Leigh House

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The north elevation of this house near Leigh.

The north elevation of this house near Leigh. Image: Samuel Hartnett

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The kitchen and dining area.

The kitchen and dining area. Image: Samuel Hartnett

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The open-plan living area opens up to decking along the north side of the house.

The open-plan living area opens up to decking along the north side of the house. Image: Samuel Hartnett

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The master bedroom with stairs leading to the mezzanine space at the far end.

The master bedroom with stairs leading to the mezzanine space at the far end. Image: Samuel Hartnett

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The south elevation and entry porch.

The south elevation and entry porch. Image: Samuel Hartnett

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Kylie Sanderson and Martin Purnell’s beach house perches on top of a hill about halfway between Leigh and Pakiri Beach. It has expansive views of the Hen and Chicken Islands and Little Barrier and is one of those homes where you can see the weather rolling in towards you; the “clouds actually go straight through the house sometimes,” Purnell says.

The kitchen and dining area. Image:  Samuel Hartnett

Sanderson purchased the land with her previous partner a few years back, and had it for a while before she built on it. The house sits on six acres. Most of the land is hilly and rolls away behind the house. Sanderson likes mid-century modern architecture, both in California and work by New Zealand’s Group Architects. This drove the overall shape of the house, especially the mono-pitch roof. She also wanted every room to have a view. Her brother, Sean Sanderson, who works at Eclipse Architecture, designed the house. He works mainly on commercial projects, but also does a few residential jobs for family and friends. He was keen on one form for the house; “it is sort of an idea of a permanent tent or caravan, or something that is still a bit holidayish,” he says.

The entryway to the house opens into the living space. If you turn one way you reach two guest bedrooms (one of which can transform to a study or sitting room with the cunning use of sliding doors) and a bathroom, and in the other direction is the main bedroom and ensuite with a loft area above.

Purnell hails from Wales and for him the home is a retreat from the working week in Auckland city where he can have the ‘River Cottage’ dream: “if you come up here in about eighteen months I will have goats and pigs and will be going down to Pakiri to catch my supper,” he says. Sanderson is the owner of the Sanderson Gallery in Parnell, so it is no surprise that the house holds a stack of beautiful pieces. Most of the walls are white (‘About Colour’ in Newmarket helped find just the right shade), which is a great backdrop to the work, but two of the bedrooms have a hint of colour: one is an eggshell blue and the other, pistachio. The American Oak floor also adds warmth to the space.

Sanderson was the project manager for the build, which helped to keep the costs down “because it was my money; so I was willing to shop around,” she says. She has made some savvy purchases, including the kitchen cabinetry which she bought from TradeMe and bathroom tiles that were $1 a sheet. The couple have a good mix of furniture; in their bedroom Kartell side tables (also a TradeMe find) sit next to a Freedom Furniture table and the re-upholstered living room suite was a second-hand find from a store in Ngaruawahia.

They were recently married on the front lawn of the house, with Purnell’s family coming to stay from Wales. This put the house to the test and was a great opportunity for Kylie and her brother to see it in action. “It just felt nice. It was a great christening for the house, it really was,” Sean says.

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