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This new-build in Snells Beach has laid back seaside style

This creative couple put a Kiwi spin on a classic style of Australian house when designing their seaside home in Snells Beach

Meet and greet

Andrew Gowling, account manager, Rachael Gowling, account manager, Grace, 6, and Harry, 3.

This new-build in Snells Beach has laid back seaside style

When it came to securing the perfect location for their new-build project in Snells Beach, north of Auckland city, Rachael and Andrew Gowling bided their time. They loved the area’s waterfront location, pohutukawa-lined pathways and access to the beach but had to wait for the right moment to pounce on their dream section.

“We had our eye on this piece of land for about 15 months,” says Rachael. “At that time, we had just built our previous house but knew that we’d eventually want to move closer to the beach.  The land was in a new subdivision and the sections were selling quickly, so we knew that once the land came up for sale we’d have to sell our current house and act quickly.”

It was important to the couple to stay in the Snells Beach area as it offers their young family a strong connection to the community and a manageable 40-minute trip to the city.

“We love the lifestyle up here,” says Rachael. “It is laidback and there is a nice community feel. There are so many beautiful beaches, fantastic wineries and restaurants and farmers’ markets. There are still a lot of rural properties and wide-open spaces with rolling green hills and quiet, picturesque bays.”

The vision

With the land purchased, Rachael and Andrew brainstormed an initial design concept and the beginnings of the floor plan for their new home. Then, enlisting help from Matakana-based architect Philip Guy, they set the parameters for their design brief and engaged local builder Dave Dohrman.

“We knew exactly the type of house we wanted to design and build,” says Rachael. “We’d worked with Philip and Dave on our last build, so they understood us and we understood how they work together. They got our vision for this house immediately. After discussing things and showing them our initial concepts, it only took a few minor changes to finalise the floor plan.”

The concept for the home was a Kiwi version of a Queenslander, a style of home very familiar to Rachael, who grew up on Australia’s northeastern coast. “I am originally from Australia, and our main inspiration for this beach house was the grand homes on the east coast,” says Rachael. “We then incorporated the cosiness factor into the design, as well as styling elements to suit the cooler New Zealand climate, and site-specific details for the view and sun.”

Their goal with the home was to create practical and functional family spaces which connect to the outdoors, while maximising ocean views and retaining privacy. “We wanted to produce an environment that felt calming, relaxing and cosy. We love entertaining, so a lot of consideration went into our living areas and a major focus was the indoor-outdoor flow of the house,” says Rachael.

Style in spades

Expansive ocean views bring a soul-soothing quality to the home’s interior, which features a Scandinavian palette with a pared-back coastal feel. Rachael and Andrew take a ‘do it once and do it right’ approach to interior design which includes choosing finishes that will stand the test of time and using a simple colour palette.

“Trends come and go so we chose long-lasting, permanent fixtures very carefully,” says Rachael. “Kitchens, bathrooms and flooring are very expensive items and should be chosen carefully as they need to last many years and are often too expensive to change on a whim. I like to keep the tones neutral in kitchens, bathrooms and flooring, and spend a little more on quality products to ensure longevity.”

With this canvas in place, Rachael and Andrew set about filling their home with furniture, lighting and interior elements which reflect their casual, beachy lifestyle. Rattan light fittings, an oversized barn door and simple Scandi-style furniture give the home a laidback, fuss-free aesthetic.

“Styling and furnishing your family’s home doesn’t have to be expensive,” says Rachael. “There are many cheap, quick and easy-to-use furniture paint products out there now. It’s amazing what a quick coat of paint can do to an old and tired-looking piece of furniture. For example, we bought our 2.5-metre dining table on Trade Me for $70 and upcycled it. The results can look fantastic without breaking the bank.”

Rachael believes in filling your home with things you and your family love. “I don’t follow any particular style or trend. I believe if you love something, buy it or do it. Trends come and go, and I don’t like things to be too matchy-matchy. I also don’t like a lot of clutter in the way of excessive trinkets, art or furniture.”

Design details 

The floor plan was designed with specific interior detailing in mind such as tongue-and-groove walls throughout the two-level home. Clever storage solutions were incorporated into the home’s layout with recessed spaces for the TV and gas fireplace, as well as nooks for bookcases and desks.

“In winter, the upstairs living area is super cosy and can accommodate lots of family and friends due to a long window seat that takes in the view, a hanging chair and a large L-shaped couch,” says Rachael. “The gas fireplace and woollen rug make it extra cosy.”

When summertime hits, the downstairs living area offers amazing flow out onto a large deck complete with a hanging chair and views across to the beach.

“The downstairs living area features a kitchenette and bar, which is ideal for those summertime drinks and snacks,” says Rachael. “It’s easy to pop back over from the beach without having to head upstairs to the main kitchen. This space also features a bench seat and reading nook. It has a great, relaxing, summer beach-house vibe.”

To save on costs after the initial build, the Gowlings assigned themselves a long to-do list, including the mammoth job of landscaping their property. “We undertook the very labour-intensive job of landscaping, which included creating a design plan, moving more than 10 tonnes of soil and rubbish, clearing the site, preparing garden beds, building and painting fences and our letterbox, rolling Readylawn, building a clothesline area, creating pathways, and planting and mulching 325 plants,” says Rachael. “It was extremely hard work, especially with two little kids in tow, but they loved being involved in the process.”

Building the dream

Despite loving their beach house, Andrew and Rachael found the large home was a lot of work, so hatched a plan to sell and downsize. However, an unexpected opportunity to live and work back on the Central Coast of Australia saw their plans change again and the family hopped across the ditch last year.

A hunt for a small home in an area close to Rachael’s family didn’t bear fruit so the couple snapped up an ideal piece of land and are once again planning to build – this time a small, compact home with an emphasis on easy upkeep and maximising time spent with family and friends.

“It will be our smallest build yet, designed only with spaces we actually need,” writes Rachael on her Facebook page, Lover Dreamers. “There will be no butler’s pantry, no ensuite, no second living area, no big walk-in robe. This build will be creatively designed with clever storage options and features. But, best of all, it will be designed by us, for us and the way we like to live.”

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

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