THE FRENCH CON­NEC­TION

Ren­o­vat­ing a for­mer French farm house fu­els cre­ation of life­style re­treat.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - The Customkit Buildings Series -

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.

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