Big, bucolic and bespoke: the vision behind that amazing Grand Designs home in Mangawhai.
When industrial met rustic: a new build with big ideas uses reclaimed materials from all over the country
When one of Patty and Geoff Coley’s builders told them he’d felt inspired to incorporate the outline of a map of New Zealand into the bagging of the brickwork in the main living zone of their Mangawhai holiday home, they were nervous. “I thought it could look rather tacky,” says Patty. It didn’t. It’s so subtle that visitors enjoying a coffee or wine at the kitchen bench seldom notice until it’s pointed out (to the left of the rangehood, previous pages).
But it’s no surprise the builder produced something so fitting. The secret to the success of this ambitious project, insist the Coleys, is having a great team and never veering from the vision. The process ran so smoothly that the crew filming for TV show Grand Designs may have been a little disappointed. There were no dramas or horror stories.
The layout of this house with its separate gabled living and bedroom wings wrapped around a central courtyard may be classic but what elevates it is scale, the quality of the materials and Patty’s flair for styling. Everything is big, bucolic and bespoke.
Geographically, it’s not far from where the couple used to holiday. Physically, it’s a gigantic leap.
“We used to kayak over to this piece of land we had our eye on from our permanent caravan site on the other side of the estuary,” explains Geoff. In December 2012, that piece of land, and the jetty they often tied up at, became theirs.
Two Portacom cabins (the former site office for the subdivision) became their holiday hang-out while Patty gathered her thoughts – and a mass of clippings from magazines and Pinterest. Hiring an architect to conceptualise a design was never on the table. Patty knew what she wanted: nothing pretentious – “no marble bathrooms” – just rustic honesty, with an industrial warehouse aesthetic. They had a local architectural designer draw up her ideas and engaged a Mangawhai-based building company. “We insisted on using local people,” says Geoff. “It made it easier for them to be on site and we also wanted to become part of the community.”
With a line-up at the ready, they were itching to begin. Four years later, the first spade broke ground. For Patty, it was a frustrating wait but it meant that by the time the concrete flooring was poured (unusually, it went down first), she had already sourced the materials, fixtures, fittings and pretty much all the furnishings for the home.
Hooking up with demolition materials enthusiast Mike Uttinger was a game-changer. It was through Mike that the Coleys sourced many of the defining features of the home. >
The red brick was once the Real Groovy record store in Auckland’s Queen Street, the door frames are recycled rimu from Whitcoulls Wellington and the massive ironbark trusses that form the soaring skeleton of the open-plan living area came from the capital city’s ferry wharf. “We knew that once the roof went on they wouldn’t change colour so they were left out in the sun of Mike’s yard to weather for as long as possible,” says Geoff.
The hefty trusses required metalwork to match. The pitted brackets that join the beams were originally in the cyanide tanks of the Waihi mines and the bolts have new large steel caps so they are in proportion with the beams.
“To make them look old, it was my job to ‘blue’ them,” says Geoff. So 1300 steel caps were conscientiously put into chip baskets to heat up in a fire and then tipped into a drum of the dirtiest diesel oil he could get to seal them and make them darker.
Patty also got stuck in, rusting the front door and the 3.5m island bench. That bench was just one of several items – along with sideboards, dressers, vanities, basins, lamps, ornaments and copper cookware – that was stored in a container ready to be moved into place as soon as the house was finished.
“The spaces were designed around the furnishings,” says Patty, who has such an eye for detail that she only slipped up once. “I bought a headboard when I already had a sleigh bed for the master bedroom.” >
Patty has no formal training but years sourcing products for the couple’s hospitality hire business has given her invaluable inspiration and experience. The house looks the part on the water’s edge, with one builder calling the finished product “a cross between a Wanaka lodge and a boatshed”.
Inside, the house easily absorbs the upbeat energy of visiting friends and family (the couple have six grandchildren). When Patty, who is known for her Asian and Italian meals, first cooked in the kitchen she thought she had made it too big. “It was like running a marathon, gathering up all the tools and ingredients.” Now she has learned to get everything out of the walk-in scullery first.
Living large may be a cornerstone philosophy of these party people but there are also many intimate corners to retreat to: the hanging chair on the deck, a window seat near the fireplace or the free-standing French tub. On winter evenings, they snuggle inside and watch the spoonbills poke about in the mud; in summer the lawn is the perfect place to sprawl.
“We have no regrets about what we spent as we have everything we wanted and we love it,” says Geoff. Patty agrees. “Would I do again? Yes. But not right now.”
Best building advice: Include the cost of compliance in the budget. All the safety requirements seemed never-ending. We had to provide silt fencing, scaffolding, hard hats and high-vis jackets for everyone on site. And when we wanted to bury the water tanks, what a performance. It all really adds up. (Patty)
Getting through challenging times: Patience, tenacity and a saying that our son had framed for us: “Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” (Patty)
Best thing about the location: The bird life is fascinating – there are larks, shags and spoonbills. And we can kayak to the pub and over to our old caravan park to see friends. (Geoff)
Geoff and Patty Coley
THIS PAGE (from top) The steel portal is positioned to frame the view from the entrance. There were many challenges when building, such as the inclusion of pillarless corners where the windows slide back and even achieving the copper aesthetic for the chimney: “We weren’t allowed copper so used porcelain tiles instead,” says Patty; the exterior of the home is clad in Nu-Wall aluminium, which mimics board-and-batten but is durable in the salt air.