Appearances can be deceiving, as the old saying goes. No more so than with Tuatua House in Omaha.
The deceptively bare, entry façade gives no clues to what a visitor can expect to find when they enter. Once inside, this luxurious holiday home opens up into a spacious, entertainer’s paradise. It offers sumptuous sea views from Little Barrier Island to the Takatu Peninsula, as well as a pool and private courtyard area. Mike and Delys Thornton have now spent three Christmases at Tuatua House and couldn’t be happier with their home away from home. They, and their three children, had previously owned a house in the same street in Omaha, but it offered only limited sea views, so when a rare beachfront section came onto the market, they leapt at the opportunity to buy it.
“We wanted to move to get the sea view,” Mike says. “We really wanted to build a family beach house that we could utilise the view, keep us out of the wind and maximise the amount of sun in the afternoon.”
To realise their dream home, they turned to Auckland architect Julian Guthrie, who had designed a number of houses in the area. Although it was a relatively flat section, he says designing houses for Omaha always provides a number of challenges.
“You’ve got the environmental ones, with the wind coming in from multiple directions which you have to consider,” Guthrie explains “and being a beachfront lot, there is a public walkway that runs through the sand dune area between the site and the beach, so you’ve got a reverse privacy problem with pedestrians – who are looking back at the houses – between you and your view.”
Mike and Delys also wanted it to stand out from other properties at the popular beachside destination. “We started with a blank canvas,” Mike says. “We wanted it to be different from other houses in Omaha. I don’t think we changed anything during the design process – we nailed it all down from the start.”
The final design provides a main living area situated at the north end of the site, which opens out onto a westward-facing lawn and pool courtyard. A children’s wing is located at the southern end of the house, while the upper level includes two guest bedrooms as well as the master bedroom.
“From an entertaining perspective, we can open up the whole house,” Mike enthuses. “Wherever the wind is coming from, we can always use some part and it’s actually relatively quiet inside. Another thing about the house is that when you enter the living area, you don’t see another house, whether you look left or right. We don’t feel hemmed in at all.”
Tuatua House is built from bagged concrete block and cedar, with the same materials used both inside and out. Julian explains, “There is no difference in materials between the exterior and interior, so you get this continuous flow. There are a lot of random textures to it, it’s quite casual,” or as Mike puts it, “We didn’t want anything too perfect!” The interior fittings are all purpose built and very durable, while the property also accommodates a large storage space for Mike’s nine metre boat. For Julian, it was a memorable project because of the unusual combination of materials and design solutions. “We have certainly had a lot of comment about this house,” he says. Builder Ryan Bridgens, of Bridgens Construction and Design adds, “having the opportunity to build for Mike and Delys again (having also built their Auckland home), and working with Julian Guthrie on such an architectural home was a real pleasure”. As for Mike, he is delighted that their holiday home has become a popular destination for friends and family, “It’s a bit of a drop in house – and people are constantly dropping in!”