Interiors: A home in the country

By Leanne Moore

Building a contemporary home in the country and yet close to Auckland ticked all the boxes for a couple with two children.

The living room's design gives it a modern, beachhouse feel. Photo / Your Hone & Garden
The living room's design gives it a modern, beachhouse feel. Photo / Your Hone & Garden

Living on Auckland's North Shore, Tracey Stanley-Hunt and her husband Kevin, both school teachers, constantly found themselves driving out to the country at weekends.

While they loved the buzz of the city and the proximity to family and friends, the arrival of their eldest daughter, Stella, now aged 7, forced them to re-evaluate their lives.

"We just thought, 'instead of being city-dwellers who regularly visited the country, why don't we become country-dwellers who regularly visit the city?"' Stanley-Hunt says.

They set themselves a deadline of moving before Stella started school and began researching what they wanted in a new home.

"We knew from the start that we wanted to design and build the home ourselves," Stanley-Hunt says. "And after living in a few new-builds, we were sold on the functionality and contemporary style of modern architecture."

They refined their wishlist to make it compatible with the budget of a young family and found the right piece of land near Matakana, a short drive north of Auckland.

The family of four - including youngest daughter Mia, now 4 - moved into their new two-storey home two years ago and love its relaxed feel.

The ground floor has a TV den, dining and living area, and kitchen that all open to a central courtyard. "We wanted to be able to throw all the doors open in summer and create one big, breezy room," says Stanley-Hunt.

"But we also wanted clearly defined spaces, and the option of shutting doors and getting some peace and privacy."

The polished concrete flooring is both practical and a nice backdrop for design classics such as the white Barcelona chairs.

In the living area, the contemporary fireplace is a feature. "It manages to be attractive even when it isn't aflame, and it has a temperature gauge so that, even on a summer evening, we can curl up around the fire and get cosy after a swim in the ocean," she says.

The kitchen is also an inviting space. "I love the warmth of timber against the polished concrete flooring and granite workbench."

While the downstairs has been designed with entertaining in mind, the upstairs area is where the family rests. This floor, with the main bedroom and the children's bedrooms, is carpeted for comfort. Stanley-Hunt wanted the girls' rooms to have a playful quality, so she chose textiles and art to create that look, adding handcrafted touches to make each room special.

But the real triumph of this home is the seamlessness of outdoor and indoor spaces, and the sheltered courtyard, which is perfect for entertaining. Unsurprisingly, the family have regular visitors from Auckland.

"People love visiting the Matakana Farmers' Market and then driving five minutes to our place," says Stanley-Hunt.

"We've got our piece of paradise, and Auckland comes to us."

Style tips

Strict protocol: To avoid cluttering up the home, Stanley-Hunt won't buy anything unless she can visualise exactly where it will go in the house. "So many things that look beautiful in a shop look superfluous in our house."

Family values: To soften the look of the home, cherished holiday photos tell a personal story while complementing the beachy décor.

Versatile material: Stanley-Hunt sourced vintage fabrics then made shapes out of them and stretched them over canvases to create artwork for the living room and Mia and Stella's bedrooms.

Leanne Moore is the editor of Your Home & Garden. See the latest issue for the full story on this house and more ideas for your home.

- NZ Herald

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