There are plenty of us who go on holiday, fall in love with a place and dream of returning there to live, but not many of us make that happen. French property developer Francois Beziac and his family (his children are 9 and 10) are the exception: they decided after a 2010 trip that they needed to have a new experience overseas, settling in Queenstown by the following year.
With 25 years of property development under his belt, it wasn't long before Francois partnered with Tim Medland and R Hermana Malmezac to form Aedifice.
With three projects in Queenstown, the guys decided it was time to explore Auckland, starting with a subdivision on Hobsonville Peninsula of 350 lots.
"But then we found the market changing to smaller developments, and were drawn to Orewa for its beaches," says Francois.
"We found a 3000sq m site across the road from the sea and decided we could do a really human-scaled community.
"We've deliberately grouped the four blocks of apartments and townhouses so that there's sea views, and made them two storeys, not three for a nicer scale.
"We've kept costs low by doing carparks, not garaging, but added plenty of storage lockers. The body corporate may even decide to buy kayaks or bikes for residents to share. Residence De La Mer is all about the outdoor living that people come to Orewa for. And its pet-friendly."
While Francois originally targeted empty-nesters (the apartments all have lifts to the upper floors), the price points of one-bedroom apartments for under $700,000 have attracted young, first time owners.
The growing amenities of nearby Millwater and business and shopping hub of Albany south, the regional parks and hot pools just north of the town mean people can build lives that don't involve the bustle of the city.
The apartments are all over 50sq m, to make them "bank friendly" as Francois puts it, and have extended the 10-year Master Builders guarantee with a warranty from Stamford Insurance.
The smaller townhouse block has two three-bedroom and two one-bedroom apartments, looking into lush landscaping and courtyards.
"We focused on simple design with a beachy ambience to the finishes," says Francois. "And because it's the beach, we had to have nice outdoor living — decks that are big enough to have a table to eat outside most of the year.
"We've angled for sun and views for everyone and optimised the light with big windows and glass balustrades."
Francois briefed the architects to reflect the local buildings — many of them baches built in the 1940s and 50s — with hip roofs , mature planting and exteriors with a mix of lightweight concrete panels and timber Euroclad cladding.
The impression of space is helped by high studs of 2.7m in the upper floor apartments, and deep decks of at least 4m. In the European style, developers made roomier living rooms rather than enormous bedrooms.
Interiors all have timber laminate flooring, with modern kitchen units and stone benches. Bosch appliances were a must, as were kitchen islands that promote convivial gatherings.
Orewa is undergoing a restaurant revolution as the shops facing the sea are updated with cafes and bars.
"It's a great lifestyle and a great entry point for people at these prices," says Francois. Construction is due to start in June next year for completion at the end of 2020.
388-392 HIBISCUS COAST HIGHWAY, RESIDENCE DE LA MER
• Apartments: 1 Bed 51-56sq m; 2 bed 63-98sq m; 3 bed 103-108sq m.
• Price: 1 bed $639,000 to $689,000; 2 bed $839,000 to $1.345 million; 3 bed $1.095 million to $1.495 million including 1 or 2 carparks.
• Inspect: Showroom at 388 Hibiscus Coast Highway; Wed and Fri to Sun, noon to 1pm.
• Schools: Orewa North primary, Orewa College.
• Contact: Ben Macky, 021 937 885 or Wesley Gerber 021 647 117, Wallace Stratton, residencedelamer.co.nz/