Abigail Dougherty / Stuff
Smith with her son Nicholas, 9, at their home in Ponsonby, Auckland. The sofa is from King Living.
Architect and author Jonathan Smith, of Matter Architects, has big plans for the villa he shares with his wife, Melody and son Nicholas in Ponsonby. They bought the property in 2018 and Smith himself drew up the plans to restore the 1905 villa to its former glory.
With work on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic, Smith took the opportunity to fulfill another lifelong dream: to write a children’s book for her son. The Monkey and the Moonbeam is about a little monkey called NicNic who goes on a big adventure.
JONATHAN SMITH: We have been here for about four years. It was amazing because we were living in a 60m² apartment and then we came to this place so it was fantastic. It’s a 1905 villa and there’s a little lean-to they built in the 90s out back.
What we want to do is to restore the old part of the villa to what it was, to highlight this character. And then we’ll separate the new addition from the old villa, almost make a little bridge, and then we’ll have the new addition in the back.
It will probably be about a 12 month build. We hope to live in the house thanks to this. We’ve done all the designs and have all the permits, so we’re ready to go. We just need to understand what the bank can lend us.
We have done a few projects like this in the past, and of course we are constantly helping our customers through these projects. It’s actually incredibly beneficial for an architect to go through this process themselves: you understand the process much more from the client’s perspective.
We were just drawn to this area, and always have been. The area is mostly made up of villas and bungalows, so buying a villa partly comes with living here. Ponsonby has a community feel and proximity to everything including cafes, shops and schools. It’s amazing and so walkable.
You inherit a bit of quirkiness with these villas, as they face the street rather than the best parts of the site. So, it’s still an interesting puzzle for me. But there is something about them that works really well.
People love them, and people understand them, they understand their aesthetic. So they are definitely part of the social fabric, I would say.
Right now we’re using this house much like you use a fridge door where you just pin things your kids have made. So the walls are pretty much perforated everywhere, and Nick painted the walls in some places – it’s really a work in progress.
When complete, everything should be laid out in a very logical way and the materials should be holistic throughout.
I love natural materials, woods, even brick and concrete, just the exposed nature of it. So I guess my style is almost mid-century modern. Very modernist ideals – probably more simplistic than detailed.
I’m a fan of built-in furniture, I love how you can control the materials and tie them into the house itself and maximize the space.
Some customers will be fine with it, especially in a more modest home, but other customers will see it very much as something that limits their flexibility in their own lifestyle, which I think is also a very good point.
It’s something very personal. But when it comes to our family, there will be a lot of built-in furniture in our new home.
I did not study literature or writing. I just loved the idea of telling stories. And I’ve always loved books and movies.
They fabricate a story, as we do in our architecture as much as possible.
So when Nick was about to be born, I thought it would be nice to write and illustrate something for him. It was 10 years ago, and I just finished it during confinement. So it was a 10-year process.
I really liked that, writing. And I enjoyed the publishing process and the freedom of being able to create something and control the timeline. In architecture, you have to give time to the contractor. So that was a really lovely aspect, to have that creative freedom and control.