Living rural in the city

Two former city slickers are very much at home in their rural property outside Auckland


Country lifestyle

Harry loves to feed the chickens and the Muscovy ducks.


It’s hard to believe Dee Bailey grew up in the city. As she strides in her gumboots around the roughly five hectare property she and husband James own in rural Coatesville, her beloved dogs at her heels, Dee looks the very epitome of a country woman. While we wander she talks expertly about the egg laying habits of her flock of black and white Muscovy ducks, what crops are about to be planted in the large well-tended vegetable garden and the frost damage to her newly planted orchard in the next paddock.

Although she and James were both once city slickers their last three properties have been in the country. They bought their Coatesville house four years ago to be closer to James’ business and couldn’t be happier, says Dee.
“We love it here. Our land runs right down to the Riverhead Forest. It’s 25 kilometres from the city with a forest playground on our doorstep. The Westgate development is happening, Albany is 10 minutes away, there are fantastic schools and a great community.”

The entrance to the Baileys’ property is certainly impressive, its drive winding through a park-like area of green fields and groups of beautiful mature English trees. It was the trees that the couple fell in love with when they first saw the land, followed quickly by the 1970s-built, architecturally designed house with its black board-and-batten cladding and elegant lines. “We love it, it’s smart but rustic at the same time,” says Dee.

The couple focused initially on ‘deconstructing’ the interior of the house before turning their attention to the garden. Both the front and back gardens were quite overgrown with trees shading the entrance and the back deck. “They were both quite dark and got no sun so we decided to open these areas up,” says Dee. “We took out quite a few trees and this gave the rest of them the space and light they needed. They look much happier now and we like what we have achieved.”


Next they added a new boardwalk and large pond at the front of the house before turning their attention to the pool area. The existing concrete pool was surrounded by unattractive brick cobbles that were removed and replaced with a new edging of coloured concrete giving the entire pool enclosure a much cleaner contemporary look. “We decided not to have a pool coping to continue the seamless look,” she says.

Solar panels on the garage are used to heat the pool keeping it toasty for six to eight months of the year. “Harry was in this last Labour Weekend but he did have to wear his wetsuit,” says Dee. “The solar heating certainly puts the water temperature up a few degrees; it keeps the chill off. It’s definitely a cheaper option than heating it through mains power and it’s great to always have the pool warm enough when Harry comes in after school.”

The previous owners had developed a subtropical theme around the rear areas of the garden, planting several palms that now soar skywards. The Baileys decided to continue this theme in the poolside planting, which includes lush-leaved ligularia and taro, Dietes grandiflora, grassy lomandras, coloured flaxes, bird of paradise and dwarf Australian frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum ‘Gold Nugget’).

Jennifer Insley from Gardens to Go carefully planned the pool planting. “She worked with us on our last place. She gets that we are both working people and takes that into account by putting in plants that are easy for us to maintain.

“When we put in the garden there was a drought that year. We were very lucky that the plants all survived, mainly because we have a bore so were able to keep gardens going through the whole summer. It was such a blessing.”


To extend their outdoor living area further the couple added a pergola outside the internal living areas topped with powder-coated aluminium louvres that can be adjusted to suit the vagaries of the weather. Floor-to-ceiling doors open up to this space so the family can enjoy the indoor/outdoor entertaining that is a big part of their social life. “We are outdoor people,” says Dee. The louvres are great. We redesigned the house to be all about outdoor living spaces, to make the most of the sun.
“We wanted a garden that would make us feel like we’re on holiday after driving home in the traffic. When we came out here after work we wanted to feel like we were in Fiji or Bali. And it does that perfectly.”

Words by: Carol Bucknell
Photography by: Melanie Jenkins

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