In-demand architect Camden Cummings talks about his grand designs for homes in the Bay of Plenty.
WORDS DANIEL DUNKLEY / PHOTOS SALINA GALVAN
For Tauranga architect Camden Cummings, designing a home is all about marrying the “pragmatic” with the “poetic”. Sure, a home needs the right number of rooms, a big enough kitchen, and space for your cars, but it also needs somewhere for those moments with the family, a spot to relax and read a book, or a deck to take in the view.
“Architecture isn’t just pragmatics, it’s an art of pulling different elements together,” Cam says. “Good architecture stands apart as it creates special spaces. A home is a container of your memories. It’s where you retreat from the world. You spend so much time there, so you need it to feel special.”
On Marine Parade, Cam has combined the pragmatic and poetic to great effect. A new home on the Mount’s most exclusive street has fellow architects talking, and Cam’s business, Cummings Studio Architects, recently won an NZIA Waikato Bay of Plenty Architecture Award for the split-level property overlooking Mount Maunganui’s main beach.
The award marks a huge early win for Cam’s Tauranga-based company. Before forming his own business, Cam worked for a large national firm behind the concept for the redeveloped Tauranga Airport and Waikato University campus in Tauranga. Out on his own, Cam is keen to add further architectural interest to our cities and suburbs.
An artist and designer at heart, Cam has formulated ideas his entire life. Hailing from Waihi, he initially cut his teeth as a draughtsman, building up skills in technical software and design in New Zealand and Europe. He then spent several years in Australia, studying for a masters in architecture, later working on commercial projects in Melbourne and Brisbane.
After settling in the Bay of Plenty with his wife Peta – an interior designer – and two children, family homes are at the top of his agenda.
“Designing residential homes on a smaller scale is what I love,” he says. “It’s more meaningful working with mums and dads and families. With commercial projects, you’re two or three people removed from the decision-makers. I prefer a closer relationship.”
Cummings Studio Architects was established in 2017, and finished its first award-winning project last year. The grand design, nestled in the heart of Marine Parade, is private enough to feel tucked away from the street, but open enough to view waves crashing towards the beach.
It’s easy to see why the home has earned recognition. The lower floor is split into two sections: a kitchen and dining area with views of the beach, and a “sunken” private lounge. The property strikes the right balance between views and privacy; the front is framed by glass, but occupants in the upstairs bedroom can close things off with timber shutters.
“When we tackled the project, one of the biggest issues was the road,” Cam says. “How could we retain the view of the waterfront, and not make it a fish bowl? For privacy, the bedroom is often at the back of the plan. The client wanted the master bedroom at the front but also wanted to control their privacy. It was a simple solution for them, in the end.”
The Marine Parade house boasts a courtyard between two modern living quarters, and, once inside, people can view the full length of the property. Despite its size, the home doesn’t feel sparse or vacuous, but well-proportioned and warm.
Cam enjoys the challenge of meeting people’s demands, tackling the practicalities, and pairing it with his own creative vision. At the start of each project, clients write a brief and set a budget. Ideas are then pulled together, and cutting-edge technology is used to give clients a glimpse of their creation.
THE PROPERTY STRIKES THE RIGHT BALANCE BETWEEN VIEWS AND PRIVACY
Cam’s practice likes to design the bathrooms and kitchen joinery in his projects, to ensure that design intent is followed through. “These are smaller representations of the larger house, so are equally as important,” Cam says. He pays meticulous attention to detail to ensure cupboards, tiles, bricks and taps match the aesthetic of his design. Only “honest” natural materials are used for the finishing touches. “So many homes look like they’re designed by two different people –I don’t want that,” he adds.
Cam says realising a client’s brief and budget is the most important part of the job. When projects come together, as they have on Marine Parade, a happy homeowner is the most satisfying thing of all, he says.
“One of the nicest things is hearing from the clients at the end. “For me, that’s all it takes – to know they love the house and feel their expectations were exceeded, and that they have a special space to enjoy. As an architect, that’s the biggest compliment you can get.”