communities, and O’Sullivan himself offers the perfect example – an award-winning 80-meter house in Tai Tabu, Canterbury, designed by three generations of the Balderston family.

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Grandparents Rob Balderston and Chris Perry live with daughter Brady, husband Hamish McKinnon, and their three children, Finn, 8, Eddie, 6, and Angus (Gus), 2. (The name Gustorob is derived from the youngest member of the family to the oldest.)

Multigenerational life works brilliantly for grandparents Rob Balderston and Kristen Berry (centre back), parents Brady and Hamish McKinnon and their children Finn, 8, Eddie, 6, and Gus, 2.

John Kirk Anderson/Staff

Multigenerational life works brilliantly for grandparents Rob Balderston and Kristen Berry (centre back), parents Brady and Hamish McKinnon and their children Finn, 8, Eddie, 6, and Gus, 2.

Multigenerational living isn’t new to the family, says Rob Balderston, a grandfather who built the house with a friend: “When I was young, my grandmother lived with us for as long as I can remember—we must have been for about 30 years Nan’s been with us.

“Here, we separate us from the family with a rooftop and garage, all under one roof, and we’re probably 25 to 30 meters away from them at the end of this end. We love it—the kids drift in and out, and we become part of their upbringing.

And this is where all the living happens - the house faces north, but the large curved overhang provides shade in summer.

Patrick Reynolds

And this is where all the living happens – the house faces north, but the large curved overhang provides shade in summer.

Grandparents Rob Balderston and Kristen Berry were photographed with Harry at the end of the house.

John Kirk Anderson/Staff

Grandparents Rob Balderston and Kristen Berry were photographed with Harry at the end of the house.

“Their parents work four days a week and the kids have a nanny for three days. But sometimes Joss will hang out with me or Chris.

“Our part of the house is about 140 square metres, which is a great size for the two of us. I had cancer a few years ago and reorganized a few things, and retired at 62. But I was very happy to build something again, as long as I had a challenge “.

The home, which just won an NZIA Canterbury Housing – Multi Unit award, is located on a 4-hectare (10-acre) plot owned by Brady & Hamish. Clad in rolled zinc, fully lined with kauri chips, rimo and matai timbers milled from storm-struck trees or sourced from reclaimed timber suppliers – the wood exudes a warm golden glow inside the house. The timber on the outside is kwila.

How did the idea develop?

Bridie McKinnon says her parents wanted to scale back their lifestyle, but didn’t fancy living in the suburbs—Bridie’s sister, brother, and family live nearby. “My father was ill, and Hamish and I had always wanted to build, but we were frustrated by the housing stock and the lack of sections in Wellington where we lived, so it made sense to come here and be close to the family.

Gus is greeted friendly at the front door.

Patrick Reynolds

Gus is greeted friendly at the front door.

Inside, the Gustorob house is enclosed in wood.

Patrick Reynolds

Inside, the Gustorob house is enclosed in wood.

“We were keen to accommodate Mum and Dad, and we could see the benefits. And we lived with them with two young children during construction. I have to say if you’re still talking about terms of speaking at the end of this whole long process, maybe you can live in separate (but linked) homes nicely. Good “.

Al McKinnon met O’Sullivan through a colleague at Bridie, who had a house designed by the architect in Waiheke – that endorsement was enough.

And Brady soon credits O’Sullivan for the unusual final design of their award-winning home—”it’s all about it,” she says. “We didn’t give him a strong design brief—we just told him how we want to live, the way we want our house to function. We didn’t define aesthetics.

“We wanted to make the most of the sun, while keeping the heat out in the summer, and we wanted a separate space for children to play, as well as separate living spaces for mom and dad.”

The main family kitchen is centrally located in the flowing living area.

Patrick Reynolds

The main family kitchen is centrally located in the flowing living area.

Floodplain Challenge

Brady admits that seeing the design was initially “kind of bewildering.” “But it worked. We live in floodplains and there was a requirement that the house be a meter above the ground. It was hard to design that in a way that wasn’t just a house with columns sticking out of the ground. That’s where the idea of ​​the curve comes in – it hides the high elevation.” For home. It’s a response to the environment, which I really like.”

O’Sullivan says the design is about compression and expansion. “Pressing on the south side makes the children feel nurtured, while the expansion to the north opens the house straight up to the sun. It is a simple narrative of a simple rural context.”

Wide wooden steps provide an easy transition into the lawn, while a long covered deck connects the separate living quarters.

The architect created a model to help families see how everything works. “I saw the model and thought, ‘Wow, this is so different,’” says Rob Balderston. “But it was a simple idea—the frame consisted of 17 steel gates that repeat the length of the building, which were installed by the men of steel. It was just the blinking around the unusual windows that challenged us, but we got there.”

Ghostrup House by Michael O'Sullivan Bedrooms 22.7.22

Patrick Reynolds/Staff

Ghostrup House by Michael O’Sullivan Bedrooms 22.7.22

The family moved in in the four weeks before Gus was born, and the house wasn’t complete yet: “We still have a bathroom in the living room,” Brady says. But all families agree that the living arrangement works very well.

“It’s great,” says Briddy. “Kids scooter down deck to see Mom and Dad. Finn loves to get off after he finishes his homework, and spends half an hour with Dad. Gus loves anything to do with tools. He spends a lot of time with Dad in the garden and mowing the lawn.”

“With family close by, their cousins ​​are here all the time too. And having parents so close means we can take care of their pets and their gardens when they go away on vacation.”

Brady, the attorney, says she and Hamish, a strategic advisor at environment firm Canterbury, had “a very tight budget – smaller than most people realize”, and the tall house’s relatively simple design made savings possible.

Michael O’Sullivan would like to express his appreciation to a Samoan friend and neighbor who gave him the multigenerational quote for this characteristic translated above: “O le tagata ma lona aiga, o le tagata ma lona fa’asinomaga”. He was Citi Vow, a carpenter who did exceptional work on many of the architect’s buildings. O’Sullivan was by his side when he passed away last month after a long illness.

The large garage provides separation between the two living rooms.

Patrick Reynolds

The large garage provides separation between the two living rooms.

The north face of the house features plenty of glass, and a long deck connects the two families.  Zincalume all-in-one roofing curves above the roof providing shade in summer.

Patrick Reynolds

The north face of the house features plenty of glass, and a long deck connects the two families. Zincalume all-in-one roofing curves above the roof providing shade in summer.

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