In this section




By location

Case studies

Mountain Range House

Inspired by its spectacular views of the Richmond Ranges, the architect of a Nelson family home has used strategically folding wooden ceilings to take open plan living to a new level.

Jeremy Smith of Nelson-based Irving Smith Jack Architects, the architect of the house which has become known as the ‘mountain range house’, says the owners wanted a living environment with “amazing living spaces”. A home that would make the most of the views to their garden and allow them to enjoy Nelson’s favourable climate.

“They wanted to feel like they are living on a verandah, but with the comforts of interior spaces for those cold days.”

He came up with the concept of a big enclosed verandah, a single living area like a grand pavilion, for this social family. The parents live permanently in the house and have a large extended family that come to stay regularly. “They wanted a space that could potentially accommodate lots of people and at the same time be suitable for just two people to live in.”

He says the design of the house’s stunning zigzag roof was inspired by the slopes of the mountain peaks it overlooks. The roof played an important role in determining the design of the interior spaces.

The roof was used to delineate the internal living spaces through sloping wooden ceiling panels, which mark the sitting, dining and kitchen areas through their height while maintaining an overall open communal space.

Though wood was used primarily in just two parts of the glass and concrete house, in the ceilings and floors, it is the dominant component of the house’s interior.

“The timber ceiling and floor have the effect of holding the large interior spaces together and varying the light within the different areas, Jeremy Smith says. “We used wood to warm and enlighten the space from top to bottom and it was essential to creating a large verandah space that would encourage more than one activity.”

By using wood so liberally he managed to control the internal verandah space and make it more appealing and defined.

The design challenge was to rationalise the structure of the zigzagging roof to form the specific volumes and shapes constructed.

Erecting the unusual wooden ceilings proved quite straightforward. For the ceiling he used hoop pine plywood sheets with a poplar batten.  “We utilised panels with acoustic softening capabilities so they would absorb the sounds in the large interior spaces.”

The main technical challenge was to control where the timber ceiling and floor elements start and stop. “We questioned ways to make the ceiling read as a single element yet be articulated with a scale and rhythm to create a series of interconnecting varied volume spaces,” Jeremy Smith says.

The edges of the timber ceiling were carefully detailed to sit proud of the walls and maximise the warmth of the timber plane.

A continuous row of battens, covering the long ply sheet joins, mitre along the length of the ceiling to pattern and delineate the folding ceiling from one end of the building to the other. “The space then becomes legible, both as a whole, and as a series of folded intermediary spaces”, Jeremy Smith adds.


  • NZ Wood Timber Design Awards 2010
    Highly Commended  – Residential Architectural Excellence
  • Finalist in the TransTasman Timber Design Awards 2011