Big On Beauty

Words by  Irena Brooks
Kym Raubenheimer Kym Raubenheimer

2022 Taranaki House of the Year

Built by friends, for friends, the Central North Island 2022 Registered Master Builders’ House of the Year was always going to be a warm and welcoming haven for entertaining.

It’s the second Regional Supreme Award relatively new building company Petersen & Barnes has built and sets an imposing ‘two for two’ record after winning the title in 2020 as well – which also went on to win the national category title.

The clients wanted large and luxurious and they certainly got what they asked for.

Set on a 1500m2 section, the house boasts floorspace of 425m2, with four bedrooms and two living areas plus 250m2 of deck space for the ultimate in outdoor living.

With a strong connection to the local community, the owners bought the Bell Block section five years ago and spent time considering the best site and aspect for the house.

The location suited them perfectly, handy to town and beaches with expansive views to the sea, Port Taranaki and mountain with a bush reserve on one side providing privacy. 

Their previous home had all the living upstairs overlooking the sea, but they wanted to have the living area integrated with outdoors so that it was easy to watch the kids as they played.

With considerable experience in the property and real estate sector, the couple had banked plenty of ideas and innovations they had seen in other homes.

“By the time it came to get the house designed, we knew pretty much exactly what was going to go where.”


Meanwhile, the owners encouraged good friends Mal Barnes and Sam Petersen to form their own business. “We didn’t want anyone else to build our dream home,” the wife states.

It was one of the first projects the fledgling building company took on after forming in 2018.

Another good friend, Sacha Bull (Sam’s sister) was the architect for the project.

“Growing up we’d been best friends with Sam, Sacha and Mal. Knowing how clever she was we didn’t even consider anyone else,” says the husband. “She was awesome … she came to the site early on, listened to us… and we listened to her. She was strong with her beliefs on what we needed … she’d let us know if she thought there was a better way of doing things.”

For example, the bulletproof structure of the house, windows were placed perfectly to maximise views and keep glazing costs down and the stairwell was tucked out of the way so it doesn’t impede on views.

“She was also great at making sure there was that cross-ventilation so that everything was natural air. We’ve got air con upstairs but we’ve never used it because the airflow in the house is so good.”

Annika and Brad Rowson of Rowson Kitchens, are also close friends of the couple, and did the kitchen design and joinery, as well as the laundry and bathrooms.

“As soon as Annika walked in, she knew exactly what our tastes were and everything we said she just brought it to life. It was a seamless relationship … we were really lucky with the people we worked with.”

“Being good friends helped so much … we can have a laugh together and trust each other. Then my brother, he was a builder for 20 years, he was really good too with his knowledge, we were able to bounce a lot of ideas off him.”


Construction started a few months before the first Covid lockdown and finished in Sept 2021.

As soon as the owners and builders heard a whisper about potential lockdowns, they ordered everything they would need.

“To get that cedar cladding now, at selected lengths, we wouldn’t have been able to build that house today,” Mal Barnes reflects. “We were lucky we got everything when we did.”

The tiles were a happy coincidence as the ones the clients chose didn’t arrive and the supplier wasn’t sounding confident. So another tile was chosen that was available and the clients were really happy with the finished product. In fact, their three bathrooms were collectively awarded the 2022 Taranaki Bathroom of the Year.

During the build, the positioning of quite a few of the windows was changed to improve outlooks in some areas, and privacy in others.

The staircase was originally designed to have a glass balustrade but the owners have young children and weren’t keen on the prospect of having to clean the glass all the time. 

Instead, all parties collectively designed a balustrade with feature steelwork, that also worked as an internal louvre, giving privacy to the staircase. It solved two issues, with one clever bit of thinking.

The cedar on the exterior has been continued inside the house with seamless precision.

“We said to the boys, ‘That looks so cool, why don’t we do some more?’ Sometimes it was a bit of a friendly debate, then some of the things we wanted to do weren’t perfect and they helped correct us, so we worked together like that,” says the husband.

“Sacha did a lot of research to ensure the stain could be replicated on the inside with an appropriate stain that didn’t give off toxins and was safe.”

“Mal and Sam treated this build like their own home with the passion and pride they and their team put into it,” the owners say. “It’s like their baby. I’m sure some our requests were a nightmare for the guys (Sam and Mal) but luckily they had the skills, knowledge and patience to do it.”

One of those requests included a cavity door five times the size of a standard slider.

This beast of a door separates the living area from the entry and stairwell, making things cosy during the colder months.

“All the cavity sliders are floor to ceiling with concealed tracks,” says Mal. “Most of the time they’re open so you don’t even know they are there, but you can shut off those spaces if you want.

To be awarded Supreme House of the Year, the workmanship has to be top-rate and this is what Sam, Mal and the owners are most proud of.

“We pretty much made every line of cedar match up at every junction, which was quite a bit of a brain teaser for us,” says Sam. “We had to think about it a lot.”

“You’ve got to get the right subbies who want to buy into the level you want to go to,” adds Mal.

The owner would often bring beers down on a Friday and they would all gaze at the room they were in and that’s when ideas flowed about how to make things even better.

“Sam and I are pretty encouraging of clients to be on site and help make decisions if they want to change something.”

“It really helps having the clients around, because things do change,” says Sam. “You see things differently when the house is actually getting built, as opposed to looking at a floorpan.”


Sweeping stairs rise to the front door, and once opened you are greeted with a view through the double-height entry, to the living area, and then across the deck, expansive back lawn and bush clad reserve beyond.

Central to the living area is the kitchen — very much the ‘heart’ of this home.

The kitchen features three ovens, touch drawers and a spacious hidden walk-in pantry (with everything labelled and kept in neat rows of clear storage containers).

Beyond the kitchen at the western end of the house is a peaceful lounge with stunning views to the port and mountain (TK-48346-2-8-23) A suspended ceiling creates an intimate atmosphere, with the rebates concealing blinds, curtain heads and LED lights — the owners love the waterfall effect the dropped ceiling and lighting gives to the drapes at night.

On the eastern end of the living space, the dining space contains a massive ten seat table and a day bed, which doubles as extra seating for guests when entertaining.

“We always wanted a table we could seat the whole family around for Christmas dinners and the like,” says the wife.

Stacker doors with level entry lead from the dining area to a cedar deck on the eastern side of the house.

Well sheltered from the prevailing westerlies, it takes in views to the port through the floor to ceiling windows throughout the downstairs living area.

There are three defined outdoor areas on the deck — a covered coffee table area directly outside the dining space; an almost completely sheltered lounge area tucked against the house and a fabulous swimming pool area, enclosed with glazing on three sides. This keeps the pool area safe and sheltered, but means all views remain uninterrupted.

“It has its own little micro-climate in there, and having it tucked to the side like that, it hasn’t ruined our access and use of the front lawn,” says the wife. (TK-48346-2-8-14) “To have the pool and it’s requisite fencing in the middle of the lawn would have spoilt the way we use the space.”

Polished concrete floors feature throughout the downstairs area.

Low maintenance and easy to clean, the concrete also works well as a thermal sink during cooler months. There’s central heating inset in the concrete but it rarely gets used, so thermally efficient is this home.

Ventilation has been well thought through, with a host of windows tucked out of the weather that can be left open 24/7 on those hot summer days and nights. Remote controls have been fitted to the fanlight windows situated 6 metres up in the main living area, as well as to the six metre high drapes.

Storage cupboards are discreetly located everywhere.

One is actually a lift shaft, wired up and ready to have a lift installed should it ever be needed.

An enviable laundry leads out to a private area of the eastern deck where the washing line is located. The Dekton bench top used for the kitchen island has also been utilised here, and in all the bathrooms, to give the house a cohesive look.

Opposite the laundry is the internal entry to the three car garage and yet more storage all along one wall.

“That’s another little thing. We wanted the garage detached so you could start the cars and you’re not waking people up, so we didn’t want any rooms above the garage.”

A spacious guest bedroom and bathroom complete downstairs.


Lushly carpeted throughout, upstairs is peaceful, calm, with well-thought-out spaces. A mezzanine floor provides access to the three family bedrooms, while below is the kitchen area —  making inter-house communication easy. Directly behind the stairs is a second lounge with a sweeping continuous view of the port to the mountain. It is cleverly situated so that anyone can access it, without walking past any of the bedrooms.

“The sunsets from here are just amazing,” says the wife.

At the top of the stairs to the right are the two kids’ bedrooms, separated by their own private bathroom, which features a separate bath under the window, and tiled shower. 

One bedroom has a walk-in wardrobe with view over the pool and bush, while the other has extra floor space to accommodate a couch and play area, with a view to the port.

Part of the brief to Sacha was to ensure each room can easily fit a king-sized bed in so that the rooms suit the kids even as they become adults.

To the left of the stairs is the master suite, though with a casual glance you wouldn’t know it. The door has been camouflaged in such a way, this area looks like a wall of stunning cedar.

When opened you are greeted with a view out to the port and Paritutu.

To the right is the walk-in wardrobe, with a lovely wide walking space between the racks of clothes and shelves of storage boxes. Natural light floods in through a floor to ceiling window that overlooks the outdoor area, pool and natural bush view. A full-length mirror is cleverly concealed on the back of the cavity slider that separates the wardrobe from the suite hallway.

To the left is the luxurious en suite. A deep bath looks directly out at the port and mountain view, while a separate tiled shower serves as an excellent screen for the toilet.

Around a corner from the wardrobe and en suite is the bedroom area, with a wide view out to the port. Sliding glass doors on the far side of the bedroom open out onto a north-facing private deck overlooking the port and bush.

“We often sleep with the doors open to let all the fresh air in and waking up with the birds …it’s pretty special,” the husband comments.

Any pesky flies or mosquitos are kept at bay with insect screens that can be pulled out from the main frame of the aluminium joinery.

Fanlight windows above the main picture window on the western wall, create a cross-breeze on hot summer nights.


“I think that’s the thing I’m most proud of,” says the husband. “People come in and the first thing they say is ‘it’s way cosier than I thought it would be’ From the street you can see it’s a big home, but inside, it doesn’t feel like it. It’s not at all echoey.”

This has been achieved with good design and also with the choice of soft furnishings throughout — all upgraded to suit the new home.

“We bought locally as well,” says the wife. “We believe strongly in supporting the local community.”

The thoughtfulness of the design is something the owners are still appreciating a year after moving in.

An outdoor shower sits on the deck just by the garage so when the husband returns from a surf any sand can be washed off before entering the house.

The grass outside has been laid to ensure no prickles during summer, encouraging the kids and their friends outside. A rugby goal post is set up and also a jungle gym.

“We really wanted a home where our kids could bring their friends back,” says the wife.

“When the kids are out playing (on the jungle gym) the fantails are dancing around them and the tuis are going off — it’s just lovely. The pukekos come up and just walk along the grass — they feel at peace here because it’s so quiet, and so do we.”

“I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy that bush outlook and all the birdlife until we lived here,” the husband comments.

“It’s such a cool feeling to watch the kids playing outside and going for a swim before bed at night. In summer after tea, we all go in the pool and play games — you can’t put a price on that sort of lifestyle.”

They admit that since moving into the house they’ve become hermits … they simply don’t need or want to leave!

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