When Marie Nouata's daughters Sophie, 4, and Emma, 2, burst into tears because they were too frightened to run through the long grass that once swayed through these paddocks, she knew that this was exactly where her family needed to put down new roots.
"That was the defining moment for me. I thought 'I can't have this!' I knew then that this was the right thing to do because I wanted my children to have the childhood that I had,' she explains. "We had a backyard back in Scotland where we were still living then. Now the girls don't even wear shoes to school, they're real barefoot Kiwi kids."
Theirs has been a transition unlike any other. Sophie and Emma, now 9 and 7, live here with their younger sister Olivia, 4, their 12-year-old cousin Devon and their respective parents, Marie and Mark Nouata and Devon's parents Sharon and Hamish Marr. Marie and Sharon are identical twins, aged 34, and they've lived together before, in Glasgow and back here in Epsom while this place was being built. Now this modern, super-sized family is living its dream overlooking Muriwai and Bethells beaches, in a home that hugs the environment planted to complement the fauna of neighbouring Goldie Bush.
These girls all know where their eggs, meat and vegetables come from and why all chores, theirs included, are on a spreadsheet that anyone rarely has to refer to. They understand why what Marie calls "good honest communication" ensures the smooth running of a household where three adults make the 40-minute commute into Auckland city's corporate world and where they all eat dinner together around their eight-seater kitchen bar.
"You don't often have opportunities like this," says Marie. "We don't live in each other's pockets and we all lead completely different lives but this works because of that. Everyone can have their own space and come together as well."
Hamish found this site six years ago and suggested they pool their resources, engaging Logan Architects of Muriwai to address their wish lists. Says Marie "We didn't have to change anything. He nailed it. "
She describes the oiled cedar-clad three-level home, completed in June 2011, as "warm industrial" in its 2.7m stud height, floor-to-ceiling double glazing, concrete polished floors and white palette softened with warming bespoke oak in the cabinetry and bathrooms.
The ground-floor entry level includes their 16-seater dining area, adjacent family room, lounge with fireplace and separate rumpus/media room, along with a guest bedroom and the laundry/mud room near the outdoor hot shower. Downstairs is a 150-bottle wine cellar, utility garage, a double garage and gymnasium. Upstairs at each end is each family's three-bedroom private wing. "It's like Footrot Flats," Marie laughs. "Out in the paddock, we've even got a separate flushing toilet that is a long drop."
Their family hub includes Hamish's dedicated coffee area alongside the children's study area and home office. The kitchen cabinetry is all drawers; the butler's pantry all open shelves. "I wanted it to look like a supermarket," says Marie, a home-based project manager who was "second in charge" when Hamish headed up the building project.
They've hosted big dinner parties and work-related events, had extended family to stay and mused about the untapped lifestyle options here.
They always earmarked this as a five-year project and five years on new goals have surfaced among them.
Hamish and Sharon want more land; Marie and Mark are bringing Mark's mother into their fold in her own separate home on their next property.
"It has been a wonderful opportunity and life and I think in the future more people are going to need to think about living together like this," says Marie.