It's a house with a difference – beach style…but in the bush.
That was the broad plan for Alastair Gair and Briohny Hooper-Gair, who chose the Waitakere Ranges' calming environment and close proximity – but who also wanted a "beach feel".
So it was a tough brief for Dan Bennett, of A1 Homes, who used James Hardie products to achieve the "feel" required without a badly blown budget.
Alastair is a builder, which helped, and he and Briohny wanted a home designed to suit the natural landscape of the "Waitaks" – home to the giants of the forest, the great kauri trees, as well as red rata and eye-catching native ferns.
"It's our first home. We found a decent site and it felt like it could be a great place for us," say the couple, who had pictured a bush home inspired by a modern beach-house aesthetic.
They were heavily involved in the planning process, and decided to tweak a standard home plan, adding a lounge upstairs for an additional relaxation zone.
Surrounded by native plants, the area the home could cover was limited: "We had to build to the front of the site, for as little disturbance to the natural bush as possible," says Dan. "The house needed to fit into a small footprint, so we took a standard design and modified it to suit the site and what we wanted."
The home consists of an open-plan living area downstairs, plus a kitchen, scullery, study, laundry, bathroom and TV room. The latter can be closed off with barn-style doors to become a guest bedroom.
Upstairs are two bedrooms, a bathroom and the extra lounge, which opens from the master bedroom and shares a deck looking above the tree canopy and out to the ocean in the distance.
Alastair and Briohny cleverly sought out shopping and homeware from the likes of iFurniture and Cintesi to add to "beachy" feel of the home.
The family enjoy their home's indoor-outdoor flow and, despite the Waitakeres often being shady, they keep warm and sunny due to their underfloor heating and east-facing position.
The outside of the house was as important as the inside to ensure the home had the required vibe of a contemporary bach.
That was achieved with James Hardie Linea Oblique Weatherboards, painted black and applied in a pattern of wide and narrow boards to add interest. Bennett reckons he uses James Hardie products for 70-80 per cent of his A1 Homes and says he works with them because they are versatile and low-maintenance.
"The main advantage of using James Hardie materials is being able to paint them in dark colours," he says. "The clients are both quite trendy; they didn't want the standard. The modern look of the darker colours definitely gave them what they were after."
The natural cedar cladding, added to contrast with the Linea Oblique Weatherboard, was applied to the lower, more accessible areas of the house as this product requires more maintenance.
"We are both really happy with the final home and love a lot about it," they say.
Alastair and Briohny offer the following tips for anyone seeking a similar build or thinking of a design and build of their own:
Keep it simple and try to have as much sorted and finalised before you go to council.
Limit changes on the home once you get going. This saves time with council as well as with hold-ups on the site.
Stick to your guns. We made a couple of big decisions that people questioned, but we stuck with our original thoughts and we feel now that they were probably the best decisions we made. The result was exactly what we wanted – we are very happy.
The couple say A1 Homes provided a breakdown of the build costs so they had a clear budget from the start.
"We ended up slightly over the original budget, by 12 per cent," says Alastair. "Some of this was attributed to items that we never intended to finish as soon as we did, such as the landscaping.
James Hardie products helped the budget "because they definitely helped our cost-saving but, more importantly, we got the look we were after. We could have the colour we desired without it affecting the integrity of the cladding – a black house that could withstand the heat of the summer months."
What are the best lessons you've learned along the way?
Keep things simple where you can.
What obstacles did you come across?
We didn't have too many but there were some unforeseen groundworks.
What's the one thing you'd change about your home if you could?
We'd like a bigger garage.
Do you tend to buy high-end homeware or seek out a bargain?
Seek out a bargain.
What's the most memorable experience you've had in your home so far? Just being here is all good.What now?
We're planning on staying for a while.