Colin and Lyn Hodges had found the perfect building site – a level, 1350 square-metre clifftop section in Beachlands with a fabulous view across the water to Waiheke Island. But what to build on it?
The couple turned out to be dream clients for architect Andrew Daly of AD Architects and builder Brendon Hamill of David Reid Homes Counties, and it was precisely because they were prepared to be challenged.
When Hamill is asked what the pair initially requested, his response is, "Not what they got."
"While they listed the different indoor-outdoor living spaces and rooms they would like, they didn't have strong ideas about the design."
Colin Hodges says that after viewing the site, the architect came back to them after three weeks. "Andy rolled out the design concept and it blew us away in terms of its functionality and use of space. The design literally left us speechless."
Daly's architectural concept provides a strong, clean-lined, contemporary home defined by two key materials – textured concrete tilt slabs and dark-stained Accoya timber boards. The concrete walls have a texture that resembles the marks and grain left by roughsawn timber boxing.
"The concrete walls highlight the east-west axis, while the Accoya walls feature on the north-south," says Hamill.
To create a seamless transition between inside and out, similar materials appear right through the house. A concrete tilt wall forms the main spine beside the key circulation area running from the front door to the living area at the opposite end of the house.
"The wall creates a lot of visual drama – it's a significant feature that leads you through the house," says Hamill. "It's part of the journey you experience when you come up the boardwalk and through the front door, then move on past a series of courtyards and outdoor living areas to the main living space. And no matter where you are in the house, there are view envelopes to the outdoors."
The team chose natural cedar for the dramatic ceilings that feature in all the living spaces, flowing from inside to out.
Other special features include a covered outdoor kitchen, and louvred timber screens on the outside of the house that can be pulled to provide privacy for bedrooms. But for the owners, the view is not something to hide.
"We absolutely love the house, and we wouldn't change a thing," Colin Hodges says. "The build was a fantastic experience for us. I have heard other people say they were totally exhausted by a building project and would never, ever do it again, but we had a wonderful 11 months watching it all happen."
Colin admits he is so proud of their new home, he has been known to invite strangers inside to have a look – people who happen to be admiring the house from the neighbouring reserve.
Favourite spot in the house? The bedroom – waking up in the morning, and looking out over the sea to Waiheke Island and the sun rising (Lyn). In the cooler months, it's sitting around the gas fire in the main family living area (Colin).
Best time of the day in winter? A few minutes before and immediately after the sun pops up over the Coromandel ranges on days when the sky turns a bright orange.
Best time of the day in summer? Sitting on the deck in the morning watching yachts sail past and fishermen heading out for the day.
Best money spent? The open spaces, the fully covered outdoor kitchen area, the great expanses of glass and the tilt slab construction.
Best part of the building process? Having a fixed-price contract, working closely with Brendon Hamill of David Reid Homes, and being taken completely out of our comfort zone in terms of the design concept.
Advice for others? Know your budget limitations, do your homework and work with a Registered Master Builder with a fixed-price contract. And enjoy the process – it can be a very rewarding experience.