Building a house by remote control can be quite a challenge, but when Philip Shirley and Jacqueline Dickens masterminded their Warkworth build while living mainly off-shore, they ended up with a great result.

They bought their land, just a 10 minute drive from Warkworth village, from an old school friend in 2003. Philip was born and bred in Warkworth so had an attachment to the area.

"The property looks out over all the places where we used to hang out as kids," he says.

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They didn't start designing the house until 2006, so there was plenty of time to think about what they wanted. With no children at the time they planned an apartment at one end of the house, a big entertaining area, and a guest wing with its own bathroom at the other end.

"My wife is from Australia so when her family comes to stay it's for a few weeks minimum," says Philip.

They designed the floorplan and wrote the specification, sending "a book of stuff' to their award-winning builder Steve Brackenridge.

"I'm a yacht captain by trade with a lot of experience in project management, so every time we came home we'd do another wishlist," Philip says.

The single-storey house is tucked in at the top of the slope to give the best views out across the rural landscape and over the sea to Kawau Island. Philip used to sail there so the view has special meaning.

The specifications include Canadian red cedar cladding, long run iron roofing, copper down pipes and kwila decking. Heavier framing, insulation and additional sound proofing between entertaining areas and bedrooms have been used.

The hub of the home is the big kitchen, adjoining dining space, and an informal sitting area with a fireplace. Jarrah timber floors in this open plan area add a warm ambience and are easy care — perfect for the entertaining space the couple planned.

The living space separates the master suite and the guest suite which are located at either end of the house. The spacious master suite has a walk-in wardrobe, an additional wardrobe and a tiled ensuite where the bath is perfectly positioned to capture the views.

It's a retreat for the owners when there are house guests. The guest wing includes a lounge, three bedrooms, an office and luxurious family bathroom, so the house is well set up for longer-stay guests.

"It turned out to be a real socialising and entertaining house," Philip says. "It's built in a location where there's lots of mature native bush and nobody can build on either side, so we have great privacy. Both the house and decking are orientated to the north and are sheltered from the prevailing sou-westers. And there are 130 square metres of deck right around so a barbecue on wheels means there's always somewhere to have meals outside."

Although the deck is the main outdoor living area, the house has sheltered lawn areas, a small orchard and native plantings. The surrounding native bush includes a grove of kauri and attracts kaka, tui, fantails and kereru.

The family has now moved off-shore again, but they don't discount the possibility of returning.

397 COWAN BAY RD, WARKWORTH, RODNEY
• 4 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 2 parking spaces.
• Land 3.516ha, house 247sq m.
• Auction October 17
• Inspect: by appointment.
• Schools: Mahurangi College, Snells Beach Primary School.
• Contact: Shailenne Parkes, Bayleys, 021 117 9142, OneRoof.co.nz/1184370