The Great Compression

written by:
photos by:
April 13, 2010
Originally published in Big Ideas for Small Spaces
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  Auckland’s Mangere Mountain is a dormant volcano that rises above the shore of the Manukau Harbor. It was once a site of strategic importance to early Maori tribes, and development is now prohibited on its cone.
    Auckland’s Mangere Mountain is a dormant volcano that rises above the shore of the Manukau Harbor. It was once a site of strategic importance to early Maori tribes, and development is now prohibited on its cone.
  • 
  In the suburb on the mountain’s lower slopes, Michael O’Sullivan and his sons Seamus and Finbar exchange motorcycle tips outside the compact, innovative home O’Sullivan designed.
    In the suburb on the mountain’s lower slopes, Michael O’Sullivan and his sons Seamus and Finbar exchange motorcycle tips outside the compact, innovative home O’Sullivan designed.
  • 
  Melissa Schollum stands at the brass island bench in the kitchen. O’Sullivan, who designed and built the house, spent many hours creating the wooden joinery (including the tall, slender windows and their timber shutters) and the intricate ceiling. The cupboards under the marble bench in the kitchen are made of glass to allow more light into the space. The dining table and chairs were designed by Sam Haughton of IMO.
    Melissa Schollum stands at the brass island bench in the kitchen. O’Sullivan, who designed and built the house, spent many hours creating the wooden joinery (including the tall, slender windows and their timber shutters) and the intricate ceiling. The cupboards under the marble bench in the kitchen are made of glass to allow more light into the space. The dining table and chairs were designed by Sam Haughton of IMO.
  • 
  Four-year-old Seamus relaxes in the living room, whose plywood walls 
are covered with family photographs.
    Four-year-old Seamus relaxes in the living room, whose plywood walls are covered with family photographs.
  • 
  The cedar weatherboard ceiling in the living pavilion features triangular recesses for lightbulbs.
    The cedar weatherboard ceiling in the living pavilion features triangular recesses for lightbulbs.
  • 
  In the kitchen, plates by ceramic artist Rachel Carley decorate the window mullions.
    In the kitchen, plates by ceramic artist Rachel Carley decorate the window mullions.
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  The reflectivity of the brass kitchen island makes it seem to dematerialize.
    The reflectivity of the brass kitchen island makes it seem to dematerialize.
  • 
  Outside on the deck, one-year-old Mary and three-year-old Finbar enjoy a snack at the kid-size table and chairs Michael designed and made for them.
    Outside on the deck, one-year-old Mary and three-year-old Finbar enjoy a snack at the kid-size table and chairs Michael designed and made for them.
  • 
  The tiny budget still allowed room for some strategic splurges, such as the vivid green Verde Ming marble in the house’s only bathroom.
    The tiny budget still allowed room for some strategic splurges, such as the vivid green Verde Ming marble in the house’s only bathroom.
  • 
  In the kids’ room, Seamus climbs the bunk beds he shares with his siblings.
    In the kids’ room, Seamus climbs the bunk beds he shares with his siblings.
  • 
  The family shares an alfresco lunch with Ikimau Ikimau, a friendly neighbor who helped build the house. The aluminum weatherboard cladding was custom-designed by O’Sullivan.
    The family shares an alfresco lunch with Ikimau Ikimau, a friendly neighbor who helped build the house. The aluminum weatherboard cladding was custom-designed by O’Sullivan.
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