A fortuitous seating arrangement at a conference years ago led to Ian and Annie Frame’s decision to build an eHaus, while a chance drive-by revealed the perfect place to build it.
“Years ago I was sitting next to a lady at a conference and she was telling me about her eHaus,” Annie recalls. The conversation stuck with Annie. She’d lost a friend to ill-health at 35, and wanted a healthier living environment. “Ever since then I always thought I would like to build an eHaus. Years later, on a drive up to New Plymouth to visit our son, we went past an eHaus sign in Whanganui. I jotted down the contact details and that’s how we got started.” The site was a one acre lot at The Paddocks on the outskirts of Oakura, nestled between the Kaitake Range and Tasman Sea.
Annie’s husband Ian was originally an engineer, and she wasn’t sure he would go for the eHaus concept. Though the building costs are at the higher end of the range, “but still within the range,” says Ian, he could see the sense in the concept.
“You get a house with a healthy environment — there’s no condensation, no mould and negligible heating costs. It made sense to build this way. I like that you can control the humidity levels and the little things you notice, like the bedding is always dry.”
He adds that if you have a cold house, the best thing you can do to improve the internal environment is to dry it out and then heat it. “Dry houses are much easier to heat — and to cool too. That’s because you don’t have to heat or cool all that moisture.
There are two levels of eHaus and because Taranaki is classed as a warm temperate climate, the Frames went for the least stringent model. They also opted for natural materials like oiled cedar cladding, Taranaki river stone pillars, natural linen curtains, wool carpet and wood floors that float on concrete.
“We also tried to keep the master bedroom area as clear of wiring and power points as possible to minimize electrical interference and provide a calm sleeping zone.”
The house interior design was modelled on a Chicago home Annie found on HOUZZ, the home design website.
Consisting basically of two rectangles joined at an angle, the layout gives an effective separation to the master suite and guest wing, with the living area partly juxtaposed in the middle.
There are a total of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, an extra shower and a third toilet.
At the front door visitors are offered a tantalising glimpse through the house to the QEll National Trust bush reserve the section directly overlooks, and the sea beyond. Once the front door is opened, the full beauty of the view is framed by a large picture window, giving a dramatic, yet welcoming entry to the home.
“It’s why we chose this site,” says Ian. “That view can never be built out. Often people spend a lot of money on their houses but not so much on the section. If you’re going to build your dream home, why not spend more on getting the right site?” he asks.
“There are not many sub-divisions that are one acre blocks,” he observes. “We have lived on smaller plots and larger ones, and have concluded about one acre is the perfect size. We like having neighbours, but one acre gives you the space to do what you want.”
Elevated ceilings and full length doors give a feeling of height, space and openness. A raked ceiling in the living area and two outdoor living spaces add to the overall effect.
To the right of the front door is the master suite, with bedroom, walk-in wardrobe and en suite. To the left is the kitchen and dining area, and beyond that, the lounge. Two semi-walls separate the entranceway and dining area, and the dining area from the lounge. These structures don’t go all the way to the adjacent exterior wall, thereby adding to the feeling of spaciousness that abounds throughout the home.
On one side of the house is a barbecue area and kitchen garden, where Annie grows her own fresh vegetables and herbs. Salads and drinks can be passed out through the lay-back bi-fold windows of the kitchen. On the other side of the house two lay-back bi-fold doors open out completely to a deck where Ian and Annie can enjoy a drink while watching the sun set into the sea, something they have done many times already. “It’s a lot calmer here than in Wellington,” Ian notes, “both places get the wind, but it’s much less gusty here.”
With the two outdoor areas, it doesn’t matter which direction the wind is blowing, the Frames can utilise either outdoor area accordingly.
Near where the two ‘rectangles’ join is a secondary entranceway to the house. This entrance opens directly into to the ‘mud room’ and the 80sm garage, with laundry storage room, and a separate toilet nearby.
The mud room is a place you can take off dirty gumboots and dripping raincoats before entering the house. Another door from the garage offers ready access to a washing line and wood stack cleverly sheltered by the eaves of the house.
Annie loves the laundry simply because it has been so well-designed and there is a place for everything, making it a pleasure to use.
There is also a cupboard concealing ‘the eHaus machine’ which drives everything in the house. On the wall in the hallway is a small control panel.
Fresh air is drawn into the unit from outside the house, dehumidified and then heated by the warm air going out. The fresh air is then sent to the bedrooms and living areas, and is returned to the unit via the kitchen and bathrooms. This simple exchange of air maintains a constant warm temperature and controls humidity without getting that dryness from an overly air-conditioned environment. Smells are also expelled, resulting in an optimum living environment 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“I have to make sure I always have a coat in the car,” explains Annie, “as I forget the temperature outside won’t be the same as in.”
Ian confirms, “this house is so comfortable in winter, the real challenge being to avoid too much solar gain in summer. We handle that by adjusting the eHaus machine and opening some doors and windows if necessary.”
On the opposite side of the hallway is the grandchildren’s room, or ‘foxes’ den’ as the Frames have dubbed it, because of the wallpaper and unusual room shape caused by the junction. At the end of the house is the guest wing with two double bedrooms, full bathroom, and an extra shower.
It’s no surprise to hear that in addition to family the Frames have hosted ten guest visits in the eight months they have lived in their new home.
“Some of our friends could really understand why we shifted to Taranaki, but they understand now after visiting us,” smiles Annie.
Annie worked with interior designer, Margaret Milne, to instill an earthy organic feel throughout, with layerings of gentle colours. “Margaret really understood us from the first meeting – she was very easy to work with and the choices were made quickly due to her appreciation of what we were trying to achieve.”
Australian spotted gum floorboards team with grasscloth wallpaper on the north and south walls of the living area, while the east and west walls are painted a neutral cream.
In the bedrooms, the Frames turned what could have been a faux pas, into a winning design feature. Due to a mix up with the repeat pattern, they under-ordered the wallpaper, in two rooms, so papered only three of the four walls and painted the remaining wall a complimentary colour.
“I think we ended up with a better result,” observes Ian.
The Frames came to New Plymouth through a process of elimination.
“We had always agreed to go to a provincial centre once we didn’t have to be in Wellington,” says Ian. “We always thought that place would be Nelson as Annie is originally from there, but both our sons live in the North Island and Cook Strait is a barrier.”
One son lives in Wellington, while the other lives in Taranaki, so the Frames started looking round New Plymouth.
“We wanted a decent airport and hospital, and those key amenities.”
They also wanted a place warmer than Wellington.
“New Plymouth actually has higher sunshine hours than Napier — not many people realise that. It also has 70% more rainfall, but as a gardener, I think that’s fantastic. You also don’t have the humidity of Auckland.”
He also loves the wind.
“All that fresh air has got to be healthy for you.”
Now two years into his retirement, Ian wanted to have plenty of activities on offer.
“I wanted a place where I could wake up in the morning and have half a dozen easy options for what to do with each day. I love gardening, walking, bush walks, swimming, fishing and golfing and here we’re 300 metres from Egmont National Park, 1500 metres to the beach, 800 metres to the golf course, 600 metres to a white-baiting river, and we don’t have to tow the boat too far.
“I love looking out the window and seeing productive farmland,” Ian says of the organic dairy farm that neighbours The Paddocks.
“This is like real New Zealand to me” adds Annie. “I love that Taranaki hasn’t been taken over by vineyards and wineries as has happened in some other parts of New Zealand.”
After leading very corporate lives in Wellington, the Frames are enjoying growing their own vegetables and embracing the Taranaki lifestyle.
“People think New Plymouth is off the beaten track, but it’s not.”
Ian also knew a little bit about New Plymouth as he was brought up in Wanganui and boarded at NPBHS.
“I knew New Plymouth had a good culture and not all provincial cities do.”
He puts this down to the strong local economy and the fact that while a lot of young people leave Taranaki for education, travel and work opportunities, once they get married and think about having a family, many are drawn back to New Plymouth.
“This gives the region a strong supply of young people, with international experiences, returning here and looking for new opportunities to contribute to the economy and develop their own businesses,” he believes. “This will underpin the community for a long time to come.”
The couple have lived in their house for eight months now and love the result.
“I enjoy living on just one level,” says Ian. “Living in Wellington, our home was on four levels. I used to park the car in the garage and then climb three flights of stairs to get to my office. Now it’s connected and on the same level. And we love having space both inside and out.”
Each section at The Paddocks is roughly an acre in size, with five sections at 3-4 acres.
“The location is fabulous. We’ve never lived so close to a surf beach before — you can hear the surf from here and be there in a few minutes.”
Annie wondered if she would miss the city life “but now I often don’t even feel like going into New Plymouth.”
“I like the drive to and from town,” says Ian. “I find it therapeutic driving through the countryside for 10 minutes each way.”
Having a home custom-made to their needs is another major plus. It’s the little things like having an office close to the kitchen, having their master bedroom area at one end of the house and the guest wing at the other.
“I love the entranceway,” says Annie, “and the kitchen is awesome to work in. Thoughtful things like the drawers for the plates and cups being right by the dishwasher — it is so easy to unload.”
“Mike’s been great,” comments Ian, of The Paddocks’ developer Mike McKie.
“He’s been really helpful through the whole process.”
Each section at The Paddocks receives gas, electricity, fibre optic internet, town sewer and town water.
“A lot of the time when you buy a rural section, all those costs are additional.
“We also get our rubbish collected and mail delivered. Basically all the services of living in a city, but with a rural lifestyle.”
The Frames hosted The Paddocks’ annual Christmas get-together last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.
“There’s a good mix of older couples and dynamic young families,” says Ian.
“We’re really pleased we came here.”
The kitchen island features a Ceasar Stone bench, and Annie enjoys the ease of using the Schwan filtered water tap featuring instant boiling water. “No more boiling the kettle.” They also have a recycling drawer for easy recycling, and a drawer for plastic crockery for the grandchildren.
Words Irena Brooks Photos Roger Richardson