Air raid shelter or home? This designer creation draws everyone’s attention

Trish and Max Bryant’s new home puzzled many when it was built. “People would sneak down the driveway at night to check it out. It was certainly a build that contained some intrigue,” says Trish. Whispered comments included the opinion that it looked like a bomb shelter or resembled a ruined castle.

The Bryants laughed and conceded that what they created – a fusion of dark metal, wood and concrete – was a little different than the norm at Feilding. However, they were confident that the completed project would be a success. You were right. Fast forward about three years and her home is more likely to cause a stir than raised eyebrows. Trish and Max loved it from the start.

Trish and Max Bryant say the cantilevered glass panel over the front door works perfectly and looks great;  Agaves thrive particularly well in tall planters.  Trish and Max in their concrete-lined entry foyer.

Paul McCredie/NZ Home & Garden

Trish and Max Bryant say the cantilevered glass panel over the front door works perfectly and looks great; Agaves thrive particularly well in tall planters. Trish and Max in their concrete-lined entry foyer.

The adventurous design can be attributed to architectural designer Matt Janes of Pak Design, to whom they were introduced by their builders, Humphries Construction. “We just told Matt we have a pretty small department [550m²] and wanted a two-story townhouse,” Trish recalls. “We absolutely fell in love with what he came back with; we haven’t changed anything.”

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Living area coffee tables are by King & Teppett in Palmerston North; wood-reinforced Sarah chairs by Hutchinson's in Hastings;  The Bryants say their lounge is a beautiful place no matter the time of year.

Paul McCredie/NZ Home & Garden

Living area coffee tables are by King & Teppett in Palmerston North; wood-reinforced Sarah chairs by Hutchinson’s in Hastings; The Bryants say their lounge is a beautiful place no matter the time of year.

The Bryants, who are retired chicken farmers, moved into the city from a 2ha block that was part of their 120ha farm in nearby Halcombe. They knew the change wouldn’t be “too much of a jolt” having recently lived in an apartment in Sydney for seven years.

Sturdy and uncompromising, concrete is celebrated here in many forms: as polished aggregate floors, on walls, as a solid headboard in the master bedroom, formed into patio furniture and a water feature, and on a dramatically soaring staircase rising from the entrance hall.

Details like the balustrade posts on the suspended staircase add to the overall “pretty of their home,” the Bryants say.

“The idea behind the floating aspect of the staircase is that you can see the view through it – and through glass windows that span two stories,” explains Trish. The view in question is a water feature inspired by a photo Trish spotted on Pinterest.

Opposite the border fence it is a concrete structure with six gargoyles from which water falls into a pond. Says Max: “A stream of water comes out of each spout. It’s a technical feat and we love the look, whether it’s running or not,” says Max.

All of that concrete has been softened and “feels wonderfully livable and homey,” says Trish, thanks to some thoughtful decorating choices. There’s artwork, cushions, beautiful linens, bookshelves, a square of rug set into the concrete floor in the lounge, plush sheepskin beanbag chairs — and upstairs, pink walls painted Resene Just Right.

Says Trish, “The craftsmen couldn’t believe they were painting pink. But people go up there and love the look and feel and then realize it’s pink.” It adds a feminine touch to the upper floor, which has two empty bedrooms, a bathroom, and a much-used library (also in a second warm Colour, Resene Twizel, painted) leading to a covered terrace.

“The library is a really cozy place. It’s nice to go up there for a drink at 5pm and look out over all the treetops,” says Trish.

The extensive use of wood is also a foil for concrete and steel. Cedar slats frame large panes of glass, American oak adorns one kitchen wall and is also used to define the kitchen ceiling, bathroom vanities and built-in furniture, bedroom headboards are wood paneled and there are intricately stacked logs flanking the fireplace. The logs are housed in steel boxes, an idea Trish initially rejected. Now she’s thrilled that they’re part of it. Max is “a firewood nut”, so she keeps you full.

Everything has been skillfully designed with the help of local interior designer Danielle White.

The cozy upstairs library is painted in Resene Twizel, the art is by photographer Emma Willetts, and the coffee tables are by Mr Fräg;  Trish likes how sections of the built-in shelving are illuminated and says the low faux fireplace was an idea she found in NZ House & Garden magazine and commissioned Counter Concepts in Palmerston North to create.

Paul McCredie/NZ Home & Garden

The cozy upstairs library is painted in Resene Twizel, the art is by photographer Emma Willetts, and the coffee tables are by Mr Fräg; Trish likes how sections of the built-in shelving are illuminated and says the low faux fireplace was an idea she found in NZ House & Garden magazine and commissioned Counter Concepts in Palmerston North to create.

Beneath the beautiful finishes and thoughtful furnishings lie hidden assets—designed to future-proof the Bryants’ lives. For example, landscape architect Elizabeth Patching suggested that the doors leading from the dining and lounge areas to the exterior accordion back and floor should be level with the courtyard for easy accessibility.

They have installed an elevator but the house is also designed so that they can only live on the ground floor if required – the master bedroom is on the ground floor. There are sensor lights under her bed to prevent stumbling at night and more at step height in the kitchen.

In the master bedroom, the swan was photographed by a friend's daughter-in-law, the headboard wall is concrete, the lamps are ECC and the headboard, base and drawers are all one piece, bespoke by Reilly Joinery.

Paul McCredie/NZ Home & Garden

In the master bedroom, the swan was photographed by a friend’s daughter-in-law, the headboard wall is concrete, the lamps are ECC and the headboard, base and drawers are all one piece, bespoke by Reilly Joinery.

The attention to detail continues outside, with eye-catching garden art and impeccable planting – think pleated hedges, pyramid-trimmed box trees and frothy ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas and rose lilies; The latter look like double oriental lilies and are a relatively recent development in lily breeding.

Concrete spheres, a flock of corten steel rabbits, a gas fire burning from the center of a concrete coffee table and four steel and concrete stools complete the gallery.

Wanting to avoid traditional seating, Trish was delighted when Elizabeth found the concrete stools: “I love the symmetry with which they are lined up.”

In front is another artificial creature, a faux box Scottish terrier – Trish saw the ideas for corten steel dogs and rabbits in NZ House & Garden magazines. His name is Patrick and he stands at the front door to welcome those who come to visit this rather special home in Feilding.

Questions and Answers with Trish & Max Bryant

Note for new builders: It is very important to have a good relationship with your builder. We found our construction to be a pleasant experience and were delighted with our construction team in every respect. (Tric)

A bold move in the construction project: Choosing an industrial style home in Feilding, where anything a little different has interesting conversations that aren’t all positive or complementary. (Tric)

A favorite thing about your home: The warmth with double glazed windows, radiators and a built in wood burning fireplace in the living area. (maximum)

Best seat in the house: Outside in the summer under the retractable roof louvers with the sliding doors wide open and a view of the television at the news time. (maximum)

Favorite local cafe: Piccolo’s, for both food and coffee. (Tric)

A group of corten steel bunnies adorn the lawn, while concrete balls are scattered across the gravel.

Paul McCredie/NZ Home & Garden

A group of corten steel bunnies adorn the lawn, while concrete balls are scattered across the gravel.

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