Joan and Brian Withers rate their Tides Reach property, with its peaceful views over the tidal Hingaia Inlet, as their most liveable home in four decades of marriage.
That's quite something coming from a couple who are serial house buyers and renovators.

"We have stayed here for twice as long as we have stayed in any of our previous homes," says Joan, who is a company director and chairwoman. Brian works in manpower planning.

Their long-gable home was built in the late 1980s in the manner of American architects McKim, Mead and White. Auckland architect John Sinclair designed the brick and cedar home, drawing the essence from the homes that are well known on the US east coast, the most famous being the Low home on Rhode Island.

"Because it is effectively seven metres wide for most of the house, you don't get any cold patches and it is beautifully filled with light and it has been oriented towards the light," says Joan. "So, the main living areas face north, the family room, kitchen and formal dining and lounge and then the study. Because I work from home that is a very important
room for me."


There were, however, improvements the Withers wanted to make after they bought in 2006. And they were fortunate to be able to work with John Sinclair, by then at Architectus.

"The master bedroom at that stage was downstairs. We removed a wall between two of the upstairs bedrooms to create a beautiful master bedroom with a deck that captures the views of the estuary. So, that was a major change.

"Downstairs, we gutted the kitchen and used Rob Cox, who had been an interior decorator working with us on previous properties. He did the research on McKim, Mead and White.

So, a lot of the cabinetry in the kitchen and the built-in cabinetry in the study, for example, are all based faithfully on replicating the looks of the McKim, Mead and White houses. We used de Bruin-Judge for the beautiful quality cabinetry.

"And we put in an American oven, a Viking. It is the oven they use in the White House, and I had always wanted one.

"We extended the family room out towards the pool because we couldn't understand why there was a solid wall where the pool was."

They also renovated the separate self-contained granny flat with one bedroom, a kitchen, bathroom, an open fireplace and a living room.

Joan says it is an incredibly comfortable home. "It is the sort of house where there is a room for every occasion. We use the upstairs lounge a lot in winter because it has an open fire and it is so lovely sitting in there, where you are up amongst the treetops effectively.

"It is also ideal for entertaining. When it is our turn to do Christmas, we have had 45
people. And chairing Auckland Airport, we had functions here for visiting dignitaries.

"This home has a beautiful aura and it is so easy to live in. Any season it is gorgeous. In summer it is beautiful because you have the outdoor area. In winter it is cosy."

And she loves the way the light filters into the home. "You come into the kitchen in the morning and because of the wood trim that was part of the McKim, Mead and White design, the light coming through there is exquisite in the way it reflects through into the kitchen and the family room."

Xanthe White designed the additions they made to the garden with its expansive lawns, oak, liquidambars, fruit and macadamia trees.

"The gardens are relatively low maintenance," says Joan. "Beautiful lawns, lots of fruit trees. I make plum sauce every year from the plum trees; we have five fig trees now that are cropping, macadamia trees and citrus."

They have recently subdivided their land into two titles. The house sits on 1.146ha and includes the pool and floodlit tennis court; the second section is 6.6135ha and has the horse stables and an equestrian arena.

Now, the couple are selling to move on to their next project.

"This is the longest we have ever been anywhere," says Joan.

"We are looking for a property with more land where we can still have the horses, the dogs, the cows and the sheep."

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