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This Auckland family swapped city living for adventure-rich Wanaka

A would-be holiday house became a cosy home when this family decided to swap busy city life for adventures in Wanaka

For a family that loves getting outdoors and having adventures, suffering through Auckland’s busy commute every working day can only be endured with a ‘grin and bear it’ attitude for so long. The remedy for Alisha and Ben Goodwin was the promise of holidays in Wanaka.

In 2018, their dream to buy in the picturesque resort town came true when they put down a deposit on a piece of land with the intention of building themselves a holiday home, which they would rent out on Airbnb when they weren’t using it.

But, just as they started to build on the site in early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and they decided the time was right to move out of Auckland for good. Six weeks later, their would-be holiday home/Airbnb became their permanent family home and they swapped corporate Auckland for adventure-rich Wanaka.

Remote build

Building during a pandemic offered up its fair share of challenges, most notably having to manage the entire build via video calls because they couldn’t visit the site.

“We’ve built before and we know the benefit of going onsite and seeing it in real life,” explains Alisha. That wasn’t an option this time, luckily Alisha’s mum came up with
a creative solution; go down to the local primary school and draw the whole house to scale in chalk on the courtyard.

The life-size floor plan gave Alisha and Ben the walk-through they needed. “It was brilliant. It helped us to see what was too big and what was too small, particularly with furniture size and placement,” she says.

What also helped was having design-build company, Mike Greer Homes, manage the build. “They were a godsend,” says Alisha. “Especially because we were stuck in Auckland.” And even better, they were happy to accommodate all of Alisha’s design amendments, which transformed the spec build into a personalised home.

The design

The eye-catching sage green kitchen island raised a few eyebrows with the build team, a few even questioning whether Alisha had meant for it to be that colour. The answer, of course, being a resolute ‘yes’.

“I wanted a bit of colour in the kitchen rather than it being all white,” explains Alisha. “I think it ties in with the rest of the house really well.”

Design constraints on the exterior led to the striking black form, which as Alisha points out, is the perfect choice for the mountain landscape anyway. The inside, on the other hand, revels in a light and warm approach.

“The best part was imagining and conceptualising the design,” says Alisha, who has a side hustle as an interior designer. In fact, her Instagram account (@the_alpine_abode) started out as a mood board for the build, but has quickly gained a number of passionate followers who aren’t afraid to ask Alisha to share her design secrets.

A change in direction

“I originally designed the house to appeal to the Airbnb rental market with guests and entertaining in mind,” she says. “Which, luckily is how we like to live. But there were a few things we needed to change when we decided to move down.”

They were able to re-purpose some of the budget to allow for a few of Alisha’s dream decor choices. For example, money that was originally set aside to pay for someone else to do the landscaping was instead channelled into upgrading features, such as the tiles and tapware.

“I was adamant that I wanted lots of tiles on lots of walls,” says Alisha. “They were pricey in the end, but worth it. You pick and choose where you spend the budget, and I’m so happy we went with the choices we made.”

Alisha had her heart set on Kit Kat tiles for the kitchen and bathroom – a choice that has proved popular with guests and Instagram followers alike. She also decided to swap out the chrome tapware for gold counterparts. “It was something I really wanted but hadn’t gone with for the holiday home because of budget. But I knew it would really warm up the interior, so I made a last-minute change. I love it,” she says.

The original holiday home design saw the kids’ bunkroom relegated to the smallest of the three bedrooms. But the move prompted Alisha and Ben to put the children in the largest of the two spare bedrooms instead. The decision to keep the other room as the guest bedroom – rather than split the kids up – was a no-brainer says Alisha. “You can’t live in Wanaka and not have a spare bedroom. In our first eight weeks here we had 10 separate guests come to stay.”

Living in a smaller space

The size of the house was perfect when the Goodwins thought they’d be frequenting it on holidays for short periods of time. As a family home, however, it’s a little bit tight. But, the Goodwins have made it work.

“The kids’ bunkroom doubles as a playroom, which works brilliantly given the budget and space constraints,” explains Alisha. “The lifestyle down here is really outdoorsy, so we encourage them to go outside and play rather than having heaps of toys in their room.”

Alisha’s forethought also paid off in terms of storage; “Luckily, I added big wardrobes to the design – Airbnb guests don’t necessarily need big wardrobes, but I knew it would be good for re-sale – so now we’ve got heaps of storage.”

The garage too is worth its weight in gold, not that it’s used to park cars. Instead, it acts as a mudroom and storage for all their outdoor gear, including skis, boots and mountain bikes.

A new way of life

“We’ve really found our home here,” says Alisha of their new Wanaka-based life. The kids ski during school and they spend weekends exploring the area on their bikes.
But time is what they have gained the most. “For us, the slower pace of life was so necessary. We’ve kept our corporate jobs and now work from home. We have time to pick up the kids, be with the kids and actually cook in the evenings. We are way more relaxed down here.”

And, Alisha says the rumours are true; although Wanaka in winter sees beautiful snowcapped mountains, summer is the popular town’s best month. “I’m a real winter person, but this last summer was honestly the best we’ve ever had.

“There’s something about Wanaka, the four seasons are so defined. You get this lush, lush green in summer, beautiful gold in autumn, frosty white in winter, and then blossoms in spring. It’s really incredible, we keep telling everyone we know to move here!”

Words by: Bea Taylor. Photography by: Marina Matthews

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