Dare to be different
When Sharon Moore of interiors retailer Nextdore and partner Phil built on the hill above Westmorland, they couldn’t have hoped for a smoother ride with M.O. Brown Builders, providing them with a chance to showcase their outstanding style and flair for interiors.
When you have worked for an interior design firm for over 20 years, it’s easy to forgive becoming complacent about what works well in a home. But for Sharon Moore, General Manager at Nextdore, this was never going to be the case.
“Yes, I’ve worked for Nextdore for 20 years this year! I love interiors. I love the fact that it all starts with a blank canvas, and you can add your personality. You don’t have to have a huge amount of money. You can still make it your own,” says Sharon.
For Sharon and Phil, the project started with the blank canvas of a subdivision, only partially developed when they first saw it. The couple initially didn’t want to build, having poured plenty of love into a total renovation of a house in St Albans the year before. But they also saw the upsides of building new and living on the hill.
“No one can build us out here. We have a reserve at the front of us,” smiles Sharon. “We have 180-degree views, and there’s protection from the easterly wind.”
So how did it all begin? Why the change of heart to build from scratch? It appears the whole concept for the home started with a single table.
“I’d seen a picture of a gorgeous, thick wooden table in a magazine featuring an Otago home,” explains Sharon. “We took that picture to the architect, and he created the home around that. And of course, at the same time maximising the views and dealing with the difficulty of a hill site,” says Sharon.
Once underway with the build process, the couple had no hesitation choosing Mike and his team at M.O. Brown Builders to build their 275 square metre home.
“My sister built with Mike and his team and we work together professionally, so it was an easy decision for us to make when selecting a builder,” states Sharon.
The vast array of awards M.O.Brown Builders have earned over 15 years is a testament to Mike and his team’s expertise. Indeed, this home scooped gold in one of the Canterbury categories for the House of the Year award in 2018.
“This unique four-level home has a beautiful design. My brief was to price up the project as a full ‘start to finish’ build and complete it on time, to budget and of course, to the client’s satisfaction,” says Mike. “I knew Sharon would do a fantastic job with the interiors, so it was a great team collaboration.” Mike has over 30 years’ experience in the building industry and prides himself on excellent workmanship and attention to detail, evident in the finish of this stunning home.
The exterior is immediately striking. James Hardie Stria cladding was the preferred choice of general cladding, painted in a light grey. Designed to withstand the harsh South Island weather conditions, the horizontal ship-lapped joint cladding with its distinctive deep grooves and shadows offers a timeless and enduring look. On approach from the road, your eye is immediately drawn to the characteristic features of the Stria cladding spread across the exterior walls of this home.
Alongside this smooth ‘classic’ look are some elevations of vertical rough-sawn cedar of varying widths and depths in a natural brown tone. These provide high contrast and offer a warm welcome to the home. A feature wall of large format porcelain tile (Xlight Nox Corten Nature 3m x 1m x 3.5mm from the Porcelanosa Group) faces the street. These brown-black tiles with copper glimpses are impressively tall and wide. It was no small undertaking to fix them onto the fibre cement boards on a block substrate, and is undertaken using a suction cup system similar to installing glass. It was all in a day's work for Mike and his team, in conjunction with Sharon's tilers.
“Together, we chose these materials due to their light-weight architectural appearance creating smooth horizontal Stria lines, contrasted by the vertical random depth and width of the rough-sawn cedar,” says Mike. “The Stria cladding is also cost-effective, low maintenance and can be painted any colour with ease.”
As is nearly always the case, there were some challenges along the way, but Mike and the team handled them efficiently, keeping the project on track.
“The house is on a reasonably steep site which inevitably brings challenges, but we enjoy creating unique homes on unique sites. We weren’t phased when we encountered rock at depth during excavation. We always work closely with the designer and engineer to overcome any unforeseen problems,” says Mike.
And as it happens, the rock challenge was a ‘biggie’. With the help of Josh Watkins, Senior Structural Engineer at engineering company Engco, the rock excavation and associated retaining walls were designed and built to accommodate the rock ‘intrusions’.
“We undertook the initial geotechnical investigation of the site, providing recommendations for both the foundation and the retaining wall design, as well as providing structural design of the roof and floor structure, and bracing.” says Josh. “It was a complex retaining wall design due to the different finished floor levels. This meant each wall influenced the design of the wall below. When we hit the rock, we had to provide extra input for the timber pole retaining walls. Through engineering design expertise and collaborative communication, we were able to deliver the most cost-effective solution to make this home a reality.”
What is immediately impressive on entering the home are the long, wide, timber stairs that lead you down to the main living level. They are a prominent feature of the house and pay homage to the steepness of the site. Made from engineered oak, the natural flooring continues throughout the main living areas.
“I love the warmth of wood flooring. We don’t have any heating underneath, and it works beautifully,” says Sharon. The shell of the home complete, Sharon and her team at Nextdore stepped in to start the interior design and fit-out phase.
“I love the fact that Nextdore is not just about the ‘pretty’ stuff,” says Sharon. “We have the product knowledge and technical expertise, so we know what will work where. Our company has 17 interior design consultants on hand, so that was great when I momentarily lost my perspective as the homeowner,” grins Sharon. “It’s good to have trained experts on hand to provide the objectivity you need when working with your own home.”
Nextdore supplied and installed all the flooring, tiling, vanities, soft furnishings, curtains, blinds and headboards. This variety and range is the real point of difference for Nextdore. Originally Dore’s for Floors, the company has been one of Christchurch’s most enduring family businesses, enjoying a reputation for serving customers with respect, expertise and innovation since 1960. Previously known for flooring only, decades later, the company offers so much more than that – hence the change of name post-earthquakes. Nextdore supplies quality interior products, as well as providing an installation service. The company employs interior design consultants and works alongside carpet layers and curtain measurers. For the homeowner, it makes the crafting of the home a seamless and enjoyable experience.
What gives this home its character are these interior statements. It’s the unique and quirky tiles, the flooring and soft furnishing finishes, the timber warmth that make this home stand apart from others. For example, the attention to detail in the pantry, with Copper Brick Bond Mosaic tiles (320 x 298 sheets), laid in a brick format matching the colour of the toaster. The stunning HD Effects Moorish-influenced 200 x 200 Spanish pillow tiles are used as a splashback in the kitchen and the architecturally sophisticated range of Christian Lacroix Canopy wallpapers feature in the bedrooms.
Also impressive are the Luxaflex blinds that are linked to Sharon and Phil’s Alexa system, as well as the light shades in the lounge and dining areas.
“I sourced those felt light shades from overseas. The shape and the fabric are ideal for softening any acoustic bounce in this space,” says Sharon.
It’s knowledge and expertise like this that stands Sharon apart in her field. She knows about textures, colours and design. Another example of this talent is showcased in the master bedroom, which features Mokum Elemental bronze curtains. “These curtains have metal in them. It gives the curtains a unique body and ‘scrunch’ look,” states Sharon.
Another highlight in this home is the laundry. Elevated from the ordinary, this functional space has plenty of personality, with funky hexagonal vinyl plank flooring. The Moods Commercial Vinyl Plank product comes in multiple colours and shapes (herringbone and hexagon being the most popular, but diamond and chevron also feature highly).
“We are lucky enough to have great vinyl tile layers in our team,” says Sharon. “Bryce, for example, has been working for us for 30 years and has incredible expertise in floor laying. He’s done an awesome job here.”
The bathrooms in this home are a real statement in interior design. The Porcelanosa range features widely and with good reason. The company specialises in ceramic, stoneware and porcelain wall and floor tiles as well as all bathroom ware. Krion vanities and benchtops feature in the downstairs WC and upstairs bathrooms.
“I love the dark bathrooms that we’ve created,” says Sharon. “Of course, it’s all about the lights when you have a dark space, but the bathroom furniture is also an essential element of the design.”
The large 50 square metre timber deck sits perched on the home’s northernmost corner, allowing the owners to sit protected in the open air behind the balustrades, explicitly designed to block the high winds. Reuben Raney, from Euroglass, is particularly proud of what they have achieved. “The Euro Anchor balustrade disks were key to designing this windbreak system. They look stunning and provide unobstructed views over Christchurch,” says Reuben. “Euroglass also supplied and installed a Milano post and gate balustrade system, as well as the glass shower screens and mirrors inside the property. It’s always a pleasure to work as part of a great builder-owner team.”
Supporting the project every step of the way, was PlaceMakers Cranford Street, who provided many of the building supplies such as the kwila decking, Pink Batts and Gib linings. Paul Merritt of PlaceMakers Cranford Street trusts in these products and sees them working successfully in New Zealand homes time and again. “It’s great to be able to provide New Zealand made products, where available, and contribute to an awesome home build. As well as the products we provide, we pride ourselves on our placement and timing of deliveries. This was particularly important with Sharon and Phil’s home being on the hill,” says Paul.
It is without a doubt that Sharon and Phil have created an exceptional home. The challenging steep site certainly didn’t make it all plain sailing, but what has been a breeze is the building of a home that is unique and oozes with individuality and style. And the original table that inspired the dream? A stunning wooden table stands pride of place in the kitchen, providing a healthy and robust heart to this warm home.
“I feel like I live in paradise,” smiles Sharon. “When I drive up and come over the crest of the hill, I know I’ve come home. Our build was a delight: Mike, Tom and all the team at M.O. Brown Builders were so easy to work with. We would certainly build again.”
Involved in this project
M.O.Brown Builders Ltd
027 439 2527
Tilling, Flooring, Soft Furnishings, Curtains and Blinds
03 366 9400
03 366 7955
PlaceMakers Cranford Street
03 375 4119
0800 808 868
03 943 8700
Words Kathy Catton Photography Sarah Rowlands