When Graeme McPheat bought his spectacular coastal home at Whangarei Heads, he immediately made two handcrafted wooden jandals to display the street number of the house. The unique sign summed up the waterfront lifestyle he planned for his family.
"I wanted to give it a beachy feel and that's what it's like," he says. "Plus, I had fun making them."
Having fun has been made a priority at this spectacular clifftop holiday house. Quite apart from the wealth of coastal activities on offer, the property, with its pool, sweeping lawns and extensive outdoor living spaces, has been set up for entertaining.
Graeme found it "by happy accident" a couple of years ago and bought it with the
intention of sitting on it for a few years, and then building a retirement home there.
"But I'm a six-day-a-week workaholic in the process of expanding a business and we just haven't been getting enough use out of it," he says.
When they first went to see the property they barely even looked at the house.
"All we saw was the view and the lawns and the surrounding land. Then eventually we noticed the house and said 'yes, this is a nice house', and then when we looked inside it, it was, 'yes, this is a fantastic house'."
The property sits on the edge of a large farm so privacy is a given. It's at the end of a no-exit road, there are no close neighbours, and most of the front boundary is the cliff above the coast. Views of the Pacific include a backdrop of islands — The Poor Knights, Great Barrier and the Hen and Chicks.
The Taiharuru estuary to the west provides a sheltered environment for kayaking and sailing, and although these activities are a big part of the experience the property offers, it's the fishing that has captured Graeme's heart. "And the best fish — crayfish, snapper and king fish — are caught right in front of the house," he says.
The commitment to fun is also evident indoors, where the pool room with its bar, jukebox
and the pool table, which Graeme says was the bargain of his life, get plenty of use.
It's his favourite space and he nominates it as the best room in the house. That's saying something, with five bedrooms, one of which features semi-circular floor-to-ceiling windows, a spacious kitchen, adjoining dining area also within a curved window, big living areas, and two bathrooms. Virtually all the rooms have spectacular ocean views, and those on the upper level open to terraces with synthetic turf.
"It's a great house for entertaining," Graeme says. "Over Christmas we had friends up and people just came and went the whole time. The whole family loves it here."
In the summer they set up a tennis court on the lawn, and the pool provides further entertainment.
Both house and land have been designed to be easy care, so the planting is minimal and nothing obstructs the sea views. Outside the perimeter of the lawns, a local farmer's sheep graze the two paddocks within the 10,000sq m property.
Graeme's favourite outdoor space is the simple deck he built right at the front of the lawn. There are only two deckchairs here and they look down to the little bay where they launch their kayaks.
"My wife and I sit here with a glass of wine and watch the sea. It's magic."