Homage To The Past Creates Heirloom For The Future

Wāpu Gables, the luxurious coast-meets-rustic/industrial themed three-bedroom home on the edge of the Mangawhai Estuary that featured recently on Grand Designs, proves elusive to spot from a distance.

When it appeared as a super-scaled media star on TV, with its huge exposed and reclaimed wooden trusses in the Great Room living area and courtyard, you’d think this addition to Back Bay estate would say ‘Here I am!’.

It didn’t though and that’s the highest praise you can give the design team including the owners – that Wāpu Gables, on land measuring 3139sqm and house 325sqm, sits sensitively within the landscape. 

The synergy that owners Patty and Geoff Coley enjoyed with architectural designer Frank Stanton from Dream Planning and builder Nick Smith from Smith Construction, has resulted in a beautiful thing and a home Nick describes as ‘heirloom’. 

The Coleys admired this site for years before buying it in 2012. They holidayed across the estuary and when kayaking around the bay often tied up to its jetty wharf and imagined living here, and following a thorough, thoughtful planning and build process that has taken just under five years, the family moved in last May. 

The jetty wharf (wāpu in Maori) informed the name of the home and the design was inspired by the lines of a boatshed. Four side-by-side gable pitch roof pavilions are linked by a network of steel structures that support the reclaimed materials, and two external steel portal frames anchor the design, with one at the entrance and one framing the magnificent estuary view.

The home’s visual theme was decided by the materials selected by Geoff and Patty. Wanting a special place, it was a chance introduction to a demolition and recycled materials specialist, Mike Uttinger, that truly sealed the home’s uniqueness.  

The 100-year-old reclaimed trusses were part of an old ferry wharf; the old steel metal plates with their pitted, weathered effects came from cyanide holding tanks and bind the trusses and feature in bespoke furniture pieces; the bricks are pre-World War II and the recycled rimu internal cladding also came from 100-year-old buildings.

The Great Room wall height measuring 2.9m with trusses above could have felt imposing but simply inspires. Owning a hospitality hire business,- the Coleys understand what makes entertaining spaces work and Patty’s flair has ensured sublime interior design throughout.  

Patty and Geoff basically knew the form their home would take - plenty of house and plenty of outside space for adults and extended family to live and play. The best of projects have constraints and Frank says designing and achieving the form of building the Coleys dreamt of in the space available was the perfect challenge.

“Building restriction controls really narrowed the site, the water table level directly below only just allowed buried water tanks to fit, and working with irregularities and imperfections of recycled materials is always testing.”

“The design came down to the inch and we’re extremely happy with the result,” says Frank. “Capturing that view while forming beautiful living environments and experiences with easy flow between spaces inside and out was essential.”   

For Patty and Geoff, it’s the reclaimed rafters and how all the recycled materials blend, that gives them the most pleasure. “Everything here has a story, has a history, and that’s what makes it so special.”



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