Tai Tapu

Reinstated original quake damaged home with a few tweaks

This is a four bedroom home with study and attached double garage with a small open garden courtyard in the middle of the home.  The attention to detail of the negative detail between the raw blockwork and the internal cladding is a fine example of quality workmanship.


  • O’Neil Architecture

Reinventing the wheel

An architecturally designed home on a Tai Tapu property, built by DJ Hewitt in 2005, was constructed with block walls designed to resemble a pinwheel. When the home was damaged irreparably in September 2010, the owners invited the same team of professionals involved in the original design-and-build back to reinstate their much loved home, with just a few tweaks.

The plans for the Watts family home, located on a large, private block in rural Christchurch, were inspired by designs they had seen on the Coromandel some years earlier. The generous single level home with a high stud, raw materials and strong horizontal and vertical lines, was well suited to their 10 hectare rural site. Designed by Darren O’Neil and built by DJ Hewitt, the home enjoyed magnificent views and endless sunshine, and provided a superb living environment for the couple and their two children.

Tai Tapu

Tai Tapu

When it was deemed a rebuild immediately after the September 2010 earthquake, owners Gabrielle and Martin called Darren and Daryl back. “The home worked really well for us. It seemed like a good idea to bring the same team back to help us reinstate the same house with the same layout. We had the plans, they just needed to be updated to meet the new building codes. By December 2010, we were ready to start the rebuilding project”, Martin says.

The project timeline was derailed with the subsequent 2011 series of earthquakes. Building started in November 2011 and the family were back in their new, improved abode by September the following year.

The couple had a rare chance to bring the project team out to walk through the original home, before it was demolished, so they ‘could capture the essence of the original build’. “Having lived in the home for five years, we knew it like the back of our own hands”, Martin says. “There were a few things we wanted to change. We wanted cosier internal spaces and we wanted warmer tones”. They opted to lower the original 2.7 metre internal stud to 2.4 metres and white walls have been painted and papered in warm earthy tones. Lume Design was engaged to help develop a customised lighting plan that enhanced the overall environment.

Gabrielle was studying for a Diploma in Interior Design during the period the home was being built and the furnishings and décor reflect her flair and love of Japanese-influenced design style. “Interior design has been a lifelong passion. I was able to use this project for all my assignments”, Gabrielle says.

Martin and Gabrielle rented a home nearby in the village and visited Noel and the DJ Hewitt team regularly to check on progress and help the team recall finer details as the build progressed. “Noel was very good to work with. He is pretty particular and paid amazing attention to detail”, Martin says, indicating the negative detail between the raw blockwork and the internal cladding as just one example of the superb workmanship throughout.

A small open garden courtyard in the middle of the home is interesting and functional. Sunlight spills onto the garden and glass sliders can be pulled back to encourage air currents.

The house is a heat trap, summer and winter. In the kitchen, open shelving has replaced the floor to ceiling cabinet doors and the rich dark chunky wooden shelving complements the wooden flooring, cedar shutters and chocolate coloured walls.

For Gabrielle, moving back into the home was a little unreal initially. “It felt a bit strange coming back as it felt as though we had never left really. Being able to redo our home means we have made a great home even better”. Building does not get better than that.

Daryl Hewitt

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