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The Block NZ builder shares his home and some hard-won advice

A man who built his own home while simultaneously working on The Block knows a thing or two about new-builds. Josh Shanley invites us into his beautiful Oakura home and shares some hard-won advice

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The Block NZ builder shares his home and some hard-won advice

You might recognise Josh Shanley from last year’s The Block NZ. Josh joined Cat Glass and Jeremy Hill’s team in week five of the series. What was meant to be one week turned into six.

“It was a bit foreign at first, to be working with cameras all around, but once I got stuck in and knew how much there was to achieve, I soon forgot about them,” he says.

Josh got the call-up to The Block when he was halfway through building his own home in the coastal community of Oakura, 12km out of New Plymouth. Josh would spend the weekdays on set in Auckland, then return home to his family at weekends to work on his own project.

That’s an awful lot of time behind a nail gun, but Josh says he’s always enjoyed a challenge and operating to tight deadlines, so the unique pressures of working both on and off The Block suited his focused work style.

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Who lives here? 

Josh Shanley (builder & event manager), Emily Shanley (accountant & event manager), Olive, 6, Lote, 5, and Duke, 2, plus Tahi the Lowchen-poodle.

Team spirit

“When Josh and the boys from Taranaki turned up on The Block it was as if a burst of fresh energy hit the site,” recalls Jeremy. “Cat and I genuinely had a great time on the show, but having Josh join us was a massive part of why our experience was so enjoyable. We came away from it really motivated and realised that with a bit of hard effort and creating a good team around you, great things are possible.”

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Background

Josh and his wife, Emily, had sold their previous home and had a particular Oakura section in mind to build their new home on. They had concept drawings done for the site, but nothing seemed to be going to plan, and the neighbours weren’t playing ball, either. Eventually the pair decided to shelve the idea (luckily, the purchase hadn’t yet gone through).

“At the time, this felt like a big deal, but now we look back and see it was the best thing that could have happened,” says Josh. A local agent told the couple about another section and in mid 2014 they put in an offer before the listing went to market, and the plot became theirs. “Now we are here, we sometimes have to pinch ourselves,” explains Emily. “With the beach so close, the beautiful mountain and bush views, it truly does help us to de-stress and relax after a busy day at work.”

The site

The bare section was mostly flat, but the tail end sloped towards the neighbouring reserve. It wasn’t immediately obvious to the couple how they would configure the room layout, but the site had a beautiful bush outlook which also helped shelter it from offshore winds.

As with most builds, unexpected situations arose. “Once the earthworks got under way, it revealed there was more sand than we’d expected, so it made sense to dig it all out,” says Josh. This worked in their favour as it meant they could then locate the double garage below the living area, thereby decreasing the building’s footprint on the land.

bathroom

The plan

Josh and Emily designed most of the layout themselves, with the help of architectural designer Paul Russell. “Paul was very obliging when it came to changing things around and did all the hard work to get everything submitted to council.

We had numerous floor plans before the final one was confirmed,” says Josh. “We also had to make changes to satisfy council requirements for daylight angles next to a reserve. At the time, it felt like a real setback, but in hindsight it meant our design ended up being a much better fit for the section.”

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Josh’s top tips for new-builds

1. Planning is key. Time spent planning prior to the build beginning can save a lot of pain and heartache further down the track. It is especially helpful for your builder and sub-trades if decisions are made early on – this includes the style and type of tapware, bath, toilet and floor coverings you want. Most of these choices have a flow-on effect, so getting this right early is vital.

2. Don’t skimp on things that can’t be changed later or areas you know will get a lot of use. For instance, we put in insulation that’s well over the minimum requirement as it means we spend less money on heating but are still warm and cosy. Our floor tiles throughout the kitchen, dining and lounge area were by no means cheap, but they were worth it – they get so much use, and we don’t have to stress about the kids damaging them when they come in with wet, sandy feet; and they’ll look immaculate for ever (well… for a long time, at least).

3. Listen to the advice of the professionals. It’s what they are good at, and their opinion on things should be valued.

4.  Always consider future-proofing when it comes to electrical items. We do not have a TV above our fireplace, but we’ve wired everything from our entertainment hub so this can be possible later on. Also, USB plug-ins in our power point sockets are so handy in the kitchen, office and bedrooms.

Time spent planning prior to the build

can save a lot of pain and heartache

5.  Communicate with your builder. Collect pictures so you can show your building team what you have in mind and ensure that the final product doesn’t end up being totally different to what you’d imagined. Also remember that, while websites can have lots of fantastic images for inspiration, recreating them in your particular space may not always achieve the same look as a staged shoot.

6.  Including storage spaces in your plans pays dividends. It’s so much easier to keep a house looking tidy when everything has a home. Nana always used to say, “Don’t put down, put away”, and she was right! Consider every spare nook and cranny that could be utilised for storage. One of our best decisions was to put storage behind the mirrors in the bathrooms, allowing the surfaces to be kept clear of clutter. The kids’ shelving systems in their wardrobes are where we keep all their toys and treasures; it makes tidying up much less of a chore.

7. If you have existing pieces of furniture which you will be reusing in your new home, it’s a good idea to draw these to scale on your plans, to make sure they’ll work in the relevant space (and don’t forget to think about how much room you’ll need to walk around them). It can be difficult to envisage the size of a room off a plan, so by considering the furniture arrangement you’ll avoid ending up with bedside cabinets that won’t fit beside your super king bed!

8.  When deciding on the size of your rooms, think about the height of the ceilings and doorways, too. It can make a huge difference to the feeling of the space if you can lift the height of your ceilings, and will make it seem a lot larger. Even if you just have a standard stud, raising the height of the doorways is a cost-efficient way of achieving a somewhat similar effect.

9. Stay open-minded during the build process. There are inevitably going to be things that crop up that were not in the plan – but there is always a solution. Had we not been forced by council to make design changes, we may have ended up with a plan that didn’t work as well with the section. You only need to watch The Block NZ to know how true this is!

10. Consider your surroundings when selecting products, especially for the exterior. New Zealand has lots of different regional climates. Our choices for things like the outside sensor lights, aluminium joinery and roofing material were all made with our proximity to the sea in mind; we wanted them to stay looking good for a very long time.

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The end

Now the house is complete, Josh and Emily are embarking on an exciting new project. They’re joining a family business which runs the ‘Home & Garden’ and ‘Better Home & Living’ shows throughout New Zealand.

There are going to be things that

were not in the plan - but there is always a solution

“Exhibitions and events is a really exciting industry and we cannot wait to start,” says Josh. With all their hands-on experience of planning, building and styling their own home, they’re sure to be in their element.

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

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