Tocker House: A Simple Lifestyle in a Complex World.

The “Olde Beach” area of Waikanae is a tightly held group of baches and permanent homes located in a microclimate created by Kapiti Island, an hour north of Wellington. There is a French bakery, a couple of convenience stores, three excellent restaurants and a great beach. It is a very desirable area.

Architect John Tocker and Ali Tocker have owned a bach on a site at Olde Beach for many years and when it came time to look to a future with more leisure time it was an easy choice to demolish the modest holiday home and redevelop. John’s brief was to maximise the bach experience for the long term, using simple forms, universal design principles and a responsible level of sustainability.

The Tockers wanted to be able to accommodate guests, entertain and still operate the property with minimum effort, maximum privacy and optimal use of outside space. The guest accommodation is completely self-contained so that guests can operate relatively independently but there is also the potential to run it as a B&B in the future.

The design response has been a collaboration between John and Ali Tocker as having owned the property for 25 years they knew the site well and were able to plan in full knowledge of sun, wind, shade and open space attributes. There were advantages in having prior knowledge of what would work best on the site.

“We didn’t want to lose the privacy we had enjoyed at our previous seven-acre property which was
almost all in garden”, says John. “With our knowledge of the microclimate on the site – sun/wind directions etc – we knew we wanted a home where we could be outside as much as possible. We wanted the sun and didn’t want the cool southerly breeze (we don’t get much wind from the north or west) – hence the idea of building around a courtyard on the south and east sides. And we know the neighbours and didn’t want to affect them so chose a single storey option”.

The main structure arranged along the east and south edges of the rectangular site shelters a big outdoor room to the north and west. Extensive vitex timber decks provide the connectivity and three raised roof clerestories identify the main areas of the home while providing control of the interior environment.

As you approach from the street the site is screened by fencing and the garage so that entry is into a private outdoor space. Due to floodplain regulations the main floor of this single level home is raised approximately 500mmabove ground level. Access is up a ramp and along the decks with the guest suite separated from the main home by a conservatory. There is a large living/dining/kitchen with pantry and laundry plus study, spare bedroom, bathroom, WC and main bedroom suite.

This home is set approximately 200m back form the beachfront and is constructed to high environmental standards, with over code insulation throughout, thermally broken aluminium joinery, electrically operated high-level cross ventilation, low voltage LED lighting, on site stormwater management and rainwater harvesting that feeds laundry, WC flushing and hoses, together with a bore for irrigation.

The timber and steel frame of the home is clad with stained cedar and lined with plasterboard and ply, creating a calm interior for the artworks and a simple backdrop to the highly structured outdoor areas. True Oak roofing enabled a lower pitch than was achievable with other corrugated profiles. The low pitch of the roof allowed the expression of the interior spaces in the raised clerestories – one each for the guest area, living spaces and the main bedroom suite.

The outdoor areas of deck and patio are very harmonious with the structured design of the garden.

John and Ali wanted to be able to operate seamlessly between inside and outside and after years of mowing acres of grass – it took three hours on the ride-on at their previous home – John didn’t want to be limited by lawns which required mowing!

“Then there was the idea of the slightly random grid to order the garden, provide hard landscape and walkways plus allow variation with decorative plants, vegetables and fruit trees all mixed in together,” says John.

“The decks work in three ways; firstly as access to the house, secondly to provide a range of places to sit and relax, and thirdly as the link between house and garden. We were trying to blur the boundaries between inside/outside and garden/deck”.

The Tockers say their home is a calm, private oasis providing a simple lifestyle in a complex world.

Jerram Tocker Barron Architects Ltd

Established in 1986 as David Jerram Architects in Nelson the practice has expanded to have offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and has undertaken more than 1,500 commissions across a wide variety of project types. It aims to achieve the best design solution based on a clear understanding of need, context, value and construction for every project. The firm is a Green Star accredited practice, incorporating sustainable principles into all projects and the principals are all Registered Architects.

Alongside the principals is a talented and experienced staff of more than 25 architects and architectural graduates giving the firm the ability to resource wide-ranging project types and sizes. Team leaders are qualified architects responsible for the design and management of projects and are supported by architecture graduates who undertake presentation, documentation and site observation roles. Jerram Tocker Barron Architects also offer specialist interior design as required, and are supported by an office management team of two responsible for finance and administration.

John Tocker joined David Jerram to form Jerram Tocker Barron Architects in 2005 after three years as national manager of design for Housing New Zealand. He was previously a principal in Meritec and a director of Sinclair Group Architects. John has extensive experience in healthcare, hospitality and social work environments and has over 20 years of New Zealand and Pacific-based experience.

Jerram Tocker Barron
John Tocker
Sam van Zoelen
Telephone: 04 473 9803
Landscape Architects: 
Local Collective 
Mark Newdick (concept)
Frank Boffa (planting)
Structural Engineers: 
Silvester Clark 
Richard Mayes
BMK Builders – Ben King
Roofing Manufacturer: 
Roofing Industries
Telephone: 03 928 6869
Profile: True Oak .55
Colour: Flaxpod
Capital Roofing Solutions 
Zach Fowler