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This welcoming waterfront home is all about easy living and family time

This waterfront Whangārei home was crafted for easy living, close connections to nature and savouring time with family

After raising their family in Onerahi, a stunning harbourside suburb of Whangarei, Helen and Kevin Thorne craved a simpler life. As retirement loomed, the couple envisioned more time spent on the things they loved, rather than maintaining a large home. So, when the neighbouring property came onto the market, they took a leap of faith and built the home of their dreams – with the help of friends and family.

“When the property next to us came on the market, we jumped at the chance to purchase and build,” remembers Helen. “We knew the area well and loved the northern aspect with views over the harbour. It was an easy and natural decision.”

A small bach stood on the property, which Helen and Kevin initially lived in to gain an understanding of the site and be close to hand during the planning process. The challenges of their site, which included a steep slope and poor soil quality, were outweighed by the easy access to the waterfront, nearby local parks and the cycle path to the city.

“We love to cycle into the city for coffee, and enjoy daily walks with our dog, Meg,” says Helen. “The area is great when we have family and grandchildren visiting, with a jetty across the road and a local park close by.”

The brief 

In 2014, with the new section purchased and their former home sold, the couple engaged local architect Felicity Christian and the planning began. “The brief was for the style to be modern, yet casual and relaxed, with a coastal vibe,” says Helen. “We love warm and natural timbers, and a pared-back, simple colour palette. We wanted our new home to be easy to live in.”

The build

Building the house was truly a family affair, with son Bryce undertaking the bulk of the work, Kevin helping with plans and management, and daughter-in-law Annwen working closely with Helen on the interior.

The result has exceeded all expectations. Light and bright, the home exudes warmth and makes the most of the sweeping view of the harbour. While the home is generous, it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly large and has been well thought out for its occupants – the sign of a successful design brief.

The upstairs galley kitchen includes a clever integrated dining table and bench seat. The kitchen is spacious enough to become the life and soul of the home when the extended family are visiting, while not being too large for a couple. A wall of floor-to-ceiling cabinets hides appliances and avoids the need for a separate butler’s pantry.

The dining area gives way to a small sheltered deck, which is the perfect spot for a morning coffee. The adjacent lounge takes full advantage of the harbour views and is a snug all-weather spot from which to watch the sea.

This upper level also includes garage access, and the master suite, making it perfect for the couple – almost like an apartment. The added bonus of the home is the downstairs area, which is semi-self-contained, allowing them to easily entertain friends and family at any time.

The style

A simple palette of warm greys and greens complements the beautiful timber floors and finishes, and Annwen’s interior-design nous made choosing fabrics and furniture a breeze.

“Annwen’s help with the interior decisions was invaluable; it prevented us from second-guessing decisions and gave us a clear vision throughout the process,” says Helen.

Clever additions to the design, such as a bunk room for the grandkids and a luxurious guest bathroom, mean the couple have a versatile home for all stages of life. With more free time at their disposal, they are enjoying their daily routine and the opportunity to host family and friends.

“The best times are having the family together,” says Helen. “We love having them close, especially for special occasions and celebrations. We love and enjoy our home and count ourselves lucky every day.”


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


This article was first published in Your Home and Garden. Follow YHG on Instagram, Facebook and sign up to the fortnightly email for inspiration between the issues.

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