Dan Ryder was living in the English countryside when he realised how much he liked the rural lifestyle, despite commuting for an hour and three quarters each work day.
So when he returned to New Zealand he starting looking for property within commutable distance of Auckland.
He found what he was looking for at Matakana. The 2.5ha block had views across native bush to the water.
"I figured under an hour from the city was not that far away, so I bought it," he says. "And since I was working in the construction industry I thought I'd have a crack at building the house myself."
With the help of his brother and a team of contractors, he started the job in 2003, drawing on the knowledge of French provincial style he picked up while travelling in Europe.
"I wanted a French farmhouse look that would also fit in with the local landscape," he says.
He built from concrete block with a plaster finish and used concrete tiles for the roof, and timber joinery.
The house has a high stud and many of the french doors and windows are arched, adding to the French provincial theme.
The materials satisfied his desire for a solid, well-crafted home that would last, and the location satisfied his passions for surfing, cycling and gardening.
He and wife Janie spent three years living their rural dream, but further travel and the arrival of children meant making changes.
They decided to embark on a major refurbishment.
This has included a new kitchen with high-end benches, cabinetry and appliances, new paint, stylish new bathrooms with tiled floors and walls, walk-in glass showers, and a free-standing oval bath.
There is new flooring throughout and updated lighting, including a signature chandelier in the foyer.
The house is on two levels, with a family room, living room and dining room flanking the big kitchen with its central counter and pantry. The open-plan space is accessed via oversized double doors from the foyer.
Arched french doors open the space up to the terrace, where there is a pergola and an open fireplace.
Each of the two living rooms has an open fire, and there is underfloor heating in the kitchen, dining and bathrooms. The master suite, with its en suite and walk-in wardrobe, is also on the ground floor, along with a study, powder room, separate laundry and internal access to the double garage.
Outside, a new driveway provides access to the garages and extra off-street parking, and there are new patios, paths, outdoor living spaces and planted areas right around the house.
441 WHITMORE RD, MATAKANA
• 4 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 2 parking spaces.
• Land 25534sq m, house 259sq m.
• Price: Above mid-$2 million.
• Inspect: by appointment.
• Set date of sale: 1 November.
• Schools: Matakana Primary School, Mahurangi College.
• Contact: Shane Romani, Maximise, 021 889 906, maximise.co.nz/max10216