A little bit farmhouse, a tiny touch French, this new build alongside the waters of the Waikato is spectacular inside and out.
A river runs past it. Or is it a lake? Whatever you call it, this spot is supreme. “You could name it the Waikato River or Lake Ohakuri and neither would be wrong,” explains Hayley Tocker who was drawn to live here on the site of a former wakeboard camp by her then-fiancé Marty.
Marty bought the land while working in Australia as a fly-in electrician on the mines. His proposal to relocate to this rural block in Reporoa meant Hayley had to give up her job as a graphic designer and retrain. The couple set up their own electrical business and Hayley is one of few women in New Zealand qualified as an instrument technician.
This home settles into the rural landscape like a modern barn and has low-maintenance black Linea Oblique weatherboard cladding and a brick chimney and feature wall to add an industrial feel. The roofing is Colorsteel in a Trimrib profile.
That was some time before this modern farmhouse was built beside the water. For three years, the couple occupied a renovated shed on the nine-hectare property. It wasn’t exactly roughing it, but they dreamed of their first real home.
With practical nous and definite ideas about design, they considered taking on the entire project themselves: “We ummed and ahhed for ages but realised that with our hectic jobs travelling all over the country, we just didn’t have the time,” says Hayley.
The location deserved a bespoke approach and, when David Reid Homes gave them carte blanche with the design and would guide and project manage the job from go to whoa, they knew they had found their fit.
The warehouse appeal of exposed trusses and a reclaimed brick fireplace in the main living area is softened by white walls and ceilings. The couple already owned the tan leather sofas that fitted straight into the picture.
First, the Tockers worked with their architect on the orientation of the home which may seem obvious now but at the time was a conundrum. The challenge was: how to capture the view from every window without having to hang the building over the edge? Regulations meant they needed to remain 10 metres from the riverbank. Building up a hillside of terraces was the solution. This poser sorted, they moved on to aesthetics, sending in photos of buildings and materials they liked to evolve the design. “It was stress free in terms of figuring those things out,” says Hayley.
Navigating the consenting issues (and there were a few) was more tedious but the couple gave the paperwork over to the David Reid Homes team while they focussed on the finish line. They moved in just after the first lockdown.
Hayley and Marty Tocker in the French Country-style kitchen where Arborform white satin cabinetry in the Ohope profile is complemented by Montrase pewter knobs and Delmore pewter cup handles. An island bench in Eurostone Constellation White from Pacific Stone is pristine beneath the vintage-look pendants which were a Marty ‘must-have’.
Put simply, the house comprises two offset pavilions linked by a hallway. The bedroom pavilion, which includes an office, is set back while the living-zone one pushes forward to follow the course of the river. The gabled forms, clad in low-maintenance black Linea weatherboard, have their roots in the agricultural building typology. “We wanted the white-trim windows because that is more traditional for a barn,” says Hayley. One more material – reclaimed brick – has been used to good effect on the chimney and as a feature wall along the hallway. It’s an element that gives some heft to the palette and, somewhat to Hayley’s surprise, works in beautifully. “As far as style goes, I like old-fashioned French Country; Marty’s taste is for hard-industrial, so the brick and exposed beams are things he wanted.”
The flooring is American Oak laminate with an aged patina which fitted with the homeowners’ budget and the rustic style plus, with the addition of underfloor heating, keeps the spaces nice and toasty.
The interiors are a barley twist of both looks, particularly in the living zone. Unusually, this young couple did not opt for the on-point black-on-black kitchen but went for something more welcoming. They located this culinary hub in the middle of the floorplan, close to the covered patio. It’s not that they’re always entertaining, more like surrendering their kitchen to all comers. “Our house is like a revolving door, with people coming and going all the time – it’s pretty rare that Marty and I are here just on our own,” says Hayley. White cabinetry with a picture-frame profile channels a modern-country style, there are engineered-stone benchtops that look like classic marble and a magnificent double oven in white could feed the thousands.
Industrial metal pendants above the island and exposed trusses in white but with black-metal brackets are beneath ceilings lined in grooved weatherboard to bring texture to the lofty room.
To keep costs reasonable, to limit damage by Frankie the Labradoodle with attitude and their pet goat who is wont to wander in if the opportunity arises, but mainly to make the most of the underfloor heating, the couple opted for laminate flooring that looks like aged American oak. “The whole house is geothermally heated from an on-site bore,” explains Hayley. Which means they seldom need to light the fire, except to enhance the ambience for moments of relaxed homeliness.
Warmth and comfort were at the top of the priority list so chunky, rustic touches were on order. Hayley’s dad turned his hand to making the vanity top in the main suite bathroom from a huge slab of macrocarpa and the dining table, polished to a lovely sheen, is also crafted by this accomplished hobby builder. He also made the wedding ‘arch’ – a triangle of macrocarpa that stands on the lawn where the couple was married.
Walls were panelled for a classic effect and Hayley chose the Frenchlook striped linen and a throw in a rich colour, both from Adairs. The cushion with a watercolour landscape was bought from MCF Interiors in Taupo and keeps it Kiwi.
Hayley and Marty already owned the furniture needed to complete the picture – squidgy tan leather sofas and ottomans that will last a lifetime – and an album of online memories is filling up. Hayley can’t believe the view is accessible from almost every room: “When you come down the hallway and see the lake, it’s the coolest thing.” Watching the float plane fly in with visitors for the nearby Orakei Korako cave and thermal park is pretty special too. Or waking to misty mornings when steam clouds from the geothermals transform the landscape into a fairytale forest.
For his part, Marty is in his happy place when, after a day spent wakeboarding with friends, he gets to set up as barbecue master on the deck and look back at the house they have managed to achieve.
Hayley is passionate about French Country style but favours a modern twist. Here’s how to achieve it:
Colour is important and stark whites or bold shades just don’t cut it. Warmer whites and pale greys and blues are far more in keeping. Hayley used Dulux ‘Manorburn Double’ (grey) but ‘Duck Egg Blue’ would work just as well. For a white, choose something like Dulux ‘Cardrona’. Panelled walls as a bedhead (painted duck-egg grey, green or blue) can be teamed with linens on the bed in classic French stripe.
French-country kitchens are antiqued cream or off-white and cabinetry needs a decorative profile, either the picture-frame one chosen here or, for traditionalists, with more mouldings and grooves. Marble is de rigueur so try to incorporate it either horizontally (think kitchen benchtops or vanity tops) or vertically – a marble splashback or marble-tiled bathroom. Use timber with a weathered appearance, for example aged wooden slabs for tops or barn doors (painted white if you wish to contemporise the look).