When an Auckland family moved to Nelson, their new building project seemed doomed from the start but they refused to give up.

A chance to build their dream home prompted Laura Southward and her husband Tem to move from Auckland to Nelson.

"We've owned a few houses in Auckland and Nelson but always wanted to build a new house as we have fairly similar design tastes and work well together," says Southward.

However, they could have chosen a better time to build a home for themselves and their two daughters, Xanthe, now 4, and Lillian, 2.

"We'd just moved down from Auckland, we had a 2-year-old and a newborn, and Tem was starting his own business," says Southward. "But the section was too good to pass up and we're often accused of not doing things by halves."


What they wanted from their new home was fairly straightforward: a single-storey, easily accessible home, with plenty of glazing to take advantage of the northeast facing aspect, and as many eco features as they could squeeze in, including solar panels and passive ventilation/heating.

But when their chosen builder went bust on the eve of the build they decided to start again with a new architect and builder, and had the site re-excavated.

"It was fairly stressful, but we ended up with a design we liked better, a second builder who was fantastic and a house that really works for us."

With a desire to use natural materials where they could, the couple opted for a solid oak kitchen with stainless-steel and eucalyptus benchtops. "We wanted something that was easy to clean but we also love wood and the eucalyptus is a hardwood that's sustainably forested."

The snug tucked between the kitchen and Tem's home office doubles as a guest bedroom and has a macrocarpa bookcase and window seat.

Southward admits to being "obsessed" with lighting and worked with a lighting designer to come up with lights that would suit different spaces in the house and provide some "wow" factor. The fitting in the living room came from an antique store in Christchurch that she found on the internet.

"Not long after buying it, the first earthquake struck and the owners emailed to say that pretty much everything had been destroyed - except for this light," she says.

But the feature that really attracts attention is the eucalyptus-framed living wall in the kitchen, which has been incorporated into the rear of the island bench and features numerous indoor plants.

"I really wanted a living wall somewhere in the house and looked at a range of options before I found an American solution called Woolly Pocket," says Southward. "There were some anxious moments when I thought they would be too pink, but they reflect the wood perfectly and I've been surprised how easy it is to look after."

Style tips
Fabric of life: A quilt that hangs in the master bedroom was made for the Southwards' wedding. "We asked our guests to bring a piece of fabric that they liked or had special meaning for them.

My stepmother and Tem's grandmother sewed them into a quilt," says Southward.

Mad humour: The "padded cell" wallpaper in the office often draws comments. "Tem works from home and occasionally makes video calls," says Southward. "He's been asked if he's calling from a padded cell."

Changing hues: A neutral palette in the living areas provides the perfect backdrop for the couple's art collection but the kitchen and girls' bedrooms feature pink, reds, blues and greens.

Leanne Moore is the editor of Your Home & Garden. For more pictures of this home see the latest issue of Your Home & Garden, on sale now.