A striking yet homely abode by Thorne Group and Gezellig Interiors

This is the story of a house. In Mount Maunganui, beside a golfcourse, near the beach, it’s a strikingly chic house that appears to place the focus firmly on aesthetics. In actual fact, there’s much more to it than just good looks — here, it’s comfort that’s key. At heart, this is a healing house, where a hardworking family of five has loved and grieved loss, recovered from illness, regrouped and joyfully risen again. This is a special house.

ABOVE This isn’t exactly your typical Mount beach house, but it still needs to be practical, so ease of use is championed via details such as the nook by the front door, where you can sit to take off your shoes and hang your hat on a Cone hook by Linear Standard. That’s also where the low-maintenance mid-century-style crazy paving (in Autumn slate from Island Stone), the timber flooring from Forté’s Artiste Rustic collection and the recycled-synthetic carpet used downstairs and in the kids’ rooms come in to hide a multitude of sins — and sand. A ‘storytelling’ object, the Chinese chair has ties to travel. The artwork is The Mother, Rue (Ruta sp.) by Ann Shelton.

Interior designer Annique Heesen of Gezellig Interiors was one of the professionals charged with the task of realising this happy home. She’d worked with its owners, Thorne Group Architecture and the building team from Thorne Group on a number of previous occasions, and that solid foundation of trust and understanding has made this a house that genuinely speaks to and nurtures those living in it. “The most important thing was creating somewhere they could really feel at home, so it’s designed around giving them both places to be together and spaces for solitude, using lots of rejuvenating, natural materials,” she says.

TOP Including indoor greenery (arranged here on the shelving unit made in collaboration with local metalworkers Iron Design) was paramount for the nature-loving couple, so they hired indoor-plant service Cool Plants to recommend appropriate species and where to situate them. ABOVE A solid piece of Tasmanian blackwood conceals the TV and can be slid across when it’s not in use. The leathered, tumbled tundra from Island Stone surrounding it and the Masport fireplace has been laid in an intricate French set by tiler David Kelly. Fabric by Mokum from James Dunlop Textiles was used by Amy Howell from You’re Welcome to upholster the sofa, and she used fabric by Designs of the Time from James Dunlop for the bolster cushions throughout the house. On the floor is a Stone Set and Shaggy Bean Bag by Wilson & Dorset, which Annique adores for their flexibility.

This is a house infused with sentimental touches that connect to the past. Its owners have lived on this site for several years, but when their three kids turned into teens, they needed more space than the existing 1950s abode had to give. With the costs outweighing the advantages of renovating, they opted to build new, while honouring the old home with mid-century design details: clean lines, muted tones, generous windows, built-in elements, timber craftsmanship, interior level changes, forms that follow function, integration with nature…

ABOVE The family eats most of their meals in the kitchen, meaning this adjacent dining area is used for more formal occasions and as an office space if required. On a rug made from some of the Kindu carpet from Artisan left over from the kids’ bedrooms, a dining table crafted from solid Tasmanian blackwood by Hamilton company Kor is teamed with Maki chairs by MCM House. The pendant and wall light are from Nightworks’ Petrine series, and above the heirloom sideboard is Myriorama: OAAEAO:5 by Julia Morison, one of several artworks in the home curated by ARC Fine Art Services.

The first thing you encounter at the top the stairs to the second storey (where the bulk of the living takes place) is a mid-century-style shelving unit, a piece Annique designed to help distinguish the different zones within the new home’s open plan. It allows a view through to the windows on either side, yet makes the sunken lounge behind it feel private, while also providing a place to display potted greenery, books, objects and heirlooms. A hallmark of Annique’s aesthetic is the use of pieces that tell personal tales, treasures like the pinecone on the top shelf collected from the family’s holiday property; the brass gong on the wall in the stairwell, found by one of the owners’ fathers on his travels to India; and the lamp on the built-in desk in the main bedroom, a throwback to the owners’ OE.

ABOVE Apart from the integrated fridge by Fisher & Paykel with Beam handles by Powersurge, the kitchen appliances are by Miele. The mouth-blown Parison pendant lights are by Cheshire Architects for Resident and the Kashmir chairs are by Simon James for Resident. For speed, Annique outsourced the drafting of the cabinetry she designed to Niche Design Co. It was then expertly crafted by Eastwood from Prime Panels’ lacquered cabinets in Dulux Mangaweka Half and Tasmania blackwood veneer. With top and mid rails, it’s quite a classic look, and Annique wanted to channel traditional wood-working with the hand-forged detail too. Durable Corian Snow Drift was chosen for the surfaces and splashback, negative detail beneath the island benchtop creating a modern-meets-traditional effect that lightens the solid structure.

This is a house made cosy and welcoming through its use of textural, timeless materials. Even the pale kitchen benchtops and stone surrounding the fireplace have a warm vein running through them. Complementing these paler shades is a palette of browns — comforting colours. “I was keen to achieve spaces that make you feel like you don’t want to leave them,” says Annique. “The sofas’ foam squabs are feather-wrapped; the wool carpet is super soft; and the couple’s bedroom has a window seat they can lie on to read a book in the morning sun, a dedicated dressing area, and a sauna in their ensuite — it’s a real place where they can be.”
Having first-hand knowledge from the original home of where the sun came in helped Annique devise a lighting plan to enhance the distinct ‘moments’ she’s created in the open- plan interior. Rather than loads of downlights that don’t get used, feature lights predominately provide what’s needed to supplement the abundant natural rays the carefully configured windows invite in. In the evenings, they fill the home with a soothing golden glow.

ABOVE For an extra layer of retreat vibes, the couple’s suite is at the opposite end of the house to the kids’ quarters. They’re health-conscious people, so they had their hearts set on this at-home sauna situation. Lined with cedar inside and out, it was built into the back wall of the ensuite by Sauna & Steam. “It isn’t the most straightforward thing to put in a master bathroom, but they use it all the time, so I’m really glad we were able to give them that sanctuary within a sanctuary,” says Annique. A shower is tucked in alongside this, while the half-height wall hides the bath on one side and the toilet on the other. Having invested in the woodwork, Annique kept the remaining costs in this room down by using a preformed vanity top from Plumbline, who also supplied the Buddy tapware by Progetto; plain Reverso Blanco Lappato tiles from Tilemax; polished-edge, basic-cut mirrors by Tauranga Glass; and a tiled-in bath by Duravit.

This is a house with a kitchen that spans the entire width of the building, where the close-knit family begins each day together. “You don’t usually get a kitchen that long, and it presented some interesting opportunities,” says Annique. “I was able to give them a full working kitchen that has views to either side, integrated cabinetry for schoolbags and other kids’ stuff, and a drop-down dining table at the end of the island that gives the children a place to sit while their parents are making dinner, and vice versa. There’s also a breakfast nook hidden in the pantry.”

TOP The outdoor WD1 fire from the Fire Dept gets lit every night. It was part of the original home, lifted out of its position during the build, then put back in. The Heaven chairs are by Emu. ABOVE “The cedar [cladding] was driven by wanting a colour that would look good once it had faded and been attacked by the [sea] salt [in the air],” says Annique, and the Te Kuiti limestone from Island Stone stands up to it too. Laps of the pool can be followed by lazing on the loungers Annique had built from leftover decking; raised areas between them serve as headrests, umbrella stands and side tables.
This is a house that’s absolutely beautiful, yet above all feels very homely. It’s an ‘us’-through-and-through kind of house.
“The owners are humble, kind, practical people, and it radiates their sort of energy,” says Annique. “When they moved in, one of them said, ‘I feel like I’m in a dream’. As an interior designer, that’s a really heart-warming thing to hear, that you’ve created that for someone and they feel that way about it. Life isn’t without its struggles, and this project has reminded me of the power a home has to give people a safe place.” 

Words Philippa Prentice
Photography Matt Quérée

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