By Robyn Welsh
Seven years ago Sarah Robertson bought a building project on an elevated corner site in the blossoming Jade River subdivision in Warkworth.
Sarah knew these parts and initially went looking around Warkworth for a renovation project. When nothing appealed, she decided to build instead.
"Building your own home is getting things how you like them and planning it yourself, rather than doing up someone else's house. It's a bit of a dream really. This was a project I wanted to do for myself.
"What I've learned is that you don't need big spaces, you need well-proportioned spaces. Looking back, I can't think of anything I'd have done differently."
She saw potential underfoot on her first visit to the subdivision as the first homes were taking shape.
"This neighbourhood has really big wide streets and the feeling of space as I looked around was great.
"Even the houses across the road didn't seem that close and that's why I bought here.
"Even now that the garden has grown, all I can see of the other houses around are their rooftops."
Sarah set about bringing that same sense of outlook, elevation, space and separation into her own property from her interior layout to her landscaping plan.
She engaged Signature Homes for the build and reveled in the collaborative process. She knew the drill, having built her family's first home, also in Warkworth, with her husband, local boat-builder, and 1984 rowing Olympian, Conrad Robertson.
But this project has been exclusively Sarah's and the fruits of her vision have benefited her entire family including the couple's three young adult children.
With her children's teenage needs for independence in mind and her own appreciation for space and solitude, she has created a split-level home with lifestyle options inside and out.
The entry level accesses the laundry and garage. Her family's kitchen, living and dining area is downstairs with two decks, each with remote-controlled awnings, which flank the dining area.
These deck doors can be opened on both sides for summertime cross-ventilation or kept closed for separate entertaining or for shelter whatever the prevailing wind.
"I love eating outdoors and having options and being able to throw a door open to the outdoors and is wonderful."
The children's lounge also has a separate entrance by Sarah's favourite piece of lawn amid the retained garden beds and mature trees.
"I could not bear to live without a bit of flat lawn," she says.
Sarah's space is upstairs in the master suite, with a bedroom large enough to take her favourite lounging chair.
Her attention is in the detail, too, from the bespoke wardrobe systems to the kitchen that she designed.
Careful to preserve a clean line from the lounge looking back to the kitchen, she specified flush, vertical perimeter cabinetry and kept the kitchen drawers to the work side of the island bench and beneath the hob.
For her paint colours and accessories, Sarah chose earthy brown/black for the linea weatherboard exterior with copper soakers.
Inside there's kwila flooring, soft greens in the kitchen and the soft copper-coloured light fittings, both tones picked up from her dining room rug.
"I love the warmth of timber and I always gravitate to warm rather than cool colours," she says.
Her mature trees have encouraged the tui and the wax-eyes to visit, to her delight. At the same time she has privacy, too.
"The trees interrupt the view rather than block it totally and I like that."
Experiences learned here are all about to come together in Sarah and Con's joint home build on land they've bought together, still in their beloved Warkworth.