Having grown up with the bricks and mortar of English homes, Claire and Ben Akin-Smith felt comfortably familiar with the style of this earth-rammed home they bought at Oratia three years ago.

"We liked the simplicity and solidness of it," says Claire. "The large footprint of the foundation of the property into the ground. When you are in the house you feel connected to the land.

"We were lucky enough to buy this home from the original builder. It was a couple who had the dream of building their own house with eco-sensitive self-sustaining style on a large property."

The land had been subdivided by the time Claire and Ben moved here but it retained the largest portion of land, sitting on 1.5ha.

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"The house was built about 20 years ago, and was one of the original earth rammed houses in the country. Prior to purchasing, we had the original builder over, and he still specialises in earth rammed building. He said because this home had been an experiment, he had made the walls thicker and it has all added to the longevity."

However, the home was large for two people — having five bedrooms and measuring approximately 245sq m. But Claire, a physiotherapist could see the potential for using some of the space to work from home as a movement specialist. And she and Ben decided to rent out the upper level to bring in passive income.

"We recognised that we could segment one part of it to be a minor dwelling. That was worth taking the risk of buying it with a significant mortgage," says Claire.

The area above the double garage became a self-contained studio with a separate entrance.

"We renovated that to have a bathroom, kitchen area, living space and two bedrooms," she says.

"This studio can be a granny flat or accommodation for friends and guests. We did it as a B&B. We have had stays varying from a couple of nights through to two to three months.

"It meant we have kept our sense of having our own home and privacy because the studio entrance is on the opposite side of where we face outwards."

The main part of their home has the entrance leading into the kitchen and living space, and then the en suite bedroom plus dining room and Claire's workspaces which could be reverted to bedrooms. They have also added a new bathroom for the living end of the house.

The couple removed the floor tiles to reveal concrete which is now polished.

Ceilings are high, walls have been white-washed and the windows are all wood-framed.
Every room has doors out to the patio or raised deck, and the sun streams in through the windows.

"The upper windows are a crescent shape and that is reflected in the master bedroom which has a dome ceiling. It creates a beautiful central space because you have light coming in from the rounded upper window and this is reflected in the same curvature of the ceiling."

For heating, they have a wood burner in the lounge. This has a wetback which warms the water pumped underneath the concrete floors.

"We don't need to use that in spring or summer but it's nice in winter when you have had a few days of torrential rain.

"You have the sense of warmth and dryness in the house," says Claire.

Their views take in the Waitakeres towards Piha.

But now they are certain they will be staying in New Zealand, the couple are moving to Wanaka.

"This wasn't going to be our forever home, but we did want to revive it for the next generation," she says of their Oratia property.

"We moved to New Zealand five years ago from the UK and we wanted to start in Auckland where the population is, to find work.

"Being in Oratia has worked well. We can go into town when we want but we also feel like we are truly rural. And we are right next to the ranges.

"But we have always had a heart to live more in the mountains. We both love skiing, particularly my husband. I am a long distance trail runner.

"We will miss living near the sea ... but this will be made up by having incredible lakes."

79A CARTER RD, ORATIA, WAITAKERE
• 3+2 bedrooms, 2+1 bathrooms, 2 parking spaces.
• Land 1.51ha, house 245sq m.
• Sale price: CV $1,500,000.
• Inspect: Sat/Sun 12.30-1pm.
• Auction: July 11.
• Schools: Oratia District School, Konini School, Woodlands Park School, Green Bay High, Henderson High, Kelston Girls'.
• Contact: Steve & Lisa Stone, Ray White, 021 966 499 (Steve), 021 504 674 (Lisa), nz.raywhite.com/waitakere-city/oratia/1909642/