The New Zealand island of Waiheke — Maori for “cascading water” — was named by European seafarers who replenished their water supplies there. But the Maori occupants called it Te Motu Arai Roa, or “long sheltering island.”

Waiheke is just 12 miles from Auckland’s city center and a short ferry ride from the city across the Hauraki Gulf. Besides being a home to permanent residents, Waiheke is a popular venue for vacation homes. The island’s steep slopes, dotted with vineyards and olive groves, are surrounded by white sand beaches. Ian and Louise Davidson created a vacation house for their extended family overlooking one of these beaches.

Photos by Peter Rees


Houzz at a Glance

Who lives here: The extended Davidson family vacations here

Location: Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Size: 1,400 square feet (130 square meters); three bedrooms, two bathrooms and one en suite

Designer: Charissa Snijders Architect

See Another Vacation House on Waiheke Island


Waiheke 1: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz


BEFORE: In 2011, the Davidsons purchased a run-down cottage that had occupied a hill looking toward Oneroa Bay since the ’90s. They immediately began planning changes to turn it into a relaxed and flexible family vacation home. A plan was drafted and approved, but the Davidsons were not yet convinced that they were on the right track. They called in architect Charissa Snijders to help quite late in the project.

“I think Louise intuitively wanted more from the design but was unsure how to bring it into reality,” Snijders says. “They were unhappy with the external feel of the house and wanted some input.”


Waiheke 2: Peter Rees Photography, original photo on Houzz


AFTER: “The Davidsons described their vision as ‘a home that celebrated family and was willing to take the knocks of daily life and young children and pets roaming freely,’” Snijders says.

To deliver this on a steep site with beautiful views of the gulf and the mainland, the architect says, “I realized I couldn’t just do a makeover on the exterior but would have to also address the internal design.

“From the first, Louise and I worked well together. She was a creative and inspiring person, an actor, interior designer, nationally recognized fabric artist, and someone who lit up the room,” Snijders says. However, shortly after construction based on the new design began, Louise was diagnosed with cancer and died in September 2013.

“I don’t believe she returned to the site, but the house is very much a tribute to her ideas and commitment,” Snijders says.

Five carved wooden posts stand on a slope beside the house. They are Maori pou whenua, which traditionally mark boundaries or places of significance. These were made from reclaimed jarrah by Waiheke sculptor Anton Forde, and depict two male and three female forms.

“They stand for our family members,” Ian says. “Each has a carved necklace, which personalizes their passion — Louise’s has a cross for her strong faith.”

The waka, or canoe, near the pou, was fashioned from a power pole from the island. “It represents our ancestors who came to New Zealand by boat many years ago,” Ian says.

Snijders adhered to a palette of subtle grays and natural wood to connect the exterior to the superb natural setting. Cedar shiplap replaced the existing worn boards, finished in Resene Woodsman oil in Shadow Match.

The posts and beams, roof, fascia boards, and gutters were painted in Resene’s Sandstone Grey. The cedar screens, pergola rafters and garage door are finished in Resene’s Woodsman oil in Natural.

Well-functioning and spacious outdoor living areas were a priority, to fit in with the sunny orientation, lovely views and planned large family gatherings.


Waiheke 3: Charissa Snijders Architect, original photo on Houzz


Floor plans and elevations show the extent of the outdoor areas that were added to the house. They also show the sloping site that enabled Snijders to integrate them with the indoor areas and that allows access from several points around the house.


Waiheke 4: Peter Rees Photography, original photo on Houzz


A more sheltered space at the rear of the house serves as an outdoor dining area. It is covered with gray-tinted PSP ClearVue acrylic roofing and enclosed by a plastered concrete wall. The flooring is black oxide pebble-mix concrete aggregate with inlaid strips of totara, a native wood.

Changes to the interior layout centered around relocating an internal staircase from its position on the original plan. This staircase leads to the upper level of the house, which contains extensive indoor and outdoor entertaining areas, another bathroom and bedroom, a master bedroom with en suite, and open-plan kitchen and dining.

For Snijders, the staircase relocation was the crux of the whole project, allowing integration between the upstairs and downstairs levels. Existing bathrooms were repositioned, and an en suite for the master bedroom was added to the plan.

The cool Scandinavian atmosphere of the home, with its white walls, pale woods and simple but comfortable furniture, is a reflection of the intensive collaboration between Louise and Snijders. “We slowly but surely touched every surface through conversations and pen until we brought the couple’s dream into being,” Snijders says.


Waiheke 5: Peter Rees Photography, original photo on Houzz


Work continued on the house during Louise’s treatment, with Ian taking an active role in site meetings and the selection of products and finishes, and one of the couple’s daughters, Amy, stepping in to help. “In some ways,” Snijder says, “it became more important than ever to realize Louise’s ideas and dreams for the house.”

The living space was reconfigured to have two separate but open areas. One has a built-in bookcase and fireplace; the other, seen here, is more connected to the views and the deck outside.

Doorways were widened to facilitate movement to and from the deck. The bookcase is hoop pine. The tongue-and-groove ceilings and walls are in Resene’s Quarter Sea Fog.

A bank of high louvered windows was added above the doors of the living space to provide more light and ventilation. The home has hosted several pre- and post-wedding functions, and the flow between the living spaces and from inside to out has proved to be well-suited to large gatherings.

Midcentury-style chairs are covered in Hills of Home fabric in ivory and asphalt by Hemtech.


Waiheke 6: Peter Rees Photography, original photo on Houzz


A wide bench in hoop pine ply, with a blond polyurethane finish, separates the kitchen and living areas. This also doubles as an informal dining area. The kitchen was designed for casual ease of use for the whole family. “Louise loved the simplicity and harmonious feel of the pared-down colors, white walls and ceilings, with natural oak floors,” Snijders says.

The undercounter cabinetry and the internal doors are Plytech Spectrum Eco, a prefinished birch plywood in red with a transparent topcoat.

The open kitchen enjoys fabulous views across Waiheke’s hilly landscape to the ocean and islands. Kitchen cabinetry is hoop pine ply, and countertops are stainless steel with integrated sinks.

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Waiheke 7: Peter Rees Photography, original photo on Houzz


The three bedrooms in the house stayed in their original positions but were upgraded with new woodwork, lighting, ceiling fans and white-painted wood walls. The master bed upstairs is covered in a quilt from Kip & Co.


Waiheke 8: Peter Rees Photography, original photo on Houzz


An en suite was added to the main bedroom. A screen of cedar battens ensures privacy without impeding the view. This screen also extends the height of the house and is a striking feature from the exterior.

Shower floor tiles are Magma Grey Natural, a cool basalt gray, from Heritage Tiles. The walls were tiled in off-white Zen Maril tiles from Porcelanosa.

Despite the family’s loss, Ian persevered to complete Louise’s vision. It took great strength and courage for him to continue and take a more active role in the decision-making, Snijders says.

“Louise’s dreams for the house were so strong, and she was passionately committed to creating a place that would bring together all the generations of the Davidson family. It’s a joyful and peaceful home, where the family comes together to celebrate life.”

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