A property developer and his family find magic at Moonlight on a steep section overlooking the Tasman



When Nicky and Ben Lee first saw a Raglan section for sale they were undeterred by the fact that the compact site had never been built on, despite a few local builders previously owning it with plans to do exactly that.

Perched high above Moonlight Bay, with 180-degree views across Raglan Harbour, the setting is spectacular. But the site was, and still is, incredibly steep. “Every inch had to be excavated,” explains Ben. “You could hardly walk on it.”

Rising to the challenge Ben, a property developer and carpenter, enlisted the help of his frequent collaborator, architectural designer Tane Cox of Red Architecture, and tackled the project head on. “Out of those tensions you become creative with your solutions,” says Ben. “You build your way out of it.”

Subsequently, the resulting 140sqm cedar-clad house – a series of angled pods – stands on 160 piles. The idea for the house was that it was based entirely around holidaying. The family lives 55km away in Tamahere and wanted a place they could bring their family and host large gatherings.

Enter through the full-height glass Vantage front door and two steps later, you can access the sunken outdoor dining area, complete with a built-in barbecue and coffee kitchen concealed behind a cafe window that opens upwards on gas struts.

Otherwise, turn right and you’re in the open-plan kitchen, dining and living space united by wide plank French oak flooring. A floor-to-ceiling picture window and two large APL Architectural Series over-the-wall sliding doors powder-coated in Matt Lignite get star billing here, allowing that view to come into its own. Slide them open and they magically disappear into the slatted cedar-clad wall.

It’s those details that Nicky and Ben relish. The same goes for the entertainment unit and floating kitchen island made from leftover oak. The intention was for them to look like they’ve been hand-crafted, “not like you’ve gone and bought them from a shop”.

The other upstairs pod has two bedrooms and an ensuite off the main bedroom, with provision for an outdoor shower. The second bedroom incorporates bunk beds, the lower a double bed and the upper a top-and-tail space. These custom-built beds have pull-out storage so the bedrooms aren’t cluttered with suitcases – commitment to Ben’s solution-based building practice. Again, details matter and the bathroom is a vision in pistachio-coloured Winckelmans tiles from France.

Downstairs there’s a completely self-contained “guest box” kitted out with a bathroom, queen bed and more custom-built bunks. The sliding door leads out to the spa and flat lawn.

All up, there is accommodation for 12 in this holiday home, which was built to entertain a lot of people effortlessly across the many areas on a site that, while compact, is big on design, easy (and yes, luxurious) living.

Region Waikato

Full height doors slide into the slatted cedar-clad walls

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