Living la dolce vita

Like a traditional European farmhouse, this new masonry villa wraps around the curve of a hillside. Designed by Masonry Design Solutions, the house has a symmetry that enhances its commanding presence
A view of a home designed by Masonry cottage, elevation, estate, facade, farmhouse, home, house, land lot, landscape, mansion, property, real estate, residential area, sky, villa, yard, brown
A view of a home designed by Masonry Home Solutions.

With its rolling hills and distant vistas, the countryside north of Auckland is reminiscent of European landscapes. So it is probably not surprising to see the local architecture taking its cue from traditional European farmhouse design.

The new house shown on these pages, designed by Mark Wilson of Masonry Design Solutions, was influenced by both Spanish and Italian villas.

"The lifestyle block presented a gently sloping hillside, and a building site with a slight curvature," Wilson says. "We chose to wrap the house around this curve, with a double-height central pavilion positioned on the highest part of the hill an architectural element often seen in traditional European villas. The sheer size of this central pavilion, and the symmetrical design of the wings on either side, ensure the house has a commanding presence. The hilltop position also provides expansive views from all rooms of the house."

Other distinctive Spanish-Italian elements include the imported Spanish clay tile roofing, deep eaves, a weathered plaster exterior, traditionally styled doors and windows, and a bell tower.

The house construction also reflects typical European buildings. Firth Hotblocs provide solid, thick walls, with deep reveals that give the house a sense of permanence. In addition, the thick, masonry walls provide insulation against temperature extremes the Hotblocs have their own built-in insulation.

"The masonry construction provides a comfortable living environment all year round," says Wilson. "It contributes to lower humidity levels, and as the house is cool in summer and warm in winter, there are considerable energy savings."

Inside the house, a grand entrance hall opens to a large, open-plan family living space, with a dramatic, double-height ceiling. Stairs lead to a bridge linking the first-floor library. This room opens to a Juliet balcony overlooking the family living area. As with all the main living rooms and bedrooms, this room opens to the north-facing outdoor living area.

"We have placed a significant emphasis on outdoor living," says Wilson. "In addition to an all-weather loggia with an outdoor fireplace, there is a 15m pool. The grounds were fully landscaped by designer Robin Schaefer."

For more details, contact Masonry Design Solutions, PO Box 305-242, Triton Plaza, Albany, phone (09) 448 1101, mobile 021 597 347. Or visit the website:

As anyone who has been to Spain and Italy will testify, wrought iron detailing is one of the most distinctive characteristics of the local architecture. For this project, several custom-designed features were manufactured by Wrought Iron Products.

The company created the decorative plant holders on the wall either side of the front entrance and the traditionally styled security gate, shown above.

Inside the house, wrought iron features on the stair balustrading and a Juliet balcony overlooking the informal living area. Custom wrought iron detailing is also incorporated into a glazed timber double door and two matching internal windows.

Wrought Iron Products director Dave Gilbert says the company worked closely with Masonry Design Solutions to create the internal doors and windows, which feature glass sandwiched between the steel pattern work and a sub-frame.

All in-built furniture was custom designed by Masonry cabinetry, ceiling, countertop, cuisine classique, floor, flooring, hardwood, interior design, kitchen, room, wood flooring, gray, brown
All in-built furniture was custom designed by Masonry Design Solutions, inculding the furniture-style kitchen island.

Gilbert says all the wrought ironwork features a special coating system that is unique to Wrought Iron Products. This produces a particularly hard, durable finish which is backed by a full warranty.

For more information, contact Wrought Iron Products, PO Box 100-532, North Shore Mail Centre, phone (09) 444 9634, fax (09) 441 2018. Email: Website:

Houses throughout Europe typically feature flat-faced timber doors a look that is replicated in the custom-designed, powdercoated aluminium joinery on this house. Vantage North Shore custom built all the joinery for the project, using products from the company's residential suite.

Director Paul Bayer says the joinery includes French doors and casement windows from both the 35mm and 40mm series. The 40mm suite has a wider, flatter profile, in keeping with tradition.

For more details, contact Vantage North Shore, 58 Ellice Rd, Glenfield, Auckland, phone (09) 444 7035. Email:

In any interior, the paint finish is dependent on the quality of the wallboards. To provide a smooth, professional finish for this home, Masonry Design Solutions specified two different Gib Living Solutions products.

Interior walls are lined with Gib Ultraline Plus®. This 13mm-thick, fibreglass-reinforced lining system has a gypsum core, and has been specifically designed and tested to deliver a high-quality finish. It also meets mandatory code requirements in respect to bracing and fire resistance.

Mark Wilson of Masonry Design Solutions says Gib Ultraline Plus provided the smooth, flush look and the high level of finish required. Additional acoustic insulation was not needed due to the concrete block walls.

Bathroom walls are lined with Gib Aqualine®. This lining has a water-resistant core that helps prevent moisture penetration, and protects linings and framing from steam and moisture damage.

Other products available from Gib include Gib Noiseline®, which reduces sound transmission between rooms, and Gib Toughline®.

For more information, contact the Gib helpline, phone tollfree 0800 100 442. Email: Website:

When authenticity is paramount, it is the details that make the difference. For this project, Masonry Design Solutions designer Mark Wilson says the company sourced a variety of different products and materials to capture the European flavour.

"The flooring was one of the most crucial elements to get right, as it provides the backdrop for everything else. It needed to convey the sense of a traditional Italian or Spanish villa, but it was also important to provide visual warmth."

Oak praquet is a low-maintenance flooring, well suited ceiling, estate, floor, flooring, furniture, hardwood, home, interior design, living room, property, real estate, room, white, brown
Oak praquet is a low-maintenance flooring, well suited to family homes. Designer Mark Wilson says the timber's strong graining adds to the visual appeal, yet doesnt dominate the room.

The solution was an oak, large-block parquet floor, which was treated on site to provide an aged look in keeping with the architectural character. The flooring features in the entrance, and throughout the open-plan family living areas

Sourcing the right doors was another challenge for the company. In addition to the antique timber doors, Masonry Design Solutions custom designed several doors, which were built by Papakura Joinery. These include the large, sliding timber doors behind the first-floor library balcony, which hang from a heavy wrought iron rail. The doors have a patina that complements the aged look of the flooring.

Papakura Joinery also manufactured the custom-designed double doors with wrought iron inserts, and solid interior panel doors.

"In any project of this size and scope, there is a need for one-off, unusual products that provide that point of difference," says Wilson. "We are constantly sourcing interesting items from around the world, and if we can't find it, we will make it. From demolition timber mantelpieces to furniture-style kitchen cabinetry, we know exactly where to go to get the right look."

For more details, contact Masonry Design Solutions, PO Box 305-242, Triton Plaza, Albany, phone (09) 448 1101, mobile 021 597 347. Or visit the website:

Fine-tuning the architectural design to reflect its European heritage was crucial to the success of this project. So, too, was the interior design, which needed to be in keeping with the home's character.

Designer Mark Wilson says providing interior design services for clients is a key part of Masonry Design Solutions' business.

"No matter what style of home a client has chosen, it is important that the interior enhances the overall theme," he says. "This applies to colours, flooring types and furnishings. Masonry Design Solutions consultants are experienced designers who know exactly how to put a look together, and work closely with clients to achieve the desired outcome."

Wilson says many homeowners today like to create an eclectic look, which may be influenced by a variety of styles.

"Pulling together a successful interior for these homes really comes down to experience, and having a good eye, which is why it pays to talk our design professionals."

For more details, contact Masonry Design Solutions, PO Box 305-242, Triton Plaza, Albany, phone (09) 448 1101, mobile 021 597 347. Or visit the website:

Oct 17, 2007
We know the specialists