Lara Bui and Isaac Weston thought they had found the home of their dreams.

They had ... but not quite yet.

It would take much expense, hard work and tears to make their 1970s brick and weatherboard home comfortable and dry.

The couple bought the 990sq m property in 2010.


"After doing some basic cosmetic work we discovered that our 90sq m deck - which alone is as big as our first home - was in fact leaking.

"The downpipe sink holes were full and overflowing, moisture was running down the hallway walls and water was permeating the exterior walls."

Photograph by John Borren
Photograph by John Borren

The couple enlisted a building inspector and started working their way through a to-do list.

There was no budget for this extra work and they did most of the work themselves.

"It felt like forever that we were pouring money and time into things no one could see like spouting, cladding, high tech decking membrane, battens, moisture sealants, and lining the whole downstairs, digging trenches, drainage, insulation and ventilation.

"Occasionally for sanity, we would do a 'nice to do job' like landscaping or some painting that would be both functional and make the place look better!"

When the couple first moved in they had embarked on a revamp to rid the place of its "sunshine and denim, or yellow walls and blue carpet" decor.

Their house project turned out to be much bigger than they ever expected but in hindsight, Lara says it took their mind off their IVF struggles.

Photograph by John Borren
Photograph by John Borren

From 2007-2010 Lara and Isaac underwent two rounds of unsuccessful IVF. A third was offered, but they were told it would have the same result, so the pair refocused their lives instead.

Now their home is warm and dry and their babies are cats Carlos, 9, and kitten Honey.

And plants. Lots and lots of plants. Lara owns business Cool Plants and takes pride in her backyard and showroom area.

Over the past seven years they have fully landscaped the property.

"Artwork, sculpture and new garden beds were created from repurposed treasures. We love our garden, it is our real sanctuary and in 2016 we were given the opportunity to share it as part of the Bay of Plenty Garden and Art Festival."

They will feature again at this year's festival in November.

The two regularly host local garden and walking groups. They have an abundance of fruit and veges which also supplies plant material for Lara to create botanical hydrosols and essential oils.

Favourite items inside the house include a small replica of Isaac and Lara, made by Isaac who is an artist with a knack for re-working material.

Photograph by John Borren
Photograph by John Borren

"He loosely 'remade us' out of brass and copper nuts and bolts. I say loosely, as he doesn't wear a boater hat and I rarely wear a skirt or have arms that look like rocket launchers!

"Our favourite prints come from New York design couple Kozyndan. These pieces incorporate rabbits into the artworks and were bought direct from the artists. They aren't a set but work well together, depicting three seasons and also a 'bunny' version of the famous Japanese woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa."

There's also artwork and ceramics throughout - work by artist and friend Niki Hastings McFall, various pieces from 100 Percent NZ, Shane Hansen, ceramics by local artists George and Co.

There's a funky "James Bond" type dining suite they bought from a secondhand store at Waikanae beach.

Lara's favourite areas include the dining area with its bright teal wall and she feels at peace when pottering around the plant showroom and outdoors at the gazebo.

"We initially bought this house as a project to help us move on from a difficult stage in our lives. Through some plain hard work, we now have a beautiful home that we utterly love and are very thankful for."