42B, UPLAND RD, HUIA
1
2
0*
SIZE: Land 3724sq m plus share 1339sq m of the driveway, house 225sq m.
PRICE INDICATION: CV (2014) $745,000.
INSPECT: Viewing by appointment.
ON THE WEB: bayleys.co.nz/1610184
SCHOOL ZONES: Laingholm School, Green Bay High School.
CONTACT: Victoria Turner, Bayleys, 027 224 4892.
AUCTION: 11 February 11, 2015.
*Off-street parking for 4 cars

If there is one regret the Herald has in talking to John Donovan about how he built his stylish eco-house on the edge of Huia it is that there was no New Zealand version of Grand Designs following the trials and tribulations of "the build" (as the show's Kevin McCloud calls it).

Watching the process of constructing a modern house using ancient log-building techniques would have been fascinating but, instead, we have to take John's word for it. Some parts were unfilmable.

"I'd bought the land from the original Glover Paige farm being subdivided 11 years ago," John says.

"When my partner, Sharon, and I came back from overseas the area reminded me of the South Island -- forest, the peaks of the Waitakeres, looking out on the harbour. I just sat here and got the feel for it. The architecture of the home naturally manifested itself.

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"It's an organic expression of getting to know the land, its history, what kind of home would sit in the place perfectly."

It helped that John had an entrepreneurial bent, a love of pioneering and developing new things, as his vision was to build a log home of the style he'd admired when he'd lived in Northern California, and visited Arizona and New Mexico. But the couple didn't want the traditional dark pioneering log style. They wanted a modern combination of stone, timber and glass, with sloping roofs that mimicked the peaks of the surrounding Ranges.

They were also determined to buck convention, eschewing the conventional three bedrooms, separate living rooms for something more flexible and connected to the landscape.

"The kids have all gone, so we just wanted all that open space, with everything opening up to the view. You're always looking at nature, everything is opened up to the outdoors," John says.

They settled on a simple, square floor plan with living, eating and cooking downstairs, a media space, plus a bathroom and utility room, and a great master bedroom and en suite upstairs. More conventional builders would have added two or three more bedrooms up here -- it's big enough -- but John and Sharon prefer the wide open spaces.

A soaring roof and a secondary smaller peak gave the house its name -- Twin Peaks -- the peaks anchored to the ground by magnificent beams, the structural elements lending their own honest beauty.

No Log Lady appeared but, just as John began building, a young Canadian master log builder arrived on the scene to share his expertise. John's luck continued when, after nearly two years of hand-picking the trees (Douglas fir), he was contacted by an expert logger who used horses to drag timber out of the forest.

The 60 tonnes of glorious Bombay stone used for paving around the house, and 19 standing stones at the entrance ("my Stonehenge" John calls them) came from another contact's private quarry.

Though the couple used European oak for the flooring, John and his team milled all the other timber for rafters, floor joists and walls. The craftsmen used drawknives to notch and saddle the logs to fit together perfectly, each one individually shaped to form a completely airtight shell.

In the three years since, John has developed a kit-set system so anyone can build their own log house.

Naturally, he is excited about the method and the material, pointing out that logs are big moisture sponges, drawing dampness out of a house to keep it dry, and these, plus the concrete floor pad, act as heat sinks, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night.

The couple carefully oriented the house north to south, the roof angles use passive solar principles to gather sun into the house in winter, shade it in summer. North and south walls of glass slide open in the summer so it is more like a tent than a building.

John and Sharon kept the house light by using conventional wall systems inside, insulated with eco-wool and finished with eco-paints. This system, combined with double glazing keeps the house toasty in winter.

They opted for the newest eco-heat pump hotwater system, more efficient in a Waitakere winter than solar panels. Even the hot tub is eco. The home's water is supplied by freshwater collection tanks on site. Leftover logs were used to build a picnic table. The house's electronics for sound, light and security are completely this century, smart-wired and future-proofed.

In a further nod to California's traditional architecture, the couple specified redwood and cedar joinery on the windows, having Japanese-style doors crafted by Northland Heirloom Joinery. But the setting, with sweeps of gravel driveway and native plants makes this house very New Zealand.

John is putting the finishing touches to another studio/garage on a second property, which he and Sharon are also selling, so they can embark on building a bigger, better log cabin that uses all the newest ideas they've come up with. It already has a name: Four Peaks. Hopefully, the producers of New Zealand's Grand Designs will call so we can watch the whole project grow.