THE FRENCH CONNECTION
Renovating a former French farm house fuels creation of lifestyle retreat.
ON THE OUTSKIRTS of the North Auckland town of Helensville sits a sparkling white villa that would be right at home in rural France.
John and Glin Esling’s idea for transplanting a piece of the Continent to New Zealand’s green and pleasant lands took root when a proposed oil pipeline surveying assignment in the African nation of the Cameroons failed to eventuate.
“We moved to France in 1999 while I was ostensibly on stand-by to take up single-status employment, the idea being I could take my fortnight’s furlough in France every three months,” says John.
“As it transpired the job did not eventuate. After nine months I had to find employment at the local pig abattoir.”
The change in plans also allowed John to develop a new skillset, over and above preparing pigs for market.
“During our time in France we completely renovated three levels of a terraced country home close to the centre of a medieval village in Brittany. We even built a 7.5 metre oak bridge between our attic and the garden on the other side of our private courtyard. This is where our interest in villa design, with cathedral ceilings and vaulted dormers, came into being.”
Early in 2006 they decided that the time was fast approaching to return to New Zealand to take care of Glin’s widowed mother. Although they had already bought an apartment in the Auckland North Shore suburb of Albany, the configuration was not suitable as a permanent home. Especially one that would accommodate three adults and a myriad of treasures accumulated over 16 years in both France and the Middle East.
The couple were on the lookout for a company with a flexible
building approach that would allow a bespoke design to fit all the furnishings, and building materials, they would bring back home.
John Googled several New Zealand building companies before he came across Customkit.
“We made contact with them before we left France in December 2006 and we visited their offices early in 2007 after we had purchased the Helensville property. Because of delays in the issuance of title, our first priority was to build a barn as a storage base camp. From the outset, dealing with Customkit made everything easy for us.”
John says that by working in close collaboration with Customkit’s design team, and architect, they were able to achieve their dream home. One that not only accommodated a bespoke country kitchen with French free-standing units and a pantry, but also living areas designed around their existing lounge and dining furniture.
“Our builder was particularly impressed with the straightness and quality of the timber provided for our build. The clean finish of the LVL timber units allowed us to enhance the grain for the open beams and collar-ties of the upstairs ceilings. The matai wood floors we rescued from the local school fit right in with the natural ambiance.”
The final build resulted in an elegant home with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, separate kitchen, formal dining, large living room as well as the double bay barn.
As they say in France, vive le Customkit difference.
French chic in rural North Auckland.
Formal lounge with an inviting outdoor flow.
Clockwise from left: Vive la difference with French country bespoke kitchen; a classic combination of white walls and wooden floors; rural views framed by a dormer window.