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Heritage features were at the heart of the design for this Taranaki new-build

This Taranaki new-build with a heritage soul is the family home a young couple had long envisioned – and holds a special link to a beloved dad

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Meet and greet

Amy Hart, stay-at-home mum, Brendon Hart, 35 production supervisor, Arlo, 7, and Macy, 4, plus family pooches Nixon and Jet.

Heritage features were at the heart of the design for this Taranaki new-build

Amy and Brendon Hart had always talked about building a new home of their own. As a girl, Amy grew up amid building projects and on construction sites. “My dad was a builder. Growing up, my brother and I lived in several of our parents’ projects, from Queenstown to Wellington and back,” she says. “I remember living for a short period in Twizel where Dad was building a hotel. As we grew older, we became more involved in these projects and I learned the tricks of the building trade from Dad and my interiors style from my Mum.”

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A gain and a loss

Not long married and with a young family, Brendon and Amy decided it was time to turn those dreams into reality and started looking for a section to build on. In mid-2013 – when son Arlo was not quite 4 and daughter Macy was just a baby – a very special site became available in Oakura, New Plymouth – a subdivision at the front of the farm where Amy’s father, Michael, had grown up. “Dad remembered running around the front paddock with his brothers and sisters as small children, so buying this land felt incredibly special,” says Amy.

But, in a cruel twist of fate, Michael became ill during the planning stages and sadly lost his battle with cancer before the building work started in 2016. “It was very bittersweet to carry on with the project,” recalls Amy. “Dad’s passing was a huge loss as all the advice and building support we were counting on was gone.” Luckily, though, the couple had the support of all Michael’s trusted local tradies as well as Brendon’s parents, Robin and Mary.

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The dream team

Before he passed away, Michael introduced Brendon and Amy to his colleague Mike Johns, a designer and draughtsman in New Plymouth, who was tasked with helping the couple plan their home’s concept and design. “Knowing our style, Dad thought Mike’s design skills and personality would be the perfect fit for us,” says Amy. “Mike is a very talented artist and designer who still hand-sketches all his house plans.”

The couple’s builder, James Wakeman, worked very closely with Mike, Brendon and Amy during the concept phase to ensure the couple’s vision was fully realised on paper. Amy’s mother, Gail, who had spent many years helping Michael with consents and permits, was invaluable when it came to submitting the plans to council, and the couple found the entire planning process completely pain-free.

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Truss exercise 

One of the biggest challenges the couple faced was building a brand-new house with heritage character. “Finding products and materials to create a character build within our budget was tough at times,” recalls Amy.

Right from the outset, she and Brendon decided that exposed trusses would be a standout feature of their home. “The window-seat area and ceiling trusses give our house a country-cottage feel and define the wonderful, spacious living area where we spend a lot of time as a family,” says Amy.

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Unfortunately, the trusses weren’t able to be manufactured locally so, with advice from both their builder James and Dave Leuthart from TimberCo in New Plymouth, the couple had them engineered in Christchurch and transported to Oakura. “Even though the design was out of the box, the process itself was cost-efficient and it’s made our home a little different to one off the shelf,” says Amy.

Open yet intimate 

Amy and Brendon’s grey-green front door with a leadlight window creates a warm welcome. Amy commissioned the stained glass from local glass artist Richard Landers to match some Laura Ashley wallpaper she’d ordered from London.

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An-open-plan kitchen, dining and family area gives a nod to the past but offers the ideal layout for modern family living. “I can be in the kitchen while the kids are at the table doing homework and Brendon reads on the couch, and we are all still together,” says Amy. The raked ceiling, exposed trusses and higher-than-normal stud give this area a wonderful sense of height and space, and bifold doors that open onto a large wraparound deck extend the family living area even further.

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The couple also wanted a dedicated space just for the kids to play Lego and create art, and this sits just off the family area. The adults have their own lounge, too, with custom-built shelving and a fireplace for a cosy feel. “We bought the old mantelpiece from a demolition yard and Brendon stripped it back. I painted it to give the room that essential character and charm,” says Amy.

The heritage look

Amy has always loved Hamptons-style beach houses and character-filled cottages, so she had a fair idea of what she wanted to achieve with her decor. Luckily Brendon was on the same page when it came to favouring classic character over contemporary chic. The result is a cosy home beloved by the whole family.

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“I struggle to choose my favourite room as I loved decorating every space,” says Amy. “The children’s bedrooms were really fun to design, but I loved decorating our main living space as I knew this is where we would spend most of our time.” Amy wanted this room to look pretty, but not too matchy-matchy, and to feel homely. In the end she opted for a mix of different fabrics and textures with rustic flooring.

Then, for a splash of colour and to add a point of difference in the kitchen, she had the dishwasher and fridge painted in Resene ‘Soft Apple’. “I found a car painter in New Plymouth who did an excellent job of painting the kitchen appliances at a pretty good price,” she says.

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Having always loved antique furniture, Amy began upcycling a few years ago by finding vintage furniture on Trade Me and working her magic. “I have painted and distressed many beautiful pieces in our home, which gives character to our spaces,” she says.

Amy was also lucky enough to inherit two beautiful oak china cabinets from her nana. “I have kept these treasures natural, as I love how the original wood contrasts with my pastel pieces,” she explains.

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For Dad, with love

Obviously, everyone wants good tradesmen working on their project, but Amy and Brendon also wanted good people they could trust, who shared their vision and got as excited about their home as they did. “

The team we had were incredible,” says Amy. “They could see what we wanted to achieve and they used their skills to make our vision a reality. We used local tradesmen wherever we could, which saved us money. But, more importantly, even though he wasn’t here to share in the journey, we all had a link to this project through my dad.”

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Jane Dove Juneau.

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