Bill and Linda Wallace chose their location partly because of the moon and its enduring beauty. Watching it rise out of the sea, ots beams spearing over the water, is a sight they found irresistible, so they built a house on a location to ensure nothing would be between them and that nightly grandeur.
As you enter their domain, towards Farewell Spit around the shoreline of Golden Bay, you are already in a special part of New Zealand, but as you climb the drive to the Wallace home at Pakawau, you arrive at one of the most breathtaking expanses imaginable - as far as the eye can see from the Takaka hills to the flat, long and lean stretch of Farewell Spit and the magnificent bay of seawater that fills the vastness in between.
In no hurry, they took the time to determine house matters and questioned whether to expand their existing home, a consideration that cost $10,000 in architectural fees for plans they subsequently abandoned. Then, with a new build determined, they searched their hectares to find nature's most perfect spot.
"We came looking at this knob at different times of the year and at different times of the day and, as we walked around, I noticed this area was a lot warmer, the temperatures were significantly higher, it was protected from the cool evening breeze in the creek and it had less wind," recalls Linda.
"We'd bought the land in the early 1980s and built a first house down the bottom of the land, but moved back to Nelson while the kids went through high school.
"When we returned, we decided to build up here. It has a fantastic view," says Bill.
Mates call him "Wal", and when he talks, the similarities are plain to hear. For this chap, life is pretty straight up and down. If you say you're going to do something, then that's how it will be. So when he told Linda she could build a new house with a budget of $650,000, that was the deal.
"There was a time we couldn't afford to put anything on the concrete floor or over the gib walls," says Bill.
"So when we could afford it, I felt I owed Linda.
"This is Linda's thing. She project managed it. She did it all."
Linda knew what she wanted and took her ideas to an architect. It was stepping into unknown territory and Bill is still amazed at aspects he discovered.
"Most architects wanted an open chequebook, but John McDougall, of McDougall Architecture, gave us a fixed price. He told us what he would do and how much it would cost and that was what we were looking for.
"One architect said it would cost between $25,000 and $40,000.
"Well, how long is a piece of string? You can't do business like that. I never would."
The couple have high praise for McDougall, who put Linda's dreams on paper.
"I wanted as many natural features as we could use - bridge beams, rusty steel, but with a contemporary look.
"The breezeway was a big thing for me. We have a lot of wind in summer, so I wanted a place where we could eat outside out of the wind. We have breakfast outside a lot, so it was important.
"I wanted the house to be low and flat and definitely not two storeys, snuggled into the knob, so you didn't notice it from the road.
"I wanted decent-sized bedrooms and living area, enough room for each of us to do our own thing," Linda says.
The office had to have a window overlooking the sea, so Bill could check on the mussel farms.
The house took a year to build. It has 280 square metres of living, with a further 100sqm of decking.
"The best thing was living on site as it was built. I knew nothing, so I stumbled along making decisions as the build progressed, but the builders were very good.
"When they wanted to line the steel and concrete inside, I was on site to stop them."
When Linda saw the effect of the concrete walls and exposed raw bolts in a guest toilet, she had them left, uncovered, in their raw state, much to the chagrin of the builders.
Mild steel sheeting surrounding a wood stove was "treated" by the couple by spraying saltwater on the sheets, leaving it to react over time to rust before rubbing it with linseed to stop the corrosion and ensure rust didn't rub off on unsuspecting guests' clothes.
The effect is unique, accentuated by bolts affixing the steel to the walls. Plans included 200mm square bridge beams, but the Wallaces sourced even bigger 300mm square beams from the Karamea road bridge, which provide a natural and textured look.
Linda is full of praise for local builder Richard Green. Using his engineering background, he designed and organised the Corten steel panels for the guest apartment, and incorporated the bridge beams into the breezeway.
"He would arrive at 7.30 in the morning with sketches and ideas he had come up with during the night, and we really appreciated his enthusiasm and professionalism," Linda says.
"I always knew I would make the interior white," says Linda. "In our old house, I had a lot of colour, but I didn't want anything to detract from this view."
The joinery is silver and the roof sandstone in colour. Sliders open the house to the breezeway and the front decking. The main living kitchen area, master bedroom, ensuite, guest bathroom, office, garage and extra bedroom are in one wing separated by the breezeway from what is effectively a self-contained apartment, with a bathroom, kitchenette, living area and two bedrooms.
"I love the bath and shower outside. We bathe there all through the year. It's just amazing to lie in it and look up at the moon," says Linda. The composite stone bath retains the heat, so is perfect for bathing outside.
Another delight is the gourmet wood-fired cooker from Australia. Via a wetback, it heats the water, providing underfloor heating.
"I cook on it all the time," says Linda. "It's got an oven. We use it from May till October."
For this fit and outdoors couple, the house on the hill is everything they envisaged. Bill's helicopter is parked in a hangar just below, so for him going to work is a pleasant stroll down the hill. Linda spends most days in the huge garden, planting, weeding and nurturing, expanding it further and further from the house.
"The knob used to be covered in pine trees, so we've planted every native on it," she says.
"It's very special here. It's our paradise. It's warm inside in the winter with the fire, but, of course, the climate here in Golden Bay is fantastic. I wouldn't really care if I never went overseas again. You could never better this."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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