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Down By the Riverside, with First Windows and Doors

The leafy outlook of this recently renovated home on the western bank of the Waikato River doesn’t give away many hints that you’re in central Kirikiriroa/Hamilton. In fact, the water’s-edge setting is so serene, it practically had the new owners sold on the spot — well, one of them, builder Nick Holcroft, at least. He knew the site well; when the property’s previous owners subdivided, his team at Holcroft Prestige had been charged with building their new house next door.

“I remember Nick coming home from work one day and telling me he wanted to show me something,” says his partner, hairdresser Janelle Hipper. “We hopped in the car, drove over, stood on the deck — and that was pretty much it, we were in.”

The location of the dwelling originally constructed in the 1960s then renovated in the mid-’90s was a major plus for the couple, but it was let down by a lack of connection to the view. Renovation plans ensued.

“We had a fairly good idea of what we wanted to achieve,” says Janelle. “The hardest part was probably marrying our two personal styles. Nick prefers quite a modern, minimal look, whereas I like something that’s a little more layered and rustic.”

Moving into the home before the renovation began gave the couple plenty of time to hash that out, while establishing an understanding of how the house responded to the seasons and would perform for their family. Wishlist then in hand, they enlisted the expertise of Kris Wilson, director of Design House Architecture.

“Working with the form of the existing house offered a clean and clearly defined two-storey volume through the centre of the site,” says Kris. “From that central, dark and private pavilion, we reached out to the street and river with solid structures to ground the home, including multiple cantilevers to offer shelter, and horizontal planes.”

“Kris did just one drawing and that was it for us,” says Janelle. “Ben Quinn of Quinn Landscaping did the next drawing — further connecting the house to the environment — and we went with his first draft too. They both absolutely nailed it.”

Modernised with a monochromatic palette, the main pavilion is clad with black cedar. Aluminium louvres — their blades carefully aligned with the ribs of the roof — screen the street side of the home, heightening the linear look while providing privacy. Concrete boxes extend out on either side, expanding the footprint of the ground floor.

Enhancing the flow of the home was integral to the update, and for the interior, that meant opening up what was previously several smaller living spaces to create one communal open-plan zone linked expertly to the environment by joinery from First Windows & Doors. A wall of Metro Series stacking sliders opens the kitchen, living and dining spaces onto a covered deck on which Janelle, Nick and their children Maddy (22), Miller (7) and Billy (18 months) can experience alfresco living year-round. Cascading down the hill, the outdoor connection continues with a spa and swimming pool positioned so they’re concealed from the public walkway below.

Also accessed from the deck, the couple’s bedroom wing with walk-in-wardrobe and ensuite feels so lovely it inspires the whole family to start the day together in it. “Mornings in here are a bit of a ritual,” says Nick. “The [younger] kids jump into bed with us while we have a coffee and watch the sun rise. It’s always a pretty special time.”

Janelle appreciates how this room serves them at night too, and says the louvres were one of their best decisions to optimise air flow for a restful sleep. She and Nick joke that if your relationship can survive a renovation, you can do anything together. For now, that means enjoying the bolthole they’ve created here — their own slice of riverside paradise.

As seen in Homestyle Magazine. Words by Alice Lines.

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