There's no denying lockdown 2020 was tough but for Brendon and Leonie Hamill, there was a silver lining: it allowed them the luxury of time to settle into their freshly minted home on Pukekohe Hill and see how it functioned under extreme circumstances. It passed with flying colours.
To be fair, that was not unexpected: the combination of a spectacular location, a layout that embraced their lifestyle and many sumptuous features almost guaranteed it.
The couple had bought the section – a generous 1000-square-metre site with a view north to Rangitoto and an aspect all the way back to the city – in 2016. Brendon is a franchisee with David Reid Homes and Leonie runs her own interior design studio, so they were well equipped to envision the type of place they needed. As a first step, they took out some paper and began to sketch.
The Hamills are busy professionals and Brendon has a 17-year-old daughter who pops in and out at whim. “We designed the home around this with places to spend time together and areas for separation,” says Brendon. They were also at that stage on life’s journey where they needed space for lots of ‘toys’.
The house, which was finished right on schedule just before Christmas 2019, has a T-shaped footprint with the open-plan living, dining and kitchen area facing the view and three garages tucked in behind this on the southern end. The bedroom wing, set at 90 degrees, runs east to west. “This plan meant that the house wraps around to shelter the evening courtyard,” says Brendon.
Although it might be tempting to spend most of their time in the alfresco zone, inside is superbly connected to the environment too with acres of glazing and a picture window in the living room that rises four metres into the apex of the gabled roof. Brendon: “The house was cleverly located on the site so there are no issues with privacy, but we were also mindful of not blocking the view for the property behind.”
This neighbourliness extends to the material palette. Vertical cedar weatherboards used for cladding are stained Resene ‘Pitch Black’ which key in with the dark-brown exterior of the house next door but still have a sense of individuality. A black corrugated-steel roof gives the dwelling a monolithic robustness akin to a shed and is a nod to the agricultural history of this area.
Leonie picked up on the barn-like theme − but only subtly − in her design for the interiors. Rough-sawn weatherboards on the entrance wall, a window seat and the rangehood in the kitchen are followthrough elements. But mainly the finishes are a contemporary riff on a classic black-white scheme with walls in Dulux ‘Cardrona’ providing the yin/yang contrast.
Although the bathrooms, with their resort-like opulence and marbled tiles, would be vying for top honours, the jewel in the design crown is most definitely the kitchen. “A kitchen is the biggest item of furniture to come with the house,” says Leonie. “But it’s more than that: it’s a piece of art.” Dramatic in black, the angled island bench has brass inlays which are echoed in the brushed-brass tapware and elegant brass handles that came back from the UK with Leonie on the plane. “I convinced my friend to put the seven kilograms of hardware into his luggage,” she laughs. She’s adamant they are a statement worth the effort.
“We designed the home with places to spend time together and areas for separation.”
For his part, Brendon loves the glimpse of the scullery that can be seen when seated at the dining-room table. Three pendant lights reflect onto a feature wall of shimmering brass tiles that lend the glamour factor to a practical space where the couple can hide any mess while entertaining. “We put the hob into the island bench instead of on the rear wall so that the cook didn’t need to turn their back to guests,” says Leonie.
Such well-considered design moments are what allowed them to appreciate the long days of lockdown. Leonie was thankful for the study nook tucked into the hallway near the kitchen from where she continued to run her business. And Brendon’s favourite moments include retreating to the media room at the end of the day, a snug space painted Resene ‘Baltic Sea’ with a built-in fireplace where he could watch TV without disturbing the rest of the family.
At Christmas time, the pair filled their picture window with Santa and his elves for the kids in the neighbourhood to enjoy and, once the man himself had visited, spent lazy summer afternoons with friends around the barbecue on the deck. On New Year’s Eve, they lay in bed watching from afar as the fireworks display in the city centre spattered the sky with colour and light.
Of course, they had no idea then what upheaval 2020 would bring. They feel incredibly fortunate that this home on the hill became their everyday escape from the world.
Making a Home Office Work:
Brendon and Leonie enjoy the flexibility of working from home, and share their tips on crafting the perfect space for productivity…
- A lot of people turn a spare bedroom into an office. Not only is that wasteful but it makes the occupant feel disconnected from the household. Sometimes that’s a good thing but often locating a study nook closer to the action and/or the view is a better option.
- When building new, factor in a small area (just 2 x 2.5 metres) for a study nook. Even an extra wide hallway or landing will do.
- Build in a desk – and keep it simple. A floating shelf long enough to fit two computers side by side is ideal. And because there are no legs, the look is streamlined and more practical.
- Don’t forget to include storage to hide all that clutter – files, the printer, etc – which is particularly important if the nook is part of an open-plan area. Keeping storage off the floor by using overhead cupboards, will make the space seem larger.
- Good task lighting is crucial. Use LED strip lights above the work surface, installed beneath the cabinetry, as you would in a kitchen so there’s no need for a desk lamp.