An Auckland family’s desire to build by the sea hit a few unexpected squalls, but the result is a roaring success
Meet & greet
Chris (lawyer) and Leah Goddard and their children Evelyn, 11, and Harry, nine.
A three-bedroom new-build on Auckland’s North Shore.
After 10 years of renting with their young family, Chris and Leah Goddard were impatient to get into a house that was toasty warm, designed for sunlight, and where they could give their creative instincts free rein, rather than staring at boring, all-white walls.
When the couple spotted a deceased estate for sale in Takapuna, they hoped the waiting game was over. Although the dwelling was far from ideal (a rumpty old bach that had been one of the first homes in the area), Chris was seduced by its location. He had always dreamt of living within a stone’s throw of the beach and from here he could smell the sea. So, when their bid won the auction, it was a surprise. A delightful one.
That was five years ago and set in motion a process where more waiting became inevitable. Initially the Goddards thought a major renovation would bring the mouldy, damp structure into line with their vision. “Then we discovered we’d almost have to strip it back down to its bare bones,” says Leah. The astronomical cost involved felt untenable. They changed tack and began to plot a new-build.
Getting to ‘go’
It didn’t take them long to choose Box as their design-and-build partner. “We’d seen one of their open homes, liked their style and always had them in the back of our minds,” says Leah.
Keeping the design simple on this compact infill site was key: a rectangular volume with two levels stretches back on the narrow footprint. While getting the concept for the three-bedroom home right was no issue, reaching the stage where the diggers moved in to begin the build was. In fact, the necessary consents and sign off from neighbours and council on the cross-lease section took three years.
In April 2021, the build began. Lockdowns brought yet more delays but a year later, the Goddards stood streetside, looking up at the elegant timber form crisply outlined against the sky.
Clad in vertical Abodo timber, the house is like a driftwood box alighted on the beach. Its pale wood coat, offset by window surrounds and a garage in dark-stained tones, will weather to a lovely silver-grey. “We were advised against using cedar because we live so close to the sea,” Leah explains. “The Abodo has a special coating that not only protects the wood but allows it to weather evenly, no matter if it’s in full sun or shade.”
Layouts and lookouts
When Auckland’s wet and windy summer tossed what felt like bucketloads of water against the glazing and the sea spray whipped up into a frenzy, the Goddards felt snug in their brand-new property. From the upstairs bedrooms, they could watch the tempestuous tide.
Although the couple had imagined they might locate the living areas on the top floor to access the view, they decided having good flow to the outdoors was more important. Leah can prep dinner at the kitchen bench as Evelyn does her homework in the nearby dinette and Harry sets up a cricket set on the lawn – and she still gets a peep of the sea.
This ground-floor layout, with the kitchen sandwiched between dining and living, makes good sense. Externally, the rooms are wrapped with a deck to the north and an eastern garden landscaped with crazy paving. Next to this open-plan space, a separate flexi room with a TV ensures sound separation when the adults are entertaining, and Harry wants to disappear to watch his favourite sports team. A second TV in the living room looks like a work of art when not in use.
A hint of modernism
While waiting for the build to progress, Leah was not idle. After the restrictions of being a renter, she was rampantly searching through Pinterest and copies of Your Home and Garden for inspiration for the fittings and fixtures. It was around this time that she hit a speed hump. Diagnosed with stage four cancer, she entered treatment just before moving-in day. “I was so glad that I had made the early decision to decorate for our family rather than worrying about resale,” she says.
Leah’s interest in mid-century design shines in the ’50s-style dining nook with its built-in bench seating. There are traces of it too in the reeded glass doors that feature in the kitchen where Leah opted for a mix of walnut veneer and sage-green cabinetry.
“I have kept the big picture neutral, but I really like colour,” she says. The green is subtle, not overpowering, and wraps around the island bench too. It tones with the brass tapware, which has already started to develop a beautiful patina, and a warm white engineered stone benchtop where the children often hang out on their iPads. “If there are a few marks on surfaces that’s just a sign that a family is having fun,” says Leah.
American oak floors lend warmth to the downstairs zone as the sunlight moves around, initially falling into the kitchen and dining room before warming the crazy-paved patio and finally the western deck where an outdoor dining table is pale green to pick up the colour thread from the interiors.
Moving upstairs, reeded-glass windows offer privacy from the neighbours, a priority within the tight design programme. Along with three bedrooms, (one with ensuite), there’s a separate bathroom and a study that Chris retreats to when he needs to work. The 2.7m stud here and on the lower level gives a greater sense of volume that, say the couple, makes everything feel bigger than the 211sqm floor plan.
Joy in the details
Leah’s passion for prints and wallpaper is evident. “I love some of the British brands,” she says. Motifs include a tropical forest in the dining zone, pineapples in the powder room and blue whales in an upstairs bathroom.
She also showed a refreshing confidence with colour. Apart from the soft sage influence on the kitchen island, there is pink and teal blue behind the kids’ built-in desks in their bedrooms and the bathrooms are spattered with terrazzo-look tiles with chips of navy and peach.
Some might see the colourful coffee table in an abstract design that is a focal point in the living area as OTT, but Leah was determined to be playful. She gave the resin artist, Sally McDonald of The Arc Dept, some colour samples, and the blue-based table is resplendent with joyful pattern. Sally also made the resin door handles.
On Christmas Day last year, when family from the UK and Australia visited, the Goddards gathered around the outdoor table and enjoyed each other’s company as the children played on the trampoline. In the background, the sound of the sea was ever present.
This home may have been a long time in the making, but it was worth the wait.
Words by: Claire McCall. Photography by: Babiche Martens