Densification Perfection – Milieu’s modern take on suburban living

A prime example of densification done well, this new home built on a rare subdivided section in Auckland’s Mt Albert provides separate yet connected dwellings for two generations.

Designed by Milieu Architecture, the house encompasses a home for a couple and their dog, as well as a separate dwelling for one set of parents. The couple’s home features living spaces below, with bedrooms perched above the garage, while the parents’ home is encased in a brick single-storey form that protrudes outwards, with slot windows adjacent to the driveway to allow for privacy while letting in light.

“The building is designed with overlapping volumes that provide separate yet connected spaces both within the homes and between them,” says architect Kate Beilby. “The two homes have separate entries – and the dog has free run between both properties!”

Mt Albert’s heritage zoning rules informed the cladding choices for the home. White shiplap weatherboards on the upper floor are juxtaposed against a rich, textured brick, chosen to tie in with the materiality of surrounding homes.

“The brick is Aged Red from The Brickery,” says Beilby. “It’s a premium brick made in the traditional method, with a soft, rustic aesthetic that contrasts nicely with the crisp white timber. We then have the brick wall running right through and meeting the kitchen, creating a connection between inside and out.”

Opposite this wall, Shinnoki oak veneer linings further the warmth and natural colour palette of the interior. This material is used for the staircase, and creates concealed doors that access the garage and storage spaces. Inset shelves in the hallway display the couple’s Lego builds and a 3D-printed model of the house, which takes pride of place on the upper shelf.

Concrete floors and an Airy Concrete Caesarstone benchtop in the kitchen further the soft, natural tones in this space, as does the pistachio green cabinetry. A curved upper cabinet echoes the curves seen in the brick garden borders outside.

Upstairs, the master bedroom is a lush haven of deep blues, featuring a Designers Guild chinon textured wallpaper. The bedroom opens onto a cleverly designed sunroom with views over the Waitakeres, explains Beilby.

“The clients had talked of putting a balcony up there but, as it was over a living space, there would have been some extra expense and complications with waterproofing. With the potential for views of the sun setting over the distant hills, we envisioned the space being used more in the evening, when it is cooler. So we landed on creating a sunroom that has the essence of a balcony, using timber flooring and carrying the shiplap lining from outside.”

Much of the interior design was completed by Mary Ellen Hinton of Hello Saturday, who aimed to create personality and warmth in the home through the use of bold patterned wallpaper in the powder rooms and bedrooms, and decadent fabrics throughout.

“My clients wanted soft, comfortable, relaxed spaces. Soft carpet underfoot, soft velvet chairs and cushions, soft velvet beds and bedlinen. We chose wool beanbags and comfortable couches, especially the Axel with the slouchy arms,” she says, adding that the wallpapers especially added depth and an element of reflectiveness to the rooms.

Although a little more low-key in terms of colour choices, the parents’ home is also beautifully designed, with plenty of natural light and a chic combination of materials.

With its crisp, modern palette of colours, cohesive exterior, and a well considered floorplan lending privacy and space for both couples, this Mt Albert house is a key example of how density can be achieved while still maintaining the essence of an established streetscape.