An Auckland family’s contemporary home, with its judicious use of doors, features a number of ultra-cool design features
The saying goes, “A builder’s home is never finished”. Well, tell that to Martin and Jodi Wiltshire, owners of a David Reid franchise, whose new home is not only finished but spectacular to boot.
It helped that they had a strong brief when they started their build in early 2020. Having built homes for hundreds of people during their 18 years in business, they’d been able to refine exactly what it was they wanted for their family home in Westmere, Auckland.
“Just like any family, our main requirement was a house that was warm, dry and safe. We wanted a home that allowed us to come together as a family for meals and socialising, but also provided quiet spaces for studying, working and relaxing,” says Jodi.
“We want to live here for a long time so we future-proofed it by building for five adults, including an upstairs living area connected to our bedroom that we can retreat to when it feels like there are a million girls in the house. We’re not unusual in having a family of five as well as the four-legged members, but in our experience, there is a lack of well-designed houses that cater for larger families.”
The result is a modern home with four bedrooms, three living areas, 3.5 bathrooms and an impressive amount of outdoor living for a home that’s smack-bang in the middle of a popular suburb.
“We’d been living in Westmere for years and love the community and neighbourhood. When the 960sqm site came on the market, we snapped it up – sites of that size are rare here and we knew it would be the perfect section for us to build a home and pool to accommodate us all.”
Because of their experience building for clients, as well as for themselves (this is their third new build, along with renovations), this project was extremely well thought out before they even broke dirt. The family lived in the existing house for nearly two years to get a good understanding of the site in terms of sun position at different times of the day, the varying levels of the property, the surrounding bush and neighbouring trees.
But even for a pair accustomed to building, they hit a few problems. “The build was expected to take 12 months but Covid struck and New Zealand had its month-long level 4 lockdown, and then another three-week level 3 lockdown. Despite that, we still managed to move in one year and one month from the start of the build, which was testament to our systems, builders and staff,” says Jodi.
When it came to designing the look of their home, Jodi and Martin knew curb-side appeal had to be a key consideration. “We were adamant that we didn’t want to build something that, from the road, looked like a large house plonked on a site. We wanted it to ease into its surroundings and the slope of the site allowed us to do that, along with the natural bush that surrounds it. People comment that from the road it looks smaller than it is, and when they come through the house it’s like the Tardis – it just keeps going,” she laughs.
When designing the layout, it was all about creating a flow that included natural light and open spaces that would work for their family. The main bedroom and adjoining lounge are upstairs, away from the action, with a bush view – the perfect place for Jodi to read her Kindle in peace. The kids love their downstairs lounge, which opens up onto the back deck, spa, trampoline and grass area.
“I’m not a fan of lots of closed-off spaces so in this house the rooms flow through from one to another – in most cases, without doors. This works well here because the house is over three different levels, which acts as a natural divider. For example, there are no internal doors from our upstairs bedroom right until you walk through the downstairs lounge/living and arrive at Goldie and Indie’s bedrooms,” Jodi explains.
However, it’s this section that caused the biggest challenge of the build. “Marty and I joke about it now, but we have a large glass wall in the corridor that connects the living area to Goldie and Indie’s bedrooms. Due to the sheer size of it, it required a crane to lift it into place.
It was a nerve-wracking time for us and the builder, as the chance of something getting damaged was high. So it was a huge relief, after many hours, that the job was complete – except Marty, the perfectionist, found a little fault in the glass that I could barely see and we had to go through the whole process again.”
As well as the glass wall, there are a few other key design statements in the home, such as the staircase. The entrance to the house is a good size, but as you walk through to the kitchen and living area it narrows so the Wiltshires chose to go for open stairs and muted gold balusters to make it feel larger, as well as creating a design statement.
The kitchen, with its modern clean lines and steel-framed glass scullery, was inspired by commercial spaces the couple had seen, such as hotels they’ve stayed in or bars and restaurants they’ve visited. The greenery in the custom-made shelving above the breakfast bar soften the lines of the American oak cabinetry and granite benchtop.
Another feature that impresses visitors is the undercover outdoor area, which takes its cue from the sunken conversation pits that were popular in the 1970s. Jodi and Martin really wanted a fire-pit area for hanging out with friends so, taking changeable Auckland weather into account, they designed a more closed-in version that could be used year-round. Hidden in the cabinetry is a wine fridge, built-in bins and storage for wine glasses, towels and rugs.
Jodi’s always had an interest in interiors and has renovated homes over the years, as well as doing the interiors for their show homes. She describes the decor style of this home as being “contemporary, calm and tonal – to help me feel relaxed throughout the chaos that is our family.”
What’s initially striking about the interior is the mix of natural materials used, including concrete, stone, glass and wood – bringing nature in was important to Jodi.
“I love the natural feel of stone and wood and wanted to incorporate those materials throughout our home. The trick was to try and soften these relatively ‘hard’ looking materials by using soft furnishings and gentle colours. I chose a warm travertine to minimise the visual toughness of the concrete, glass and black joinery,” she explains.
Every piece of furniture in the house has been well considered. A much-loved dining table was sanded back and stained for the new home and favourite finds, like a rug they found while travelling in Turkey, were used but much of the furniture was bought especially for the home. Some – like the make-up vanity and the living room couches – were custom-made.
“We lived in what we called ‘our little Nana’s house’ for a couple of years before the build. The kids managed to trash most of the furniture we had when they were younger, so we waited until the house was done and bought the furniture to fit,” says Jodi.
Jodi couldn’t wait to hang the stunning 2m-high art piece above the stairwell – a house-warming gift from her best friend Maya Vidulich (a photographer in Sydney), it’s a lovely connection to her friend who she hasn’t seen for more than a year due to border closures.
When Jodi is asked what they considered when designing the outdoor area and pool, her answer is simple and emphatic: “Noise! Kids are so loud! We chose a stone wall to alleviate that noise, which we softened with planting palms, baby bamboo and mother-in-law’s tongue to counteract the hard lines of tiles, stone and joinery. The kids get a lot of use out of our pool and outdoor area, and we love it for entertaining guests.”
The planters and furniture, clean lines and travertine work well with the Palm Springs style of the house exterior. They chose ‘Santorini’ for the colour of the pool – an easy choice for the couple who married in Santorini.
Jodi and Martin are delighted at how their vision has translated into a home perfect for their family.
“We love our home and will be in it until we become empty nesters, whenever that will be. A friend joked the other day, “Why would you build a house like this? Your kids will never leave!”
Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Helen Bankers