Home Tours

How a Northland family achieved architectural style on a budget

This clever couple have built their dream home in Northland by balancing cost effective materials with architectural style. We get the details on their new-build tips

Loading the player...

How a Northland family achieved architectural style on a budget

Best lessons learned?
Don’t sweat the small stuff – some of the things I freaked out about during construction I don’t even notice now. Oh, and newly painted walls and small people are not compatible – we learned that the first time around!

What would you never do again?
Have my hubby build our house while we’re both working full time, and with young kids. That is way too stressful to repeat.

Any DIY disasters?
Definitely lots of thorough problem solving, but no disasters.

One thing you would change about your home if you could?
Louvre openings on our west-facing bedroom window.

Most memorable experience you have had in your home?
Our first Christmas spent here with our family was pretty special, as was sharing the house with the lovely team from YH&G!


+ The build cost was around $550K, excluding cost of land, external works and landscaping.
+ Kitchen: $28,000
+ Bathrooms: $10,000 each
+ Annwen Thorne: “We saved a lot because Kane worked full time on the build for six months and after that at weekends/evenings. We spent our contingency but haven’t had to go back to the bank yet!”


New-build tips

  • Be open-minded to the process and ready for change. There will be issues you didn’t foresee and you and your builder will have to problem-solve; it’s not a perfect process.
  • Involve your kitchen designer before walls and windows go in.
  • Plan out where you intend to hang artwork, mirrors etc, and have your builder add extra nogs (horizontal wooden bracing between the vertical studs) in those locations.
  • Get good at visual communication. If you haven’t got Pinterest, get it! Collect images of things you want (or don’t want) and show them to your contractors so they have a visual understanding of what you’re after.
  • We saved money by mixing a cost-effective cladding with feature areas of cedar for an architectural look on our budget. In the bathrooms we splurged on the vanities, but chose acrylic shower bases with tiled walls instead of fully tiled showers. We got standard hallway cupboard doors then added custom timber handles. We bought good-quality light fittings and hardware, but saved on painting costs by painting the interior all one colour.


Words by: Tina Stephen. Photography by: Helen Bankers.

Home experts are just a click away