Building their first home and a show home all in one was a huge challenge, but this clever Oamaru couple knocked it out of the park
Meet + Greet
Mike Lowe, 34 (co-owner McBrimar Homes), Kristina Levings, 33 (graphic designer and co-owner McBrimar Homes)
Most owners of new-build homes would agree – you’re never going to create your dream house first try. Even with years of research and experience behind you, once you’ve moved in, you’ll most likely have a few regrets.
Not so for Mike Lowe and Kristina Levings, co-owners of the McBrimar Homes building company in Oamaru, and first-home builders.
“Most people say it takes three builds to perfect your plan,” says Kristina. “We’re pretty excited on the fact that we wouldn’t change a thing about our home!”
In 2018, the couple moved to Oamaru from Auckland, where Mike had been managing his business remotely while dad Brian, managed things on the ground. An Oamaru lad originally, Mike was excited to get back to his roots.
“It was a big move for us, having both lived in big overseas cities, but we love it,” he says. “Oamaru is an epic small town.”
With their site secured, he and Kristina promptly got down to the task of designing their dream, which was also intended to be a show home for McBrimar. The couple decided on a dual wing design that would allow them to host and welcome guests while also enjoying privacy.
“The home is split into a living and bedroom wing which can be closed off with a sneaky floor-to-ceiling cavity slider,” says Kristina. “We also really wanted good old indoor-outdoor flow – we designed the main outdoor living area to be private and sheltered which has worked a treat, it’s really great for entertaining. It’s also great being able to have client meetings here in a home rather than an office.”
When it came to deciding on a look and feel for their home, Mike and Kristina looked to the semi-rural location of their site for inspiration. They decided a “modern country” theme would work best, and set about choosing materials to help them evoke this idea.
For a traditional weatherboard exterior, the couple went with James Hardie Linea Weatherboard rather than timber, due to its durability. “We picked it for its timelessness as we wanted a home that wouldn’t date,” says Kristina. “We also have a few schist accents to continue with the modern country vibe.”
That vibe was continued indoors with a decor that combines the old with the new. HardieGroove Lining was used on the living room ceiling and in the laundry to create a farmhouse feel, as well as adding texture.
“When people enter our living room their eyes are drawn up to the ceiling,” Kristina says. “We love the texture the HardieGroove adds.”
This house was made for entertaining and Mike and Kristina love the way their home connects to the outdoors.
“The deck is great for lounging in the sun and dinners over summer,” says Kristina. “The easterly winds are quite prominent in Oamaru so we designed our main outdoor living area to be protected from them. Our vege and herb garden have been very bountiful, too!”
And indoors, the story is the same: the house encourages quality time. “After dinner we always seem to end up back around the kitchen island for a drink or few!” says Kristina. “And a sunny afternoon relaxing on the deck is always a treat. I love rustling new things up in the kitchen and Mike enjoys getting a break away from the desk in his garden.”
Initial plans to include an outdoor fire area and built-in barbecue have been put on hold for now, but this clever couple are excited for their future in this 99% perfect home. However, as most owners of newly built homes will often tell you, the first house is usually just the beginning.
“We really love our home and wouldn’t change anything,” says Kristina, “but I think it’s safe to say we have the building bug – we’re already scheming the next one!”
Kristina’s top tips
+ Trust your gut – we wasted time going around in circles on a few things, but always ended up back with our original choices.
+ Check sizes of rooms against existing ones to get a feel for what the home you’re designing will feel like.
+ Do lots of research and create a mood board to help decide what style you want to go with. Stick to the brief. Meshing different concepts can turn into a dogs breakfast if you’re not a pro.
+ More often than not budget doesn’t stretch to everything. But little luxuries go a long way. The rain shower in our bathroom wasn’t a huge cost but, five months later, it still makes me feel like I’m staying in a hotel!
To help you on your new-build journey we’ve spoken to Mike Lowe at McBrimar Homes Oamaru for budgeting tips and ideas for finishes. Click here, or on the image below, to download a Builders worksheet
For more information visit: www.jameshardie.co.nz
Words by: Sally Conor. Photography by: Simon Wilson.