They say people learn from their kids. Fifteen years ago, Carolyn and Bernard Murray had sold their farm to move to the city. But their daughter, Lisa Webb, had other plans - she'd found a very special site on Kauri Point, near Kawakawa Bay. Coincidentally, the Murrays had spotted the same site in a Clevedon real estate agent's window.
Within a day, they'd bought it: one-and-a-half acres straddling a ridge overlooking Wairoa River to the north and farmland to the south.
"We get to enjoy other people's farms without the work," says Bernard, although he planted more than 1000 native trees, developed extensive pathways and created what the 11 grandchildren call their "theme park".
Lisa, recently graduated from architecture school, was recruited to design a house for the stunning landscape.
"We trusted her completely," says Carolyn. "She'd grown up in a Ron Sang home and knew what we liked."
The Murrays' brief was for something that worked for just the two of them, as well as visiting family and friends.
Architecture magazines discuss Lisa's big idea of the house as a journey, a division between sea and land. Her parents talk about the pleasures of living there. "The house has so many moods," says Carolyn. "It changes with the weather, the tides, the seasons. It's a mobile view."
They got their taste of urban living in the contemporary style of the house. Solid masonry walls anchor the south side, punctured by openings to frame views or capture breezes. The long house straddles two knolls, joined with a stressed concrete "bridge". The glazed northern front captures island views all the way to Coromandel.
One of Carolyn's favourite places is the living room, a projecting glass box opposite the central entrance courtyard. "The view is like silk, constantly changing colour."
Strategically placed windows capture breezes, while lush silk curtains, soft alpaca carpet and a blazing wood fire deliver cosy winter nights.
The living room pavilion separates the main "apartment" from the guest wing and garage to the west. Stainless steel-clad pillars and polished aggregate floors background the mesmerising view. "Lisa was so careful with details like the timber beams and clerestory windows, and she made so much storage, it's amazing!"
In the separate dining room, a stained timber wall conceals a built-in buffet, while the central kitchen island is wrapped with walls of storage. A soft eggshell blue complements the American oak and walnut cabinetry. "It's a specially mixed colour called Murray Blue," points out Bernard.
Lisa even managed to create a laundry-with-a-view behind sliding doors, along the corridor to her parents' private domain. She also adapted her mother's desire for alfresco-style living by bringing the outdoors in. Originally envisaged as being open to the elements, a sunny family room with a basalt mantel and enclosed Masport firebox leads on to cascading decks and a swimming pool.
The Murrays also enjoy the view from their office/library (large enough for a fourth bedroom). "We see the Point from the window at the end of the hallway and our dressing area," says Carolyn. A carefully detailed timber headboard and more lush silk frames the view from bed, while a low window in the adjoining bathroom reveals another aspect.
"It's great having the separate wing for all the kids," says Carolyn. Bernard notes that the sunny polished-concrete hallway is perfect for tricycle races, while the sliding doors from each of the two guest rooms create a tranquil Japanese vibe. The second bathroom echoes the simple white tile and timber detailing of the master bathroom.
A bigger household could expand the house up or out, but the Murrays are finally making that long-planned move to the city.