The owners of this vast, ultra-modern home balanced their high technology approach with respect for the charm of the established site, and the result, produced with precision by Gregg Builders, is spectacular.
When Blair from Gregg Builders signed on to manage this challenging architectural project, it is fair to say the pressure was on. The owners, former builders and directors of a construction company, had engaged their own team to build their previous family homes, so handing over the reins felt like a leap of faith for the couple. Two years down the track, any reservations are a thing of the past and the couple are delighted with how the build process was managed and with their fantastic new home. Testament to that success is that the owners and Blair still happily sit down together for a beer after working side by side throughout the build. “Blair is an absolutely exceptional builder, there’s no doubt he’s in a class of his own,” say the clients.
Sites like the one this home resides on don’t become available very often and the owners jumped at the opportunity to purchase when it came along. Situated in a premium suburb, the site was formerly part of the historic Ballantynes Estate. Large established trees were lovingly preserved during the project and they stand impressively tall along the boundary that is also partially formed by the meandering Wai-iti stream.
Convinced this special piece of land was the ideal location for their next build project, the owners were unfazed that it was already home to a two-storey slate-roofed villa. Their wish to preserve that villa meant the couple arranged to slide the 85-tonne two-storey weatherboard home into its new position on steel beams. Sub-dividing the section off for the original house left them with less space, so when the opportunity to buy a neighbouring property came up they took it, making the total land area a sprawling 3000 square metres.
A photograph of a spiral staircase and pictures of Oprah Winfrey’s Miami home sparked the inspiration for the design ideas they took to architects Sheppard & Rout who worked with the couple from concept through to the detailed drawings and worked in partnership with Gregg Builders throughout the project. The owner's requests were for six-car garaging and future-proofing by incorporating high tech solutions for power generation, security, and entertainment via home automation. The couple has five sons and ten grandchildren to accommodate on their visits, so the plans included four bedrooms with walk-in robes and ensuite bathrooms plus an office space on the mezzanine with a movable wall and a fold-down bed, allowing them to convert the space to an extra bedroom when needed.
On the street the home is hidden from view, but as you arrive in the forecourt, the front of the house is an impressive sight. The oversized handcrafted front door is flanked by reflection pools that light up with coloured LED and spring into life with shooting jets, creating a spectacular display at night. The first of the four garages on the property is a feature in itself, sporting tinted safety glass, sectional garage doors; constructed using glue bonding to attach the glass to the steel framing. On the façade, the marble cladding gives a classic appearance achieved with Neolith Calacatta Silk sheets, supplied by CDK Stone and installed by Stone and Tile Solutions.
Entry into the home is via a dramatic Arabescato marble foyer that serves as a gallery for just a small portion of the owners' unique and striking collection of paintings and sculpture. The stunning centerpiece is the spiral staircase, constructed in the same marble, chosen by the owners with the help of CDK Stone’s interior designer Myles, who had it shipped from Italy. The team from Gregg Builders carefully templated each tread of the stairs in plywood to be sent to Italy for the stone masons to vein match it so, once installed by Stone and Tile Solutions, the look of the marble is seamless all the way up. Stone and Tile keep their processes simple and employ the very best tilers in the country. Owner’s Meranie and Jeff are justifiably proud of the level of accuracy their team can achieve. Of this project, a Neolith Spanish representative said, “I have never seen such attention to detail in a project of this size and calibre.”
Adjoining the foyer are his and hers black and white powder rooms with electronic flush toilets and a very glamorous Schindler lift in the hallway that leads to the expansive mezzanine gallery above. Taking centre stage in the living area is the kitchen designed by Vicki Andrews of Vicki Andrews Design, crowned by the monolithic kitchen island; cantilevered to achieve the sculptural shape using Arabescato marble from Artisan Stone who also supplied and installed the benchtops in the scullery, bar, laundry, spa room, power rooms and ensuite. The kitchen benchtops are Caesarstone in Snow paired with etched glass door and drawer fronts in Wan White. Modern Age Kitchens and Joinery manufactured and installed the cabinetry and Vicki added LED lighting, highlighting the architectural features as well as providing task lighting under the overhead cupboards. “I worked to create a beautiful yet very workable kitchen, scullery and drinks area for the owners, with the sculptural elements creating the wow factor.” Vicki’s work won two categories at the National Kitchen and Bathroom Association awards in 2018.
The Pink Batts insulation and metal ceiling battens were supplied and installed and Gib stopping and fixing completed by Lance Ash Interiors. The project was one of the largest residential dwellings the team had ever been involved with, which included three two-storey voids, negative detail to the skirtings and doors, a level 5 finish in areas that are well-lit, and some very tricky stopping around the fibrous down lights which all required special attention. Lance Ash says of this project, “the complete range of the services we provided made the interior lining process hassle free for the clients and we were very happy with the quality of the finish.”
One of the challenges of the project was the number of trades working together at any one time and the coordination of the many facets of construction and finishing. Lindsay Newman of Newman Decorators, brought in to complete the interior and exterior painting, said despite the busy site, things ran smoothly. His company has a longstanding relationship with Gregg Builders having worked alongside them for over 25 years as a trusted contractor.
Ducted heat pump air conditioning and hydronic underfloor heating, balanced with the climate controlled fresh air heat recovery system, was installed by Heat Dynamics who also provided the swimming pool heating system. Mainland Electrical completed a full electrical installation and design and integration of all the equipment and systems to give a seamless solution. Mainland’s focus when working on a project like this is to combine quality installation while ensuring a superior finish.
There’s a total of seven bathrooms across the two floors and while the owners selected and sourced all of the fixtures and fittings themselves, the job of installation and the extensive plumbing for the project was completed by Layne Watson Plumbing who were proud to be involved in this exciting but challenging build.
The extensive joinery throughout the living spaces, bedrooms, and bathrooms was manufactured and installed by Advanced Joinery in Prime Art American white oak, stained with Ebony lacquer and finished with Sunshield. The team tasked with the spray application of the stain and lacquer finish was M F Turnbull whose attention to detail and expertise was needed to ensure consistency of colour across the huge quantity of joinery in the home. The quality results they achieved have helped to give the home a warm and welcoming feel.
The clients had a firm understanding of what they wanted with the joinery and Scott from Advanced Joinery said, “We had a really good team who are experts at what they do, they have a lot of experience on these types of projects and they are excellent at working with the builders and the client to come up with solutions. It was a big job,” he says, “but even though it was one of the most complex, it was also one of the smoothest running jobs we’ve worked on. Blair from Gregg’s was very well organised and professional.”
Building such a large home, totaling over 900 square metres, with plans that included an extraordinary level of detail was a “massive challenge,” says Blair, “and that’s what made it such a cool project. We had a big team of really good people working on it”.
Blair says they tackled the scale of what needed to be done by breaking the work required up into sections and by maintaining excellent communication with everyone involved. First cab off the rank was the excavation work of digging the footings and backfilling the internal foundations, completed by Kevin Williams and the team from Digout Services.
The geotech planning was entrusted to expert consultants and structural engineers. To future-proof the L2 site, with the heavy concrete and structural steel frame, screw piling was installed as the superior site works solution. Survus Consultants were engaged as the surveyors for the project which included a topographical survey, pile and building set-out, consents, and approval of the survey plan. The large site and proximity to the stream added complexity to the work but Amber Arkell of Survus says, “What we enjoy about working on slightly more complex projects like this is knowing we have contributed to the development of beautiful places for people to live.”
Division Architectural Engineering came in early to install structural steel. At this stage of the build it’s critical to get it right and to do this they use computer software on site to allow the installers to model and install steel precisely to the plans. Helen from Division says, "By getting these systems in place beforehand it means we need less time on site and the steelwork is a perfect fit. We find on architectural houses like this one, often the builders will approach us with problems or challenges and we engineer or design items that can work for them and look amazing for the clients.”
Another challenge posed by the location of the site and the high water table was the installation of the indoor swimming pool by Niveau Pools and Construction. Dion from Niveau says, “Gregg Builders managed to get on top of the high water table situation and they did a great job providing a an insulated poly block concrete reinforced basement for us to build the swimming pool in.” The luxurious pool also has in-pool LED lights and an automated, silent, slatted pool cover. “We believe we delivered on the client’s needs and having a custom made, indoor, built in swimming pool with the latest features and ease of use is certainly a special feature in a well-designed home.”
The family love the pool area which includes a spa, TV, and bathroom and is completely enclosed but can be opened up with aluminium sliders and an auto retractable, glass roof. The doors and windows throughout were completed by Monarch Aluminium Joinery and for the firm, this was one of the largest residential builds they have ever completed. Kerry Munro of Monarch says, “There were a number of technical challenges and some unique solutions were crafted during the design and build process. Some of these solutions were so successful that they will be carried forward onto other projects. We are particularly proud of the main entry door, which is a stunning artwork in itself.”
Outside, the importance the clients placed on retaining the beautiful mature trees means the house rests comfortably on the established grounds, brand new but settled as if it’s always been there. Xteriorscapes Landscape Architects were brought in early in the process to provide plans for the landscaping. Having built a great relationship with their clients, they were then engaged to develop the project into full working drawings, planting plans, and to carry out site observation during construction which was completed by Gregg Builders. A standout feature of the property is the beautiful planting on the Wai-iti stream's edge. Chris from Xteriorscapes says, “I think we realised the potential of the stream and the existing trees and shrubs, and this is where we provided the most value to the project. I’m very happy with the connection of the house to the stream, which is a real asset to the property and something the clients can really enjoy now.”
Looking back on the two-and-a-half-year process, foreman project manager Blair thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of a build of this epic scale and the level of detail needed to successfully deliver on the plan. Because of the 900 square metre floor space, even the concrete pour required a novel approach and they effectively treated it as three buildings, pouring each separately. Blair says the project ran incredibly smoothly and he believes that came down to a combination of factors, “the architectural drawings were brilliant with so much detail and we were working with an outstanding team. Also, the owners worked with us every step of the way and had so much knowledge and experience we were constantly problem solving together. I really enjoyed working with the experienced clients, there was never a dull moment.”
Along the way there were some obstacles to overcome. Excavation of the pool in the wet site meant running pumps constantly to drain the water and the installation of motorised glass fins on the exterior had never been done before and kept Blair up at night trying to find a solution. But he says that working closely together meant they were able to solve any issues quickly. “I’m really proud of the results we got for the clients, we built a strong relationship and were able to deliver the project on time. It really shows what good processes and good people can do.”
Having taken delivery of the latest shipment of artworks and objets d'art from their overseas travels, the house they have named Casa Moderno now seems to truly belong to the family. Their new addition, a miniature Schnauzer puppy, is making herself at home too. Their initial desire for the marble spiral staircase has been realised and definitely does not disappoint and the latest technology has been delivered with the 60 solar panels on the roof complete with a battery storage system and the state-of-the-art security and entertainment system, not to mention the separate two and four-car garages to house the impressive stable of luxury cars.
A successful marriage of the historic site and the ultra-modern home is a testament to the vision of the homeowners and the exceptional delivery of the building company as well as all of the tradespeople and contractors who contributed to bringing Casa Moderno to life.
Involved in this project
Gregg Builders Ltd
03 358 6491
Advanced Joinery Ltd
03 348 7700
021 221 2616
Lance Ash Interiors
03 341 7922
Layne Watson Plumbing
0800 150 155
M F Turnbull
03 365 2519
Niveau Pools and Construction
03 329 6098
Vicki Andrews Design
027 222 9596
Xteriorscapes Landscape Architects
021 433 418
Monarch Aluminium Joinery
03 384 9477
Stone and Tile Solutions Limited
027 256 0142
0800 803 932
027 436 4152
03 366 3614
Division Architectural Engineering
03 379 3484
03 338 0909
0508 787 887
Benchtops & Kitchen Stone
03 348 0680
Modern Age Kitchens and Joinery
03 365 1675
Words Anna Scaife Photography Anthony Turnham