St Albans 2

A design for life.

Architectural designer James Hunter conceived this substantial St Albans home for his family, which was expertly brought to life by DJ Hewitt Builders.


  • James Hunter Architectural Design

In 2017, Micayela and James Hunter bought a large section in the central Christchurch suburb of St Albans to build a forever home for their family.

Micayela recalls, “At the time, the section had a 100-year-old house on it, and all that could be seen from the road was a tall hedge.” With extensive home design and commercial building construction construction projects to his name, James initially considered a renovation project. But after closer examination the couple found that the home was beyond repair. “It was riddled with bora, and the TC3 land meant that it would have been too much of a project and better to start from scratch,” says James.

Freed from the restrictions of renovating an existing property, Micayela and James could plan a dream home for themselves and their three daughters from the ground up. 


James had always liked the idea of designing a home for his family. With over 30 years of experience working in the architectural design industry in New Zealand and the UK, he had a long wish list of products and finishes to incorporate into the home. “We wanted an efficient, warm family home with hydronic underfloor heating. After spending some long winters in a cold house, heating was at the top of the list,” says James. Underfloor hydronic heating is an increasingly popular form of central heating as it can be installed without radiators and runs on a heat pump system. 

The family rented during the 12-month build and lived in a cramped home nearby where James’ home office also doubled as a bedroom. Having an office in the new home was a must. James particularly wanted the office to be next to the front door of the home, a perfect position for welcoming clients without encroaching in the family life.

When it came to the homes living areas, with three young children, Micayela and James wanted to have a separate lounge next to the main living and dining area that could be closed off when required but would remain open most of the time. With this in mind, James designed the space with hidden cavity doors and had soundproofing added.

In addition to the essential double glazing, the energy-conscious couple had solar panels fitted on the roof. While working in the UK, James had designed many homes with vertical steel cladding and wanted to use it here. It works well here with the exterior plastered finish in Resene Rockcote. A three car garage was also on the list to house James’ beloved rally car. When it came to choosing a builder for the project, James says, “DJ Hewitt was the only builder I considered. I’ve known and worked with Daryl Hewitt for 15 years. His work is always of a very high standard and quality.”

While the team at DJ Hewitt Builders are experienced with TC3 land, the struck water while digging, and the site had to be dewatered. Daryl Hewitt says’ The water slowed things down a little bit but had a minimal impact on the cost and the timeline of the build.” 

Apart from the unexpected water on the site, Daryl says that the build ran very smoothly. He puts this down to experience as well as working with a team of trusted sub-trades.

Daryl particularly likes the cedar fins on the staircase and around Micayela’s office upstairs, which James planned with open walls to maximise the light and create a striking design feature.

For Daryl, the experience of working with James as the client and the architectural designer was a matter of examining the cost implications of every decision.

James says, “The build was a smooth process and well managed by the DJ Hewitt team, with forward planning even down to the bathroom fittings, which needed to fit in with the plans.”

While the family brought their existing furnishings into the home, the larger space called for more furniture and accessories. Co-founder of DJ Hewitt Builders, Interior Designers Tara Hewitt brought in key pieces to furnish the living areas and accessories to suit the homes’ contemporary style. Some pieces of furniture were inherited and have a special significance as they came from James’ father, who recently passed away. 

The Hunter family are wholeheartedly embracing life in their forever home. The flexible living spaces are universally favoured, especially the dance lounge. “The girls love dancing,” says Micayela. “They love pushing the sofas back and transforming the lounge into a dance floor.” She adds, “The kids really love their bedrooms and having a double sink in the bathroom is a novelty that still hasn’t worn off.”

Micayela’s firm favourites are the walk-in-wardrobe in the master bedroom and the kitchen pantry. James is more than happy with the result, adding that, the home flows well for family living.”

The couple enjoys entertaining. James says, “On a nice day, you can open the doors out the front for outdoor living.” The family hosted a big Christmas celebration last year, and friends Daryl and Tara from DJ Hewitt Builders have visited many times.

Words by Shelley Sweeney, Photography by Sarah Rowlands for Abode Magazine 


Daryl Hewitt

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