When it comes to building, a series of collaborations between the architect, builders and client often results in compromises on all sides with the main objective being a satisfying outcome for the client. However, when the designer is also the client, creative freedom is unleashed and what results is a contemporary home that pushes the boundaries of the expected and provides an insight into the true talent of the designer. Such is the case of this year’s winner, Twenty Seven—the new family home of Jacob Hocking of CTX Design Group Limited.
“The worst part of being client and designer was having to pay for it myself,” laughed Hocking. “Other than that I don’t think there is any better scenario—I am one of my best clients!”
Hocking and his wife, Anna Laura, first purchased the .22-acre property on Pitt’s Bay Road eight years ago when they fell in love with the location and the existing mature trees on the property.
Over the years, they designed several variations of their dream home as their needs, budget and family life changed. “Initially the house was much larger—even though we had no kids at the time,” said Hocking, who now has two children, Trystan, 7, and Sadie, 5. “As time passed, we realised that we did not need a big house and would, in fact, prefer something with a smaller footprint as long as it felt spacious.”
At a relatively modest 1,960 square feet, the house feels twice as large. A cantilevered roof with exposed beams floats over glass walls in the main living area, feeling both weightless and substantial at the same time. Light floods in from skylights above, and white walls and cabinetry give a light feel to the open-plan living space that flows easily and organically from one area to the next.
“Anna Laura was responsible for setting the main design goals for the house—she wanted a bright and airy space, an efficient kitchen and an open plan for the main living area,” explained Hocking. “My inspiration was a development of ideas that I have been working on for a long time on various projects for other clients.”
No stranger to these awards, the designer’s past projects have often included a juxtaposition of contrasting elements from metal to wood and expanses of glass that allow the blending of the interior spaces with the exterior beyond. Hocking designed an impressive steel and wood truss system allowing the roof to float over the glass walls with no structural columns. Using the lightweight Bermuda True Roof system from Bermuda Paint allowed for the flexibility needed to create the showpiece along with necessary hurricane resistance.
“I like the mixture of wood and steel in my personal projects and wanted to continue the development of this mixture of materials in this house,” he said. “The cold of the exposed steel and the warmth of the wood create an interesting mix in a residential context. The steel was exposed on the exterior so I needed it to be galvanised for protection and the wood required dimensions and lengths that are not readily available in Bermuda. The steel came out of Canada and the wood was a dismantled bridge that crossed Salt Lake in Utah.”
A glass-fronted house facing the road would be a tough sell to most clients who would be concerned about privacy, but for Hocking it was not a huge concern as he had considered the room placement very carefully in the design. “Firstly I made sure that all of the private functions of the house—bedrooms and bathrooms—were located towards the rear of the site,” he explained. “In this location they benefited from visual buffers between sites as a result of the existing mature vegetation that was retained. The glass wall encloses the less private functions of life but privacy was dealt with in two ways: Firstly, new, mature trees were specifically planted to block main view lines from the road so that to see into the house you have to stop and look which isn’t really an option on this part of Pitt’s Bay Road. Secondly, the entire glass wall section has interior privacy blinds that can be rolled up or down to create complete privacy if needed.”
With two active young school-aged children and a wife who also has her own business, Hocking intentionally created a smaller family home perfectly suited to their needs. “Our family had been living in a four-storey loft house that I had built in Bailey’s Bay ten years ago,” he said. “We had moved in once Trystan was born and had Sadie shortly afterwards. That house had been designed more for entertaining and had intentionally vertically separated public and private uses, which worked well for having parties but not as well for raising a family. We wanted a much smaller family home which I felt was better accommodated on this site in a single-level house.
“The only second-storey section is the home office. Both Anna Laura and I run our own companies which means that sometimes we have to work at home—by building the office on the loft level we create a subtle but important separation between our family and work lives.”
The materials chosen for the project also revolved around the lifestyle of the busy young family. “Building a nice home with nice materials is difficult with small kids who certainly do not value the clean and tidy home that Anna Laura likes to keep,” said Hocking. The designer chose high-gloss cabinets, white quartz countertops and glass-fronted appliances in the kitchen for easy clean-up of messy handprints and installed durable flamed black granite flooring in the public spaces and wire-brushed oak wood flooring in the bedrooms. “We used only two flooring materials throughout the house,” he continued. “This simplicity in materials makes a small house feel more connected and less busy.”
Light floods into the spacious master bedroom from the west-facing glass wall through to the sunken master bath at the other end. Featuring an original barrel-vaulted water tank cleverly converted into a “bathing room” with an open shower and sunken tub, the room is as fascinating as it is functional. “I have had a thing for barrel-vaulted water tanks for some time now as they are an interesting Bermudian architectural form,” said Hocking. “The water tank on this property actually belonged to Glenola—the house to the south—which was one of the first houses built on Pitt’s Bay Road. I had tried to recreate residential spaces in similar forms on other projects I have done but this presented an opportunity to use an authentic tank and I felt it would work well as a bath and shower room.”
Clearly proud of his new home come design showpiece, Hocking gives credit to the construction crew who had to deal with his challenging designs—and even more challenging demands. “I work with lots of skilled contractors on various clients’ projects but Steven Pacheco and several of his foremen at SJ Construction made an extra effort to work with me through my more complicated designs,” he said. “It is difficult enough to work with a designer on a client’s home—there must have been an extra level of patience required to work with me on my own home!”
All in all, after eight years of ideas and multiple revisions to the plans, the designer and his family are thrilled with the outcome. “Anna Laura and I have been living in homes that I have designed for myself for over 15 years,” said Hocking. “This was the first home I had designed for my family and seeing how much they enjoy living here is the best part.”