House of the week: Luxurious Coromandel retreat gallery video

It's definitely luxurious, but this Coromandel retreat still has a bit of a DOC-hut vibe.

Steve Joynes' original vision for his family's holiday home was a simple one: "I wanted something really cheap and small – like a hut," says the Hamilton-based builder, before cracking up with laughter. Needless to say, things didn't quite work out that way. But the luxurious retreat he's built, surrounded by native bush in the Coromandel, does evoke the spirit of a particularly sleek Department of Conservation hut.

The house is one of just a few properties on a protected subdivision in Mahakirau in the Coromandel Ranges. The isolated site appealed to Steve, who spent a lot of time in the bush with his mates as a kid. "There's seven or eight kilometres of road and only 24 properties," he says. "So you have to go quite deep into the bush to get to where you want to be. And then all around you is state forest. It backs onto the kauri sanctuary, which is 400 mature kauri, one of the last big stands in the Coromandel. They're pretty impressive – we've been in there with one of the local iwi." 

Homeowners here are considered caretakers of the land. When Steve and his wife Linda are here, they spend a lot of their time clearing tracks (they have so far built more than 100m of boardwalks and stairs) as well as helping out with pest control in order to preserve the local kiwi population. "I got my first stoat on the weekend," says Steve proudly. "I love nature, so it's nice to give it a hand."

Looking through Steve and Linda Joynes’ Coromandel holiday home to the views from the east-facing deck; Steve built the ...
TESSA CHRISP

Looking through Steve and Linda Joynes’ Coromandel holiday home to the views from the east-facing deck; Steve built the house himself.

Steve and Linda look after 12ha. Their home sits in a clearing on an elevated ridge, overlooking what Linda refers to as the "never-ending view of the valley". Clad in a combination of cedar and black Colorsteel, the three-bedroom house almost disappears into the bush that surrounds it, but for the twinkling lights glimpsed through the enormous picture windows and the soaring cedar-lined entranceway. 

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The couple designed the house in collaboration with architectural designer Noel Jessop, who Steve has worked with for years. "We wanted to build something that suited the environment," says Steve. "I like doing something really different; something that you can't do on a normal section."  

To him, that meant using wood anywhere and everywhere he possibly could. "The idea was, when you're looking out, all you can see is the timber and the bush," says Steve. "But even Noel said I was putting too much timber in it – until he saw it finished." 

He reckons his affinity for timber is in part because he uses it every day, but also because it's natural. "Anything that comes out of the ground has got a really nice feeling to it and it's a pleasure to be around. Plus, the cedar has a lovely smell. When you walk in it's like, 'Oh, sweet, I'm here.'"

Steve Joynes mans the smoker as Linda chats to daughter Amy (son Taylor is away studying drama in Wellington).
TESSA CHRISP

Steve Joynes mans the smoker as Linda chats to daughter Amy (son Taylor is away studying drama in Wellington).

Steve did most of the building himself, taking Thursdays and Fridays off to work on the house for the first eight months or so, and after that doing some fine-tuning at the weekends.

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He put a lot of thought into the details, trying to create a sense of history in the new house. He scoured eBay for mid-century Danish light fittings for months before the build even started. He bought and built furniture, including a couch to complement the two retro armchairs beside the fire in the living room, and he filled the wooden shelves with all the toys he said his parents never bought him.

"Stuff that my cousins had, like little steam engines. It's cool if little kids come up there now because I get them out and get to play with them. And I found an old doll Linda loved when she was a kid."

The steel grille front doorstep is designed to prevent gravel from the driveway being brought indoors; there is always a ...
TESSA CHRISP

The steel grille front doorstep is designed to prevent gravel from the driveway being brought indoors; there is always a line-up of gumboots, as well as spray and scrubbing brushes to help stop the spread of kauri dieback.

Steve reckons it's important to put yourself into a project. "Trust your own instincts. Heaps of people will tell you, 'Do this, or don't do that,' but if it's a holiday place and it's for you, do what you like," he says. "That's why this one has come up so well."

"As soon as you walk into it, you just relax. You can't not. It's away from everyone, so it's like our little escape. It's so busy in Hamilton, my phone's always ringing, but here I never even answer it. If someone rings my phone and they're not a friend 

I just ignore it. A lot of the time I even ignore my friends' phone calls," he says with a laugh. 

The couple spend hours in front of the Warmington Studio woodburner in the kitchen; on the shelves are old treasures ...
TESSA CHRISP

The couple spend hours in front of the Warmington Studio woodburner in the kitchen; on the shelves are old treasures including Steve’s grandmother’s Crown Lynn dinnerware, and a red and white ice crusher.

"It's like a little hideaway. A lot of our friends go up there and use it, just to have a break. Everyone just loves it. You can't hear anything, it's just birds and silence." 

Q&A:

Our favourite way to entertain: Is to take people for a walk on the boardwalk down to the stream, searching for native frogs and walking to the waterfalls. 

One of the views from the master bedroom; the couple planted flax and kowhai for the birds but the rest of the bush is ...
TESSA CHRISP

One of the views from the master bedroom; the couple planted flax and kowhai for the birds but the rest of the bush is regenerating after being cleared for subdivision.

This weekend we will be: Heading down the tracks, checking traps and bait stations.

Best moments in the garden: When our plants started attracting native birds; then at night the bugs attract the morepork and we get to see them up close. 

Best seat in the house: We couldn't choose between the kitchen, lounge and bedroom windows, all looking down the valley into the distance.

Steve’s old toy collection in the entrance hallway includes electric and steam trains, a Jabberwocky and a nurse puppet ...
TESSA CHRISP

Steve’s old toy collection in the entrance hallway includes electric and steam trains, a Jabberwocky and a nurse puppet like one Linda had as a child.

Our favourite local restaurant: There is so much on offer. Pepper Tree in Coromandel, Flock in Tairua, Hot Water Brewing Co and Salt in Whitianga and Luke's Kitchen in Kuaotunu.

Steve Joynes 

Steve built the main bathroom shelving: “It’s just a holiday place, we don’t need cabinets.”
TESSA CHRISP

Steve built the main bathroom shelving: “It’s just a holiday place, we don’t need cabinets.”

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Steve built the bed base and bench seating in the master bedroom; there are sunscreen and blackout blinds on tracks in ...
TESSA CHRISP

Steve built the bed base and bench seating in the master bedroom; there are sunscreen and blackout blinds on tracks in all the bedrooms though they’re not needed (“I like waking up as the sun comes up: I’m a builder, I’m always up early,” says Steve).

The bath in the en suite is always stocked with candles and bath salts.
TESSA CHRISP

The bath in the en suite is always stocked with candles and bath salts.

One of two guest rooms; the bars on the deck are perfectly spaced to allow guests to enjoy the view, but they provide ...
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One of two guest rooms; the bars on the deck are perfectly spaced to allow guests to enjoy the view, but they provide privacy when viewed on an angle from the living room and deck.

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The first boardwalk Steve built, which leads to the outdoor bath.
TESSA CHRISP

The first boardwalk Steve built, which leads to the outdoor bath.

Looking into the house and back through the front door; these mid-century pendants are probably Steve’s favourites.
TESSA CHRISP

Looking into the house and back through the front door; these mid-century pendants are probably Steve’s favourites.

The outdoor bath has instant gas hot water; Steve and Linda occasionally spend the night in the day bed when the ...
TESSA CHRISP

The outdoor bath has instant gas hot water; Steve and Linda occasionally spend the night in the day bed when the weather’s good: “You don’t get mozzies up here but you do get heaps of other bugs,” says Steve.

The views from the deck outside the guest rooms: “The drive in is really cool, all winding, just amazing bush with ...
TESSA CHRISP

The views from the deck outside the guest rooms: “The drive in is really cool, all winding, just amazing bush with twists and drop-offs on all sides, so there’s that wow factor, but then you come into the house and come around the corner – the biggest one is the view,” says Steve.

Sunrise on the living room deck, looking east towards Whitianga and Hot Water Beach.
TESSA CHRISP

Sunrise on the living room deck, looking east towards Whitianga and Hot Water Beach.

The glow from the entrance at dusk; the house is clad in a mixture of cedar boards and Colorsteel to keep costs down but ...
TESSA CHRISP

The glow from the entrance at dusk; the house is clad in a mixture of cedar boards and Colorsteel to keep costs down but out every window you only see cedar: “I wanted a maintenance-free house because it is a holiday house,” says Steve.

The gravel driveway references the area’s metal roads, and Steve poured the retaining walls to look like they’ve just ...
TESSA CHRISP

The gravel driveway references the area’s metal roads, and Steve poured the retaining walls to look like they’ve just risen out of the gravel.

 - NZ House & Garden

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