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This couple saw potential for their dream home on a steep site in Millwater

Wanting to push themselves with their new home, this pair of savvy builders came up with an ingenious design that brings easy living to a sharp slope

Meet and greet

Joe Byrne, director of Byrne Homes, Lisa Byrne, designer at Byrne Homes, Sophie, 11, and Jack, 9, plus Molly the retrodoodle.

This couple saw potential for their dream home on a steep site in Millwater

If you’re thinking there’s something familiar about Joe and Lisa Byrne, you’re right. Their previous home was featured in our October 2015 issue, but now they’ve built again, this time as part of the Millwater development near Silverdale on Auckland’s North Shore. The couple own a building company, Byrne Homes, and wanted to create a new home for their family that would push the boundaries of design and construction, in order to showcase what they can do.

Joe and Lisa purchased the empty lot in February 2016. The steep section may have been too challenging for other buyers, but Joe could immediately see its potential. The couple worked with a local award-winning architect – LTD Architectural, whom they’ve used for many of their builds – and together nutted out a clever, three-level design. “We enjoy the process and appreciate that LTD Architectural always ‘get’ what we are trying to achieve as a company,” explains Lisa.

In the middle

The multi-tiered design works with the site’s natural landform to maximise the extensive sea views. Upon entry, on the lowest level, you are greeted with a beautiful, wide, timber staircase with recessed lighting, which takes you up to the main living, dining and kitchen zone – an absolute haven of light and space. Here, in this large open-plan area, jaw-droppingly beautiful views are captured by wide, floor-to-ceiling windows.

Just across the hallway is a cosy family lounge furnished in soft greys and pops of pastels which repeat through the house. Also on this level are a luxe laundry with black and timber cabinetry and a generously sized home office – all of which connect seamlessly to roomy outdoor spaces.

Bold and black

Positioned to maximise the views, the kitchen makes a bold statement with matte black joinery, timber accents and a white Caesarstone countertop. The theme continues with a gooseneck tap, granite sink, fridge and ovens all in black, with concealed handles on the cabinetry to complete the minimalist look.

Lisa has a background in graphic design and, since the birth of Byrne Homes, has transferred her skills to interior and spatial design. Her role within the company is to work with clients to design kitchens, bathrooms and interior fitouts, and she did the same for her own kitchen, meticulously designing (and redesigning) every detail.

“I definitely think I was my most difficult client and admit to doing 27 revisions of the kitchen plans!” she says. To keeps things clutter-free, she included a large swoon-worthy scullery, which has plenty of built-in storage for all those unsightly appliances and comes with sensor lighting and LED strips to create a well-lit space to work in. In the kitchen an oversized island allows plenty of seating space to ensure the kitchen functions well for the family and also when entertaining.

Decked out

The third and top level of the home rests over a barbecue area, completely sheltering it from the elements. This wonderful outdoor living space, accessed from the family room, is perfect for relaxing and entertaining and is furnished with comfortable sofas, an outdoor kitchen, outdoor heating and even a television. The L-shaped deck flows effortlessly from covered areas to open spaces to create practical, multifunctional outdoor rooms.

Joe, much like Lisa, is a perfectionist, so it’s no surprise to see that the retaining posts in the rear garden have been cunningly concealed with attractive timber panels. The spa pool takes pride of place in the back corner of the garden, which is the perfect spot to unwind at the end of the day and soak in those lovely sea views.

From fail to fabulous

The third level houses the master suite (complete with ensuite, walk-in wardrobe and daybed), children’s rooms and a large family bathroom. You’re bound to get the odd curveball when building. For Lisa and Joe it came during their final walk-through to confirm the window sizes. “We discovered that the neighbours could see directly into the bathroom,” Lisa recalls.

“After an initial freak-out, Joe came up with a cleverly designed timber screen that has slats angled in such a way that the neighbours can’t see in, yet we can still lie in the bath and enjoy the view. It has actually become a fabulous feature of the house.”

Set in concrete

The ground floor is home to a sound-proofed music and media room and an oversized double garage. It is on this level that the couple really pushed the design boundaries by using board-formed concrete for interior and exterior walls, a process that involved a tricky in-situ concrete pour. The resulting concrete passively heats the home but also looks stunning as it is imprinted with the woodgrain and joint lines of the wooden boards that held it in place as it dried.

Having never done this before on such a scale, the couple were lucky to have “maestro of concrete” Ross Bannan on hand to advise them. “It was a nerve-racking but very exciting process,” says Lisa. “And also a labour of love as Joe had to hand-fill all the nail holes left in the concrete when the boards were removed.”

The end?

The exterior is dressed in a stylish combination of pale wood, black and textured concrete and this is continued inside with a neutral palette of earthy shades and natural-toned wood. This approach ensures the views and the architectural elements take centre stage. It’s a well-thought-out design that allows indoor and outdoor areas to blend seamlessly, yet the rooms still feel cosy and connected despite the generous internal spaces.

As owners of a bespoke building company, Joe and Lisa are constantly seeking to evolve and develop. Building their own home has allowed them to explore a multitude of ideas and techniques and to be creative and innovative with their design. Although they plan to be here for a few years to come, we wouldn’t be surprised if in the future they return to these pages with another gorgeous home, but at the moment we are swooning over this one!

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Emma MacDonald.

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