Not long after arriving in New Zealand, we toyed with the idea of purchasing a home. We looked at our options: To get something run down to renovate to our liking, or to build one that is architecturally designed. The latter was completely out of our reach until I stumbled upon Box. The concept, which you will read about made so much sense. Unfortunately we didn’t end up purchasing in Auckland, which is a huge regret of mine, but that’s another story. Box however was reintroduced to me through friends who commissioned them build their holiday home. We were their guests for the weekend not long before we left New Zealand and I saw for myself the finish of these builds that perfectly complement the landscape. Dan, the founder, is my guest today to talk about the Box concept.
From my understanding, Box is not a conventional architect firm, nor is it a housing company, so would I be correct in saying that you sit somewhere in between? What inspired the Box concept?
Exactly. Essentially, I believe that you have two choices – go to an architect who will deliver a beautiful result, with uncertain budget and a large amount of waste (each design re-invents the wheel to a large extent), or you go to a group builder where the focus is on cost at the expense of design. We sit firmly in the middle – and I believe the only truly integrated design and build company in NZ. The concept was inspired by the fact I thought the architect business model was flawed. Architects and builders must work more closely together to design efficient, awesome buildings. The question was how to do this? Technology is coming more into play now to help visualise and communicate designs before they hit site. There are also new construction materials available such as cross-laminated timber, which allow a greater degree of ‘pre-build’. The trick is to have everything 100% resolved before work starts on site. You can read about how we got started here.
I’ve read that you are inspired by mid-century architecture. How does this translate in your designs?
There are a number of cues we use, such as our post and beam designs (inspired by the likes of Philip Johnson – Glasshouse), our full height windows and doors. We love honesty of materials and structural elements of the building – some would call it more ‘industrial’. We feel that the modernist look, which became popular on the west coast of the US, is suitable here for our climate and lifestyle – glass, light, indoor/outdoor. But essentially we like things to be simple, elegant, light and great spaces to live in.
Who would you describe as your typical clients and what are they after?
Our typical clients are of a certain mindset. They don’t want the usual contemporary Kiwi house with a multitude of rooflines. They also see the value of dealing with a company that has its roots in design yet offers the full service. They also understand the value of integrating design and build – many of them have built before usually through architects and are after a more cohesive experience. Ultimately they want simpler, better-designed spaces where quality of design is more important than space.
Do your clients have much input in choosing the interior fit-out? Can they source fixtures themselves?
They have a huge amount of input. They are guided by our award-winning designer Sam Elliot, who makes suggestions based on preferences and budget and does all the interior drawings. We try to make things easy because there is such a huge choice of fixtures in the market, so we offer a range of things we particularly like. But our clients are the ones who will live in the house, so if they want a brushed brass faucet then we have no problem with that. If we feel strongly about it we’ll let them know!
Putting aside the aesthetic and service, Box is also a great business concept (wish I’d thought of it!). Have you experienced any major roadblocks in the business since its conception in 2010?
Heaps. Integrating design and build cultures and methods is not an easy thing to do. Getting the balance right between the design and the practicalities of building can be challenging. Building on Waiheke island is challenging, in terms of logistics, efficiencies and costs. Then there are the compliance issues in the industry. Not many clients understand the costs and risks that construction companies take on, which is part of the reason that building is an expensive thing to do! Managing trades and subcontractors is always problematic – trying to get them to change how things are done and get on board with our vision. Ultimately, building is an imprecise, messy, wasteful, risky thing to do, and we’re trying our best to turn this around.
Where would you like to take Box into the future?
I want us to be consistently innovating and questioning how to do things differently – better, faster, cheaper, smarter! As well as building beautiful things.
Thank you Dan! For more information, click over to their site.
In case you missed it, as I make my way to my new life in Sweden, the month of September is my homage to this beautiful country that I called home for over five years. It’s a dedication to its people and talent. Look out for my final New Zealand month feature this coming Thursday.
All images courtesy of Box except the image below, taken by me of my friend’s holiday home