A couple ushers in a new phase of life with a move closer to town and into a tailor-made home.
When their three adult children had all left home, rather than brood about their empty nest, Nicky and Mark van der Poel decided it was the perfect time to make a change. Their plan was to move off their coastal dairy farm where they’d lived for 26 years and buy a home to renovate.
Their preferred location was the picturesque seaside settlement of Oakura, 10 minutes from New Plymouth. “It has a lovely atmosphere and nice cafés,” says Nicky. “Each time we went to New Plymouth, we’d drive through the village and visualise living there.”
Unfortunately, when it came to finding a suitable new home, their search drew a blank, forcing them to expand their horizons. They realised the solution was a 2600m2 sloping section near the sea in Oakura, which they’d first seen two years before.
Making the purchase in 2013, with a new build now on the cards, the couple took their ideas to architect Tony Biesiek of Imagine Building Design. Their brief: an understated yet unique home where visiting family and friends wouldn’t have to fuss about taking their shoes off. Other must-haves included a high stud, polished concrete floors, indoor-outdoor flow, a large garage and two driveways connecting the home’s two levels.
The resulting dwelling constructed by Hofmans Builders is sleek and sophisticated, with multiple sheltered outdoor living areas and a creatively landscaped garden tying it all together. The split-level home’s white Rockcote and honed concrete block exterior gives it a fresh, contemporary feel.
The sloping section had its moments during construction. “Once it was excavated, it seemed much steeper, which caused a few engineering challenges,” says Nicky. “But the upside now is the bird’s-eye view we have of our terraced garden.”
Interior designer Megan Ekdahl provided guidance on everything from paint colours, to tiles, to carpet, with Annika Rowson of Rowson Kitchens brought in for the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry. Annika’s kitchen design went on to become a winner in the National Kitchen and Bathroom Association’s 2016 Excellence in Design awards and is a hit with Nicky too, who especially likes the walk-through scullery.
The keruing plywood featured in the kitchen also appears in the master bedroom. In fact, the scheme of timber, concrete and matte black accents has been repeated throughout the home to great effect. The extra-height ceiling creates a lovely sense of spaciousness – and Nicky enjoys seeing first-time visitors’ surprise as their gaze turns upwards when they enter.
One of Nicky’s favourite moments during the build was when Plantation landscape designer Michael Mansvelt presented his ideas. “Mark reckons I was as excited looking at Michael’s garden plans as I was looking at the house plans,” she says.
Michael also designed the outdoor areas, suggesting louvred roofs for privacy and protection and the eye-catching laser-cut aluminium screen that helps direct guests to the front door. Lighting the outdoor fire when visitors stop by is a real pleasure and has become a cherished ritual. “We’ve had a few fun nights trying to perfect our pizza-making skills,” says Nicky.
Mark tackled some of the landscaping work himself, including the paving and raised vegetable beds, which he boxed up with rough-sawn wood to leave rustic-looking imprints in the concrete.
Nicky says she and Mark have no regrets about making such a big transition: “Every time we come home, we’re filled with excitement and that pinch-me feeling.” Having a lot of space has made the rural-to-urban move seem easier. “Coming from a farm, we wanted this feeling of privacy, and having a large garden was really important too.”
When everything was completed, certain members of the family couldn’t wait for the couple to move in. “Mark and I wanted to wait until after Christmas, but [the children] insisted we celebrate in our new home. It decided to rain and I hadn’t finished my Christmas shopping, but in the end it was totally worthwhile.”