Forever Home

Hackneyed phrases such as ‘pillars of the community’ spring to mind when writing about Robin and Simon Barclay. Not to mention ‘park-like grounds’ in connection with their Matakana home. But in this case, both are true. 

The couple are actively involved with Matakana’s community group, the community gardens, local events and fundraising. And their rolling lawns, fringed with oaks and poplars, are indeed reminiscent of an English estate; the trees provide seasonal splendours which nourish Simon’s British sensibilities.

The couple met at Greenlane Hospital in the early eighties where Simon was a GP and Robin a cardiology technician. They’d been living on Takatu Peninsula since 1995 but in 2015 they found a property closer to Matakana which embodied everything they loved. A week later, they’d bought it and decided to tackle their first proper build. 

It began in mid-2016. The existing bungalow was removed, and the landscape thoroughly re-shaped. The pair drove around spotting things they liked about houses they saw, and noted cladding, rooflines, joinery and gardens. 

They found photos of an Australian house they loved, with deep verandahs, high ceilings and dignified cornices (a nod to their Auckland villa days). There were two distinct wings. “We wanted to be able to close one end of the house down and open it up when necessary for visitors and family,” explains Robin. They also wanted sustainability in the design: double-glazing, super-insulation and a whopping solar array on the garage.

Architectural designer Martin Harmish got the job. “He was very calm and everything seemed to happen exactly when he said it would,” she remembers, a little wonderingly. The builders – Mark Aley and his team from Outline Construction – were similarly effective. Even so, the huge build took a year from beginning to end.

The interior design is unashamedly feminine. “Well, every time  I asked Simon his opinion on something, he said, ‘Don’t ask me, that’s above my pay grade!’” says Robin. But her long-time friend Steve Elliston was an excellent mentor and a gifted TradeMe detective – the chandeliers were among his many finds. 

“I really just started with some gorgeous wallpaper,” Robin confesses, “and it kind of went on from there.” The paper featured cherry blossoms with different colourways – into the bedrooms it went. The hall is elegantly exuberant in wide Tiffany-blue and white stripes. Robin got lucky: “I found it online for $US10 a roll!” 

A bunch of simple blown-glass globes by Luke Jacomb are the perfect foil to the lush collection of ceramics and glass art (Virginia Leonard, Dominic Burrell, Vicki Fanning, Liz Sharek and more) on the entrance hall tables. 


The huge open-plan lounge and kitchen (dubbed ‘The Great Hall’ by the builders for its airy proportions and trussed ceiling), is perfect for entertaining. But Simon and Robin were perfectly cosy over winter in the little TV snug and are looking forward to living mostly on the verandah again this summer. 

“The covered deck is probably my favourite feature of the house,” admits Simon. “That and the boiling water tap – instant tea! Marvellous!” Robin loves the big window-seat and the views from the bedroom. “We’ve watched the ducklings on the pond grow up this spring,” she says with a smile. 

But for both, the gardens (designed by internationally-renowned landscape architect Andy Hamilton, who happens to be the son of one of Robin’s oldest friends) are where they’re truly happy. When the visitors are gone, it’s the wildflowers and roses, orchard and raised veggie beds, the little potting shed, the compost heaps and happy chooks which feed their souls. Their beautiful home is just the icing on the cake.

Architect Designer: Martin Harmish / 425 9913

Builders: Outline Construction / Mark Aley - 021 543 868

Kitchen / Shelving: Parklane / Kerry Dobbyn - 425 9095

Joinery: Elite Windows – 422 2020

Plumber: Rick Chapman - 4229225

Flooring: Floorex Wellsford - 423 7139

Electrician: Tui Electrical / Duncan Powell - 022 6011 458