When Andrew and Sue Powers decided to call their "home away from home" Rangi Atu, or "heavenly place", they were echoing many of the comments in the guest book used when their impressive weekender on the Oneriri Peninsula, on the easterly shores of the Kaipara, is rented as a holiday home.
With three bedrooms in the main house and two separate guest suites (one completely self-contained), the spread-out configuration of the floor plan, magnificent rural and water views and being less than two hours from Auckland, it has proved to be an easy property to find appreciative renters for.
"For us as the owners, it made sense for it to be used when we didn't need it", is how Sue describes their decision to make it available for use outside the family.
"And the bonus has been learning how people who stay here enjoy it as much as we do. Many come with plans to explore the area but once they find how gloriously relaxing the house itself is, they don't move from the deck."
These decks are quite something. Embracing the whole northerly front of the house and measuring some 180sq m in area, they step down in tiers to the sunny pool area and gardens.
Hammocks in sheltered corners, lush, largely native plantings and views out over the attached olive grove to the ever-changing waters of the Otamatea River (a branch of the upper Kaipara) in the valley below are but some of the attractions that keep visitors to Rangi Atu, and Sue and Andrew themselves, pinned to a splendidly designed outdoor area.
But while the Powers now have time to relax and smell the roses, this wasn't always the case. "When we bought the property, although a lot of work had been done by the previous owner and it no longer looked like the 70s house it had started life as," says Andrew. "We could see where we wanted to make improvements. We wanted a master suite that did justice to the site. So we added an en suite and good storage to this part of the house as well as improving the main bathroom itself, and to make the whole property more attractive as a holiday home we added the two guest suites to the left of the central living area at the same time we installed the pool. This was done about 2003/2004, but every year we've improved and added things."
A dramatic schist surround to the open fireplace anchors the main living area, and with hardwood floors and cathedral pitched timber sarked ceilings the impression of a luxury lodge is hard to overlook. Just as one would find in a lodge with numerous guests coming and going, Sue and Andrew's large farmhouse-sized kitchen and adjacent butler's pantry is equipped with every mod con, so that feeding an army, or just the family and friends, is a creative endeavour rather than a chore.
But while creating this home away from home has been largely a labour of love, the Powers are ready to move on to a new project. Owning the adjacent farmland opens up new opportunities and both admit to looking forward to the challenge of starting again. "Everything has been done here," says Sue. "We've thought about every little detail and now it's time to do it all again. We love the area so much we won't be going far. After all, how many places can you find where fish for dinner is only moments from the door, your own olive oil is there for the using and yet you're only 90 minutes from Auckland?"By Cate Foster