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Ellen & Adam's Modern Heirloom

01 Sep, 2023

No strangers to the process, Ellen & Adam Wilburn embarked on the building journey once again, but this time with a whole new vision. Seeking more space for their growing family to roam, the Wilburn’s secured a larger section in the beautiful Waimauku, just a touch further west of their previous home in Huapai. The sizable section meant they had enough space to build their dream home set back from the road, complete with a pool and expansive garden – a place for the whole family to grow. Ellen’s impeccable eye for design and unyielding vision for the home uniquely combines classic, contemporary and European styles into what is a truly breathtaking property.

The open-plan living space is centered around a striking kitchen made all the more impressive with dark laminate flooring that flows throughout the space. The rich walnut hue evokes the senses, ensuing tranquillity and timelessness. Sumptuous wool carpet spans the remainder of the house, bringing both style and comfort to the bedrooms, family room and hallway. It is the considered use of contrasting tones in combination with luxurious design features that brings this home to life. The space is adorned with pieces collected slowly over time, displayed thoughtfully around the house.

Take in the details as you immerse yourself in this story. A space that miraculously manages to be both delicate and impactful all at once, a true visual delight.

What was the journey to building your current home?
With a growing family and business, we decided it was time to sell our home in Huapai, Kumeu and look for something larger. We dreamed of a bigger space, particularly outside, to enjoy with our kids. A build wasn’t originally on the cards but after missing out on an established rural property, we came across this section. We knew that we wanted to live in Waimauku, so it just felt right. Albeit daunting, we have built before so the process wasn’t new to us. We bit the bullet and set out to build our dream home, where we envisioned raising our children and living for the long-term.

What was the vision for your build?
Our overall objective was to build a space that felt like home and a true reflection of us. We sought a balance of old and new, taking inspiration from contemporary trends and combining those with luxe, classic finishes. I take many queues from Amber Interiors, looking to a number of her incredible projects and own home as inspiration for ours. Although we didn’t have a set-in-stone aesthetic, our vision was centered around a mixture of European design and contemporary influences. Most importantly, we wanted to be able to provide our senses with a place of relaxation and calm.

What was involved in your flooring decision making?
The flooring decision was a simple one. It needed to be hard-wearing with a busy family on the go, including pets. We had used a Quick-Step Laminate in our prior home and couldn’t fault it. It was easy to clean and ticked all the boxes for our lifestyle. We love to entertain and with small children, messes are inevitable, so hard flooring in our living, kitchen and dining space was a no-brainer. When we discovered Quick-Step Perspective Nature Laminate in Waxed Oak Brown, it was the classic dark tone and authentic texture that sold us. It’s almost impossible to tell it’s not real timber with its unique knots and grooves and we loved that it was modelled off an old antique French floor. We opted for a lighter carpet to create contrast with our dark hard flooring, balancing the tones throughout the home. Although it is a loop pile, the weave of Bremworth Levante Wool Carpet in Artifact is tight so we’ve found it wears incredibly well, even with a dog in the house. Its flecked finish means it doesn’t ever appear dirty, even when it is in need of a decent vacuum, which is ideal for the stage of life that we’re currently in.

What were your non-negotiables when designing your kitchen? As a big collector of vintage and second-hand ornaments, I wanted to design our kitchen around a purpose built, glass cabinet that displayed all of our keepsakes from around the world. It almost mimics a museum display with illuminated shelves and brass trims. We fell in love with the Porcelain Taga benchtop and splash back from Dekton and its beautifully unique veining. We found out its design is influenced by the Taj Mahal and with India being our favourite travel destination, it felt special to have a little slice of it in our own home.

What is your favourite space or room in the home and why?
The open plan living, kitchen and dining space is the heart of our house. The vaulted ceilings make the space feel vast and open. Although it’s a large area, the rich dark timber flooring, plush rug and fireplace make it feel cozy and intimate. Our most cherished pieces, including my Grandfather’s painting, sit pretty on our display shelves, reminding us of stories past.

What are your favourite places to shop for your home?
I am an advocate for second-hand shopping and use TradeMe and Facebook Marketplace to find unique pieces of furniture and decor. I also love Gina Fabish, Paula Scott Accessories, Her Harvest, A&C Homestore, Thread Design and Ornament.

Do you have any advice for those embarking on their new build journey?
After building new twice, we have learnt that the key to good design is to build to the section, not the other way around. The house plans should be designed to accentuate the site’s best attributes and minimise its worst. Be sure to think about lighting – this goes not only for electrical lighting but focusing on where to optimise natural light. Your budget is key. List your non-negotiables right from the start, whether that’s the kitchen, landscaping or a pool, it’s unique to everyone. By doing so up front you can prioritise what’s most important to your build and work backwards from there. Aesthetics and decorative pieces can come later and the bones of the overall project need to meet your vision and fit your lifestyle. I recommend hunting for bargains online and when you’re in-store, make sure you ask about end-of-line opportunities, you can often pick up a steal.

Is there anything left to finish off to complete your home?
Interiors are always a work in progress - they are for us at least. I enjoy interchanging elements and moving things around often so even when I feel like a space is complete, I will soon find myself changing aspects of it or interjecting new pieces that I’ve discovered and brought home. There is a considerable amount of exterior landscaping for us to complete, which is our big project come spring.

Looking back on your build, is there anything you wish you did differently?
No matter how much due diligence is done, there are inevitably going to be unknowns throughout a build journey. Looking back, I now feel as though a few decisions were rushed, as we were working with quite strict time constraints. For example, if I could, I would change some aspects of the joinery configuration. I also wish we had incorporated more of the exterior Oamaru Limestone cladding inside, maybe as an interior feature wall in the hallway. However, budget often trumps. I’m sure the same could be said for all builds - hindsight is a wonderful thing, but we are so happy with our home and the joy it brings to our family.


Homeowners: Ellen & Adam Wilburn
Where: Waimauku, Auckland
Photographer: Olivia Pitcher

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