Waiheke: Waiheke's world famous secret

By Estelle Sarney, Estelle Sarney.

This breathtaking home in a secluded part of Waiheke Island is regarded among the best in the world, yet until now has remained its owners’ beloved secret in New Zealand. But their decision to sell means the doors were opened to Heraldhomes for an exclusive tour and interview.

379G Gordons Rd, Woodside Bay, Waiheke Island.

Amanda grew up in New Zealand before spending many years travelling and living all over the world. But whenever she returned home to visit family in Auckland she would always make the ferry ride to Waiheke Island.

"I’ve travelled extensively but I believe Waiheke is one of the most beautiful places in the world," she says from her home in London. "I was living in New York city at the time and decided I’d like to build a holiday home on Waiheke, so came down to look at some available properties. I fell in love with this piece of land and the incredible views - I made an offer on the property the same day I saw it."

A lover of mid-century architecture, Amanda was inspired by images from a shoot for the fashion company Valentino, taken at the famous Stahl house in Los Angeles designed by Pierre Koenig.

"I wanted glass to capture the ocean views, and loved the idea of building the house around a courtyard and pool."

She began searching for a New Zealand architect capable of designing a similarly clean, contemporary structure in sympathy with the landscape. She decided on Richard Priest, and gave him the pictures of the Valentino shoot at the Koenig house as part of his brief.

"He was wonderful because he always listened. I was so happy with the end product," says Amanda.

The international design community was also impressed - the house has featured in magazines around the world, including the Italian edition of Elle Decor which regarded it among the top 10 houses internationally. It also had a starring role in Auckland Museum’s Models For Living exhibition last year, which focused on New Zealand residential architecture over the past 100 years.

Like the Koenig house, Priest’s design has steel framing and glass walls enclosing a courtyard and pool. You can see straight through both houses; in LA you look across the city spread out below, on Waiheke you gaze across the Hauraki Gulf to Rangitoto, the city and around to Maraetai.

Priest’s house differs from Koenig’s in that Priest’s has two levels - above the lounge at the western end of the y-shaped house is the master bedroom and its adjoining loggia. The double-height space above the kitchen and lounge at the eastern end create the feel of an atrium, allowing light to pour through the house and further merge the indoors with the out.

A wing at the southern end of the house contains a row of four bedrooms, each with its own en suite and partially divided outdoor area.

The house took 18 months to create from start to finish, with commercial builders Mainzeal hired for its construction. Unfortunately, Amanda has been able to use it only infrequently as a holiday home for two weeks at a time.

"We are selling because we can hardly use it," she says sadly. "We spend part of the year in London, the summers in the Hamptons near New York city, and winters in Switzerland - my husband grew up in Denmark and Switzerland. After a dreadfully long flight to New Zealand last year with our 4-year-old daughter and 3-month-old baby girl we realised it was just too far to make the regular trips that a house of this proportion deserves."

Amanda worries she will regret letting go of her dream home, as there is so much she will miss about it.

"I will miss sitting in the Jacuzzi at night, waking up in our bedroom to that beautiful view, the wonderful dining area for entertaining, playing tennis, biking and water-skiing around Woodside Bay, and having our own vineyard. Being involved with Te Whau Vineyard, which manages our vines, has been an extraordinary learning experience.

"I’ll miss the property’s privacy, and its tranquillity, particularly at night when we get stunning sunsets looking back to the city."

Amanda says her daughters have enjoyed exploring the property, learning to play tennis on the court, and swimming in the pool which was designed with children in mind.

"We’ve had many children stay here, and it would be a perfect family home."

Although now is not the time for her to have a home in New Zealand, Amanda will continue to hold this place in the world close to her heart.

"Having spent so much time in Europe, with its crime, mobbed beaches and expense, I truly appreciate how beautiful New Zealand is."

Vital Statisics

BEDROOMS: 5

BATHROOMS: 6

GARAGE: 3+

SIZE: Land 5.06ha, house 800sq m (approx) plus 180sq m of courtyard and decks.

PRICE INDICATION: Recent activity in the area would indicate interest should be in excess of $5.5 million. Tenders close February 15.

INSPECT: By appointment.

CONTACT: Martin Dobson or Deborah Kelland, Kellands, ph 021 376 952 (Martin), 021 920 439 (Deborah).

FEATURES: International-class home designed by Richard Priest with breathtaking views of the Hauraki Gulf. Media room/gym, study, international size tennis court, 17 metre heated pool, spa pool, heli pad, 2000 chardonnay grapevines currently managed by Te Whau Vineyard.

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