It’s impossible to ignore the views from Tara and Daryl Hewitt’s Christchurch home. Perched on a sloping section in the seaside suburb of Redcliffs, the open-plan living room overlooks green hills and tumbling rooftops to the ocean beyond. “When you cross the bridge [to Redcliffs] and you see the ocean, it’s like a vacation,” says Tara. “I’m from Canada, inland, and so seeing the ocean – it’s very relaxing.”
The couple, who run a high-end residential construction company, met in Canada nearly 30 years ago. Daryl was born and raised in Christchurch, his grandfather was a road worker who helped build the Lewis Pass to the West Coast using a horse and cart.
When he left school, Daryl completed his construction apprenticeship, but then headed to Canada to work as a ski instructor in Banff. At the end of the ski season he met Tara, they fell in love and she moved to New Zealand.
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“It was an adventure,” she says. They got into building and renovated their first home together in Christchurch, a single-glazed dwelling that had ice inside the windows in winter, they recall. There have been many houses since and their most recent plan was to rebuild; they had a reserved section further down the hill. But something has changed.
“We changed our minds,” says Daryl. “I don’t know what it was. We just talked to each other and we both had the same idea. This idea was that they didn’t want to tackle another two-year-old build, but rather renovate and create something “casual and comfortable” that would better suit their lifestyle.
“We also wanted to be able to lock ourselves up and leave and be able to go to Canada. I have three nephews and a family there and we love to visit,” says Tara
So they bought what was a two-story, four-bedroom house in October 2020 and embarked on a renovation that took just over six months.
The garage extension was a must, one bedroom became a gym, and there were all-encompassing cosmetic changes.
“Our last house was pretty bling,” Tara says. “This time I tried to go a little lower.” This can be seen in the light and bright entrance, the neutral colors and the natural materials. But there are unusual twists like the brass doorknobs – one of Daryl’s favorite details. “I saw them and I had to have them,” he says.
The washbasins in the bathrooms were also essential: in Neolith stone, they also have the advantage of not succumbing to water stains. Paired with a fluted wood vanity and brass-look faucets, they look elegant and casual.
Downstairs, the open-plan living space was once a ‘long white block’ that took up the entire floor. Today it has been given a makeover through clever use of colour, upholstery and rugs – above the dining room table, for example, the ceiling is lined with painted paneling trimmed in brass. This helps define the area and create the kind of intimacy the couple likes.
Meanwhile, miniature schnauzers Porscha and Wilson recline on the couch in the informal seating area. This house may be virgin, but it is lived in and appreciated.
“Everyone wants a lifestyle,” Tara says. “My goal is to use the house like this pretty much all the time.” And when entertaining, which they love to do, guests move through the distinct areas during the evening – from the kitchen chatting to the cook, to aperitifs in an informal seating area, to the dinner table then to the living room.
With decades in the construction business, there were no real surprises in the renovation process for Tara and Daryl. They were aware of the costs and what they wanted to achieve. “We agree on most things,” Daryl says.
The view is spectacular but the capricious weather can mean that it is rare to sit outside on the sea side decks and terraces in total comfort. At the back of the house next to the living room, a second outdoor space presided over by a huge metal sculpture is sheltered from the east winds.
And a new outdoor room next to the kitchen has glass walls that can be completely closed or opened up for an al fresco dining feel. A concrete wall was poured in place and the boxing alone took almost two weeks to build, Daryl explains. Tiny circular plugs in the wall are solid brass, matching accents throughout. They testify to Daryl’s attention to detail
And there are plenty of nods to that Canadian connection in the couple’s many works of art. A large moody painting was purchased during a visit to Vancouver. Near the stairwell, there are four historical prints from the Banff Museum where Daryl was working as a ski instructor when he met Tara.
“It’s taken us 20 years to collect the artwork we have here,” says Daryl. “When you look at it, you remember where you got it. It makes you feel like home.
Q&A with Tara and Daryl Hewitt
Best decoration tip: Always buy what you like. (Tara)
Biggest renovation regret: That we haven’t replaced lower level window glazing with new Crystalite glass technology that keeps heat out and reduces fading in our modern glass-clad homes. (Tara)
Best advice: There will never be a cheaper time to build than now. (Daryl)
Best place in the house: The new sofa from B&B Italia – comfortable and elegant, trust the Italians! (Tara)
Favorite outdoor sport: Electric mountain bike. The views in the area are amazing and change with the seasons. (Daryl)
Favorite local store: French Blue – many treasures found here while enjoying great coffee and chatting while I shop. (Tara)
Best time to visit the region: Early morning sunrises, beautiful skies and lovely walks on the beach before the crowds arrive. (Daryl)
Favorite power tool: Leaf blower – great for tidying up the garden but better for drying your car after washing it. (Daryl)