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Tour this stunning new Japandi style build in Mt Maunganui

Inspired by Japanese and Scandi design principles, a Bay of Plenty couple create a serene family retreatIn the compact outdoor area, a soffit provides shade from the famous Mt Maunganui sun while creating a seamless extension to the family room and dining room, via glass sliding doors.

Home Profile

Meet & greet: Monique Hemmingson-Hopping (writer and wellness advocate), James Hopping (owner of Hopping Homes), their daughter Lulu, four, baby son Auggie, and dog Remy.

The property: A four-bedroom, cedar and concrete block new-build on a half site in Mt Maunganui.

Concrete block creates a sustainable statement both as an exterior cladding.

When it comes time to build your own home, it helps to be a builder and to have a brother who is an architectural designer. It was almost par for the course for Monique Hemmingson-Hopping and James Hopping, who owns a construction company.

The couple had already renovated a small home in Mt Maunganui and built a place in Papamoa, but when they had daughter Lulu, they felt isolated and wanted to get back to the Mount and be among friends.

Initially, they looked for an old house to demolish, with the idea of building a new home. But upon finding a 1960s bungalow on a large site in Mt Maunganui, they pivoted, deciding to relocate the bungalow to the back and renovate it, while going through the arduous process of subdividing the section for a new family home at the front.

The dream was to create a beautiful but practical home, close to the ocean and Maunga and central to their community. A strong driving factor was to build mindfully, incorporating environmental considerations where they could. In addition, with each renovation and build they’ve tackled, they’ve focused on reducing their mortgage to ensure financial freedom – something that requires constant vigilance.

A scullery, which doubles as a laundry, helps to keep clutter out of the kitchen. Eastwood Kitchens created the striking main kitchen cabinetry, paired with Plumbline tapware and a Powersurge aged brass light.

The design

With building experience and a clear eye for design, the couple worked seamlessly on the build, along with some help from their family. Given that Monique’s brother is an architectural designer, and both of their fathers are former builders, each project to date has been very much a family affair.

Monique, a wellness advocate and the writer of Wild Kinship and The Makers, says she’s also design-obsessed. She drew the floor plan by hand, her brother Carl Hemmingson, design manager at Evoke Architectural Designers in Hamilton, turned the sketches into plans, and husband James brought the vision to reality.

“James is an incredible builder with a wealth of knowledge and skill behind him and has a very practical mind,” Monique says. “He’s happy to be pretty hands-off design-wise, as I am very passionate about interior design and take over that side happily. We’re a pretty good team.”

Calmness is a prevailing theme. In the dining area, an Isamu Noguchi Akari lantern creates both a warm glow and a shapely focal point.

The layout

Because the original section was divided in two, the building platform was quite small, so a two-storey house made sense. Monique wanted to create a firm divide between the living and sleeping quarters, so the bedrooms are upstairs and the living spaces are downstairs, linked to the outdoor living area by large glass sliding doors.

“I love the Swedish principle of hygge, and wanted to create a quiet, relaxing sleep space to balance the open-plan entertaining area downstairs,” says Monique.

The house was cleverly designed around the position of the sun, to ensure that the living spaces and bedrooms benefit from natural heat and light. The garage, entrance, scullery and bathrooms, meanwhile, face the south and south-west. To reduce environmental impact, windows and doors were cleverly placed to catch the sun and channel the breeze. “We didn’t install the likes of air-con or multiple heating options, leaving the natural flow of the house and sun placement to do the work for us.”

Deep shelving flanks the living room fireplace, providing nooks for favourite treasures. “I’m inspired largely by nature’s palette and textures, certain design, architecture and art,” says Monique.

Weather wise

From the street, the rectangular home is predominantly clad in striking weatherboards, inspired by the Japanese yakisugi method of charring wood. This style was chosen for its environmental benefits, and because it weathers well and requires minimal upkeep, so is a good choice for coastal areas. “As a builder, James didn’t want something that needed re-staining every few months or a timber that would warp or need replacing”.

Areas of concrete blockwork are juxtaposed against the softer look of the timber, a contrast that is also carried into the home’s interior. Originally, Monique wanted large, pivoting glass exterior doors for a view right through the home. “As the design evolved, we opted for a more private option of a solid, custom cedar door.”

Much of the yard is focused on outdoor living, with a large soffit overhang for shade in the hotter months. While the outdoor space is small, it offers privacy via established trees and recently planted native species, which invite birds and bees and foster shady spots.

“We’ve loved creating little play areas for Lulu too and found that the more we do with the outdoor space, the more it becomes an extension of the house. The tree swing and trampoline under the trees are heavily frequented, along with the cedar hot tub. And soon, a beautiful cubby will allow her to let her imagination run wild.”

The home is clad in Abodo Vulcan weatherboard, for durability in the coastal environment.

Family first

Downstairs is all about family living, with clean lines and minimalism creating a calm and practical central point in the house. “I didn’t want a typical kitchen, and having worked in kitchens a lot over the years, I put a lot of thought into practicality and quality,” says Monique. Tauranga company Eastwood Kitchens created stunning dark cabinetry, which is balanced with lighter benchtops. Built-in shelving is reminiscent of a Japanese tokonoma, an area to store beautiful possessions collected over time.

“I have a real appreciation for and a budding collection of handmade ceramics by incredible artists and, of course, I’m a big book lover,” Monique says, “so having a place to house these cherished items – alternating them when they’re in use – is really nice, rather than having them spread throughout the house, creating clutter.”

Finishing touches

While the talented and practical-minded James focused on the tools, Monique concentrated on the interior design. Her love of Danish and Japanese design principles and style came to the fore.

Much like the rest of the home, the elegant bathrooms were styled as minimalist spaces of calm and retreat, in keeping with Monique’s less-is-more philosophy. The white mosaic wall tiles and the floor tiles are from Tile Space, the stone sink is from Artedomus, and the tapware is from Abi Interiors.

“Creating calm, minimalist spaces by using natural materials and neutral colours with a less-is-more approach is my style,” she says. “And I like to consider how a space makes you feel and the emotion it evokes rather than purely aesthetics.”

Quality curtains are a significant factor in the home, and one Monique says can’t be overlooked. “They really make or break a room, in terms of practicality and beauty. Our linen sheers were a bit of a splurge, but they really pay off.”

The vanity was inspired by a design Monique once saw in Copenhagen and custom-built by Eastwood Kitchens, which also created the kitchen cabinetry.

Rest and recovery

The home has become a serene space where the family can retreat from work and the stresses of life and replenish, especially when things are hard. Though they’re dab hands at building, renovating and bringing big dreams to life, James and Monique say that this has been their most difficult and challenging project to date.

“Unfortunately, during the build process our beautiful daughter Lulu was diagnosed with leukaemia, and much of the build was spent living between Starship in Auckland and Tauranga Hospital,” says Monique.

The restful theme continues upstairs in the four bedrooms and the small office.

“Lulu has been extremely immunocompromised – she had to self-isolate for the first 10 months of her treatment, so home took on a new meaning for us. Having this calm sanctuary, where we can safely hide away, rest and recover together has been huge”.

Now, with the addition of new baby Auggie, Monique appreciates the little parts of the house that bring her peace, such as the lounger outside where she can enjoy a moment in the morning sun listening to the tūī sing, and the shaded spot under the house soffit where she can catch a breeze on a hot day. But the most joyful outcome of all the years of stress and hard work is the sound of happy children.

Monique believes in figuring out your design style and sticking to it. “It’s hard to not follow trends, but by staying true to your own style, you’ll end up with a home that speaks to you and your lifestyle and therefore brings more joy and ease.”

Top tips

  • Build for the site: It is remarkable how many homes aren’t built to make the most of the site, namely the sun (which makes a huge difference), but also privacy and the use of the space in general.
  • Be realistic with timeframes: Building projects almost always go over and allowing for this will save a lot of stress, frustration and disappointment.
  • Use quality materials: It upsets me to see houses renovated or built with the cheapest options that will only break down and end up in landfill within a few years. It’s not saving you any money if it needs replacing constantly.

Text: Holly Jean Brooker  Photography: Alice Veysey

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