Introducing Architect and friend of A&C - Thao Nguyen from Studio TT, a boutique architecture practice who’s own Backyard House in Pt Chev is made on a tiny 225sqm site. Proving that you can create beautiful functional ‘family’ homes on small sites.
Tell us a little about you and your home and the people who live with you How would you describe your home and style?
We call our house Our Backyard House because it was built in our backyard on a very small site of 225sqm. There are 5-7 of us at any given time, being my husband and I, our 3 young children and grandmas (throughout the year). Although the site is compact the home is generously proportioned with 4 bedrooms, a study, 2.5 bathrooms and double garage/playroom, all wrapped around a sunny courtyard. Above the playroom there is also a beautiful light filled loft studio apartment which has housed many visiting friends and family.
It is unconventional because people expect family homes to be on larger sites but for us, a small site means less maintenance, no weeding, no lawns to mow (we have Tiger Turf) no hedges to trim etc, thus freeing up weekends for us to spend with our 3 wonderful and very active children. Additionally, we are surrounded by parks, playgrounds and beaches so these places naturally become an extension of our home.
The style of our home is contemporary with a materials palette that include concrete, black bricks and steel, balanced with the warmth of cedar, oak and purple-heart hardwood.
Interiors are bespoke, designed to bring ease and joy to modern family life with practical considerations like kids having places to store their shoes, school bags, lunchboxes etc when they come home from school incorporated into the design. The laundry chute has been so successful as they love throwing washing down there which means less work for us!!
And my kitchen - I love cooking in my kitchen!!
You are an Architect and your home has been shortlisted for a 2023 NZIA architecture award, what’s important to you when designing a home?
The basics - orientation, sun, natural light, connection to the outdoors, fresh air, natural ventilation and of course the planning and internal layout has to be right before you can consider anything else. The connection with the natural environment is so important for our physical and mental health and well-being and that is something I could never compromise on.
As our cities enter a new chapter of building intensification to help ease the housing crisis it is evermore important to do everything we can to ensure that these qualities are not lost in the homes we build, starting with working with the architects and designers who adopt this vision in a smart and sustainable way.
Do you have a favourite feature or room in the house?
The master bedroom/ ensuite.
In previous homes when I bathed my children I would have to kneel on the cold floor of the bathroom or perch on an uncomfortable stool to watch them.
So, in designing my own home I absolutely made sure that I can now sit in bed (usually with a magazine and cold drink at the end of the day) and watch the kids bathe and chatter, in pure comfort.
So just like that, through design, something that was a chore is now really enjoyable. And that’s what I love about my job - solving problems and being able to bring joy to the most mundane of daily tasks.
Shop the Timothy Teak Stool here.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up you would like to share?
Terrace housing / Co housing with a shared green roof terrace. I think as gardens and lawns are replaced with buildings, we need to look at relocating our green spaces onto the roof to bring gardens and bees back into our neighbourhoods. I’m envisaging a building that is overflowing with greenery from all balconies and on the roof, there are native flowers and trees in giant pots and veggie planters overflowing with food for everyone to share.
What’s the last thing you brought for your home?
The A&C Harry Swing Chair. I have been searching for an occasional chair for this particular space ever since the house was completed. As soon as I saw Harry it was love at first sight!!
Shop the Harry Sling Chair here
Any advice for creating a home you love?
Fill it with the things that make you happy!!!
Proudest DIY: I have learnt so many new DIY skills over recent years but asides from painting, concrete sealing, building veggie planters etc what I am most proud of was being able to make a kitchen tower for my toddler so she could be at bench height to help me in the kitchen.
Fill the blanks:
The coolest place you’ve been to: Gorde/Provence.
Best cup of coffee/tea is at: Spicy soy chai latte from Twisted Tomato in Point Chev.
Your go-to local eatery: Nomad because it’s family friendly and has good food!!!
Favourite interior or Architect account to follow: Studio TT of course.Globally - I am inspired by the work of Vo Trong Ngia Architects who are doing incredible things with low energy plant covered buildings. Their head office building in Ho Chi Minh City is covered in a ‘vertical farm’ of fruit, vegetables and herbs so super convenient if you want to grab something for dinner from your desk!!
If you could bring back a fashion or home trend, what would it be: Not really bringing back but I do love slippers and indoor shoes. I prefer to leave my outdoor shoes outdoors.
Finish this sentence: I’m currently loving the Harry Swing Chair (still in the honeymoon phase!!) and A&C French linen sheets and duvet covers!!
Photography by Mark Scowen.
Shop the products styled in Thao's home here.