At first glance, the house Gareth Cooke and his wife, Viivi, built on a hilltop at Ahuroa could be a renovated farm building, but it's actually a stylish new build designed around the philosophy that less is more.

They had lived on a boat for several years, which influenced the plans for their on-shore home. They wanted a lifestyle property within commutable distance of Auckland and found this 1.6ha block for sale.

"We'd been looking at it for a while and nobody seemed to want it," Gareth says.



But it fulfilled many of their requirements, in particular expansive views over the countryside. No strangers to weather, they sited their home on top of the hill.

"It cops a bit of wind but it has 360-degree views," Gareth says.

Wellington firm Space Craft Architects was chosen to design the house.

"They were very clever about using all the available space and making more where it seemed there wasn't any."

The result is a 108sq m home with high-pitched, angled ceilings, and big sliding glass doors on all sides to open the house up to the environment.

"We had to build so we were not prisoners to the weather, so on any day you can open up at least one side of the house," Gareth says.

The exterior is clad in zinc with a Colorsteel roof and aluminium joinery, presenting a sleek, silver facade to the world. The interior is lined with ply. Gareth agrees it's much easier and faster than using gib, but points out that all the workmanship is right there on display for everyone to see.

"You need a great builder and ours was brilliant — really old school," he says.

He fitted out the inside of the house himself. A metal fabricator by trade, Gareth applied his skills to the change of material and made benches, tables, shelves, built-in seating, kitchen cupboards, the bathroom vanity, and wardrobes, all from ply.

"The ply holds its own, it's alive with grain and character."

The decor is pared back — no lounge suite, no easy chairs, no superfluous clutter. "We wanted a simple house — my partner is Finnish and that shows in the design philosophy," Gareth says.

The floorplan centres on an open kitchen, living and dining area in a cross shape which opens to the outdoors through sliding doors at each end, while three double bedrooms and a family bathroom occupy the four corners.

There are many unexpected design elements to be found. One entire side of the kitchen can be opened up from floor to ceiling via sliding glass doors, but there's no commonplace deck to step on to here. Instead there's a bar leaner where you can stand and have your coffee looking out at the view.

The wood burner sits in the centre of the cross shape rather than against a wall or in a corner, and beside it a section of the floor lifts up to reveal a wood storage area which can be loaded from underneath the house. The bathroom has a waterproof membrane under a decking floor which makes for very easy cleaning.

"You can literally stick the hose in the window and hose it out."

Gareth's personal favourite, though, is even more prosaic.

"Mostly I love the views and the way the house captures the sun from sunrise to sunset, but the best thing is the rubbish bin," he says. "It's underbench and hinges from the floor, so you can pretty much sweep everything off the bench into the bin and empty it from downstairs."

They are planning to build again and although there's nothing definite on paper yet, they say, with typical understatement, that they have "a couple of ideas".

• 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 0* parking spaces.
• Land 1.1625ha, house 108sq m.
• Price: $929,000.
• Inspect: Sat/Sun, 1pm-1.30pm.
• Schools: Ahuroa School, Mahurangi College.
• Contact: Tracey Paddison, Harcourts, 027 636 5198,
*3 OSP