Milford - Lake placid

By Estelle Sarney.

A rundown bungalow on the shores of Lake Pupuke has been replaced with a home designed by an award-winning architect.

5/26 Otakau Road, Milford.

Ten minutes from the central city is a house where its owners feel they "live with nature", where a lakeside oak tree seems like their own living work of art.

Kevin and Louise Findlater can stand in their house and look past the oak tree to Lake Pupuke, spread out before them like a wet blue tablecloth.

From some angles the house seems to float on top of it. Kayakers, rowers and windsurfers provide visual entertainment; ducks and swans a soft background noise. At night the lights from the houses around the lake create a sparkling necklace, with reflections when the water is still.

The couple found the site four years ago. It contained a small, dilapidated bungalow where they lived for the next two years while they planned the new house they would build.

"We wanted to live on the site through the seasons to find out how the sun and wind treated it," says Louise, "and to decide whether to put the living areas upstairs or down."

Architect Malcolm Taylor of Xsite was called in to help. They decided to build within the envelope of the original house so they could retain its proximity to the water, and keep the bungalow's narrow-gauge tawa floorboards in what would become the kitchen, dining and living area upstairs.

You enter at this level, through a pivoting, oversize front door made of cedar panels, some of which are cross-cut, some of which are cut on the grain. This is one of a number of unique features in the house that mark it out from many new dwellings.

Once you've stopped taking in the view along the front of the house, your eye is caught by one of the longest stainless steel benchtops in town. Stretching 6m from a glass wall demarcating the kitchen, to the window above the sink looking out to the view, it provides a solid, graceful anchor to the open-plan space.

A shug window allows food and drink to be passed from the kitchen to the barbecue deck outside.

Behind the Miele cooktop and double oven is a stainless steel splashback with a dimpled effect. Louise designed this and had it custom-made.

Bifold doors open the dining area to a deck with glass balustrades, and automatic louvres above it to shield sun and rain.

A 3m-square window allows you to relax in the living area and still enjoy the outlook.

"We call it our serenity window," says Kevin. "It's beautiful living with that oak tree by the lake - in autumn and winter it's a work of art."

Built-in cabinets were made of meranti ply, chosen for its rich colour and texture to complement the tawa floorboards. One panel of shelves near the front door swings open to reveal a guest bathroom.

"I didn't want the bathroom to be obvious from the living area," says Louise, "so Malcolm suggested we make a secret entry to it."

Another unusual feature is a large glass panel in the floor of the living area. This allows light from the skylight above it to channel down to the hallway of the floor below.

A tawa staircase with a glass and stainless steel balustrade leads down to this lower floor, which was excavated out of the slope. All three bedrooms down here open out to a terrace, a lawn and the view.

Solid American ash doors provide a pale contrast to the polished concrete floor. The exposed steel framing supporting the staircase and the glass floor above lends a slight industrial effect. Kevin says building the house was a big project and took a year.

"In the first week we struck solid lava rock. They had to bring in a machine to drill into it to enable us to get the foundations down."

Councils are often criticised for holding up building projects, but Kevin wants to give credit to the North Shore City Council for the help it gave him and Louise in realising their dream.

Now it's time for a new project, so Kevin and Louise are passing on their "oasis near the city" to new owners.

"It's incredibly quiet and peaceful here, and very private," says Louise. "It's like living on top of the lake."

VITAL STATISTICS

BEDROOMS: 3

BATHROOMS: 2+

GARAGES: 2

SIZE: Land of 1322sq m, house 200sq m (approx).

PRICE INDICATION: Interest expected around $2 million. Tender closes May 3.

INSPECT: Sun 2-3pm.

ON THE WEB: www.premium.co.nz # TAK6951

SCHOOL ZONES: Milford Primary, Takapuna Normal Intermediate, Westlake Boys, Westlake Girls.

CONTACT: Lewis Guy, Premium, ph 021 867 355.

FEATURES: Two level near-new home with uninterrupted views over Lake Pupuke. Architecturally designed with a number of unusual features which blend practicality with style.

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