A supportive sisterhood was indispensable when making design decisions for a Tauranga new build.
Creating this new build which nestles into a Tauranga community was a group effort
Living on the edge of a Tauranga primary school field is a natural extension of Lee-Ann Taylor’s daily life. The company director and mother of two teenagers has spent years heading Parent Teacher Associations, managing children’s sports teams, flipping sausages and masterminding school fundraisers, such as the annual community fireworks event that bangs and pops over what is now her back fence.
“I love the location,” she says of the house she and husband Andrew created alongside the St Mary’s Catholic School pool and cricket nets. “I love to be able to hear the kids laughing and playing.”
The Taylor family also appreciates the leafy, central city spot, the Tauranga harbour views and excellent neighbours that include the nuns next door. Daughter Bella, 17, and son Toby, 15, learned to kayak in the estuary they can now see from their kitchen and living room windows. >
Architect Fraser Cameron was asked to create a handsome, modern home that did not sprawl and was respectful of the wellestablished neighbourhood. Careful thought went into using every part of the site, and most spaces within the three-bedroom, 230sqm home serve multiple functions or can be adapted for alternative uses in future.
The carpeted garage is fitted with a comfortable pull-down bed so it doubles as a spare room, and the sculpted white kitchen island can be a commercial-length bar, a food preparation or leaning area, a banquet table, a homework desk or a casual dining zone. On the ground floor, the teen lounge is also ideal for entertaining, with its concrete floors and stacked sliding doors opening onto a walled courtyard with a swimming pool. Even the main floor bathroom is cleverly designed to provide both a master bedroom en suite and a guest powder room, divided by a cavity slider.
And it is built with the future in mind, mindful of teenage parties and the empty-nester lock-up-and-leave years, right through to elderly ailments that might require lift access to the upper storey.
“This house can be many things but, at the end of the day, it’s not much bigger than a lot of townhouses,” says Lee-Ann. “It is a home built for us, not for resale, and it’s absolutely the opposite of any house I’ve ever had.” >
She says all their other houses have been full of colour – turquoise and pinks, whole walls of colour – but this one’s about robust elements. “The bones are neutral but it’s still warm and strong.”
After meeting in London more than 25 years ago, the fashionloving Australian girl and truck-mad Bay of Plenty boy opted to live in his home town so he could ease into the family’s transport business, Taylor Bros. He is now managing director. Initially, LeeAnn continued to work in high-end clothing stores.
The couple’s first home had strong school ties, too – bought from Andrew’s former primary school teacher in Katikati. LeeAnn launched into a revolutionary home renovation inspired by the cobalt blue and vibrant yellow decor she had seen in England. “Lots of colour and fabric and texture: it was radical to paint rooms in bright colours back then,” she says.
Several years later, people were similarly shocked when the couple painted the exterior of a subsequent house teal green with cobalt blue trim. “Are you absolutely sure?” the painters asked. >
“I’m a believer in what makes you happy, what sets your heart on fire. I’m not afraid to step out of the square. I do feel people’s pain though. Building or renovating a house is a huge investment, so often people don’t want to get it wrong; they’re always thinking of the resale value.”
She is quick to give credit to the skilled construction team, but Lee-Ann is adamant her bold choices are thanks to backing from a team of female friends and professionals. One encouraged her to use copper sheets on her bathroom wall, an unconventional option for a wet area. Others helped convince dubious tradesmen to create distressed copper surfaces, or produce samples of six different textured brickwork finishes.
“I had this core group of women who were my go-to people,” says Lee-Ann. “They gave me confidence, support, expertise. Some were friends and some were being paid but they all went above and beyond and injected so much passion into making this a really beautiful space.
“Building a new home is exciting but it’s hard, too. I read recently there are 10,000 decisions to make in a new house and I don’t care what people say, that can’t be done on your own.”
Eighteen months after moving in, the Taylor family has settled in nicely. “When it’s brand new you sometimes try to keep everything too perfect when, really, it needs to be a home. Now it’s feeling great – like home.”
THIS PAGE Thin sheets of copper were glued onto the wooden doors that hide the office, television, central vacuum fittings and more in the living area: Lee-Ann’s motto is a place for everything and everything in its place; an architect friend helped source the hand-beaten copper coffee table; oak flooring by Hurford Wholesale is used throughout the upper storey. OPPOSITE (clockwise from top) Carefully selected cowhide and teal velvet were used to create the oversized modular living room sofa custom-made by FurnitureWorks. A window seat tucked into a sunny corner of the living room offers water views and an ideal spot to stretch out with a book. Lee-Ann, Andrew, Toby and Bella Taylor in their tree housestyle dining and entertaining room.
THIS PAGE (from top) Leather couches downstairs will withstand teenage visitors and the odd damp swimmer; Lee-Ann couldn’t find a macramé wall hanging that she wanted so her friend Lisza whipped up one. An antique Chinese drum sits alongside planters that help connect the garden to the ground floor living area.OPPOSITE (clockwise from top left) Toby’s room features a mustard yellow velvet headboard. The home’s copper theme started with the handmade mosaic glass tiles on the bathroom wall. Osborne & Little Flamingo Club wallpaper in the master bedroom. Lee-Ann found the wood and pressed silver dresser about 15 years ago and drove it home from Hawke’s Bay in the back of her car; it’s now on the top landing in front of a Casamance Grenat wall panel from Westbury Textiles.
THIS PAGE (from top) The dining area on the upper level provides shade for poolside loungers below. Precise joinery design maximises views yet minimises heat loss, louvres create the all-weather deck space and the garage doubles as a cosy spare room.OPPOSITE At the front entrance, Belco Homes builders took great pains with the details, like ensuring all the copper nails in the cedar were neatly in line: “I take my hat off to all the tradesmen like our site foreman Chad Griffin who listened and made it happen for us and gave his heart and soul to the project,” says Lee-Ann.