Jacqui Hardy has never been a city girl. But she's not one for the backblocks, either. So when she was searching for a lifestyle property, about a decade ago, she was careful not to rack up too much mileage from her then-home at Paremoremo.
When she found a 2ha piece of land just off the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway, about a 10-minute drive from Westgate and Albany, she knew she was on to a good thing. It didn't matter at all that there wasn't a single tree on the gently sloping former pasture.
What did matter was that there was a perfectly positioned, flat and sunny building platform that lent itself to a single-level home that would capitalise on the rural outlook, and give plenty of options for indoor-outdoor living.
It also mattered that the land was large enough to give a feeling of space and freedom, and to accommodate plenty of chickens, a duck pond and a potager garden, but small enough that a manageable flock of sheep could keep the grass under control.
It was a short walk to the Riverhead Forest, where Jacqui could exercise her horse, and near a quiet country lane perfect for walking the dog. And Jacqui was only minutes from work.
"I was very lucky to find this block," says Jacqui. "It fitted into my plan perfectly. You're in the country without being in the sticks. You're close to everything."
When it came to designing the house, Jacqui's needs were simple. She wanted an elegant Queenstown-inspired home that made the most of the sun and the site, but didn't need anything enormous at that time in her life. So she opted for a 232sq m home with schist detailing that could easily be added to in future, as needs and finances allowed.
"Many homes that are developed retrospectively lack family areas or bathroom space and I was determined not to have to face those problems at a later stage."
So she had a home drawn up with an open-plan living area down one end of the house, featuring a modern kitchen, a cosy lounge with
a huge open fire and a dining area that opens out through bifolds to a loggia.
The other end of the house has a private master suite that opens out to decks and lawn to the north and west, a sunny double bedroom with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a single room that opens out to the loggia.
Outdoors, Jacqui's intention was to make the property a magnet for birds. So she created
a duck pond and landscaped with native trees and shrubs, as well as a mini-orchard.
Not only did the ducks make themselves comfortable, including a pair of paradise ducks who raise their ducklings there each year, but also the tui, waxeyes, fantails, pukeko and even a pair of kookaburras.
Phase two of Jacqui's building project would have added extra living space, a double garage, a butler's kitchen and a lap pool, but she has now decided to find a larger block in Taupaki.
She'd love to find a similar house, but she figures she'll end up having to compromise.
"I love this home," says Jacqui. "It's warm, it's open, it feels spacious. I love its vaulted ceilings, I love its open fireplace. It's a nice place to be. It's so peaceful, and it's got a good feel."