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‘Good architecture makes you happy’, say the owners of this newbuild

This slick, contemporary Auckland home in white and grey tones is an entertainer’s dream

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Nestled among the villa-lined streets of St Mary’s Bay, sits a house that subtly defies the Auckland suburb’s sense of history. The contemporary glass and concrete structure built by Ian Webster and his partner Jianni Felpas is all stylish white furniture and straight lines, which should come as no surprise given Webster’s pedigree as the founder and former owner of the Verge women’s fashion label.

“The house is a collaboration between Jianni and myself. We always had a strong vision, we wanted simplicity, we wanted clear and uncluttered,” says Webster, who since selling Verge last year has become a trustee of a charitable trust and is “looking forward to whatever the future brings”.

Prior to finding their current spot, the couple lived in a traditional board and batten house in Herne Bay. They decided it was time for a change and began perusing properties in the local area and neighbouring St Mary’s Bay. Each time they found a house that excited them, they put in an offer but had little success initially.

“We went through three attempts at buying but none of them worked out,” recalls Webster.

Then, while he was on a work trip in China, Webster received a call about a vacant piece of land for sale in St Mary’s Bay. When he returned, the couple went to look at the plot. “As soon as we approached, we knew it would be an incredible place to live,” he says.

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The duo had a fairly free rein when it came to the kind of house they could build on the 680 square metre section. The only condition from the council was that the house must be in keeping with the ‘grain’ of the area. As far as design went, they knew what they didn’t want. “We didn’t want a bungalow or colonial look. We always wanted something more modern and contemporary,” he says. “Something using a lot of glass and wood, and something that could nestle into the hill without looking too harsh. We really just wanted the new place to hang together, be easy to live in and ultimately uncomplicated.”

They chose Andrew Patterson of Patterson Associates as the architect for the project. Patterson had clear ideas about how the property could make the most of the views and Webster knew he had made the right choice. “Andrew is a great visualiser, he’s got an amazing team behind him and they’ve got a great building team too,” he says.

 

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Weekly meetings on-site meant the couple were involved in every stage of the build process. This, says Webster, was relatively stress-free, despite the discovery of a well which required a pump to be incorporated into the build to direct water into a drain.

“I’ve heard the horror stories, but we had a great relationship with the builders and we kept tabs on where we were at every stage of the project. There were no surprises,” he adds.

Three years passed before the couple were able to move into their new home, following the design and planning consent processes and the 18-month build.

“We didn’t want to compromise on anything, so we bought a place in Westmere while we were building so we had somewhere to live and wouldn’t feel like we needed to rush,” says Webster.

The Westmere property was sold once the couple’s home was complete, and they couldn’t be happier with the result.

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The main living quarters are on the upper floor, which has an easy-living apartment feel with an open-plan kitchen, powder room, laundry, and master bedroom with dressing room and ensuite. The home’s brilliant indoor-outdoor flow is facilitated by expansive doors leading out to an entertaining area and pool. Downstairs, there’s a bedroom, study, a second bathroom, and a second laundry. A lift and set of concrete stairs allow easy access between the floors. “All the spaces work well together, and we really don’t have any spaces that we don’t use,” says Webster. Initially sceptical about the need for extra rooms downstairs, he is now convinced, saying the study and spare bedroom “are used a lot”.

Good architecture

makes you happy

The layout of the upper floor reflects the couple’s lifestyle and was designed around the kitchen and outdoor area, which is where they spend most of their time when alone or entertaining friends. “When we were designing the room layout, we were thinking about how we already lived, so the house fits us perfectly,” he says.

When asked what they love most about their home, Webster quotes Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, saying: “Good architecture makes you happy.”

“It’s a great house to live in,” he says. “There’s nothing we would change and nothing that has disappointed us. I think when you build, you often hope for the best but expect the worst. But for us it was great.”

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Webster used Auckland-based interior designer Adrienne Seager for the home’s textiles, and when he discovered that Seager’s husband is an engineer at Fisher & Paykel, he was happy to have them fit out the kitchen too. The look is tied together by the use of concrete in three finishes: honed, rough sawn and polished. “The interiors are very simple really,” says Webster. “Jianni and I knew what we liked and what we didn’t. We went with the classics and took the style of the Barcelona Pavilion as a starting point.”

Plush rugs, deep-seated sofas, wooden flooring, and the presence of miniature schnauzer Bex, all help to create a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere. If proof were needed that minimalist, modern homes can also be warm and characterful spaces, then look no further than this carefully constructed corner of St Mary’s Bay.

 Words by: Diana Clarke.  Photography by: Sally Tagg.

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