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Romantic Rome meets Tropical Thailand

Stepping out onto the patio of Janelle and Brendan’s Pyes Pa home, you could be forgiven for thinking you have arrived at an island resort.

An inviting, azure swimming pool sparkles in the hot sun, at the end of which a breezy, pillared summerhouse beckons.

“Our friends tell us it’s like being in a resort in Fiji,” says Janelle.

And it’s easy to see why. The stunning outdoor space has been designed with relaxation and socialising in mind.

The couple and their two children, Kalarn, 14, and Sumatra, 10, moved to Tauranga from Coromandel Town six years ago, in search of a change in lifestyle.

Janelle and Brendan had been working seven days a week running a busy Lodge, and as the children entered their teenage years they wanted them to have more opportunities available to them.

So they bought a 14-acre lifestyle block, surrounded by native bush, and populated it with cows, goats, chickens, ducks, fish and their three dogs, Hunter, Merlin and Lily.

They also regularly host international students. It’s a case of the more the merrier as far as Janelle’s concerned, and as an ardent traveller she loves bringing different cultures into their home.

“There are so many mouths to feed,” she laughs.

But they wouldn’t have it any other way.

The pool renovation, which was completed last month, was motivated largely by wanting somewhere that their children could hang out with their friends during their teenage years.

“We wanted to create a fun and relaxed sanctuary, so as teenagers they would want to bring their friends home for weekends, then we can close the gate and take the keys off them,” says Brendan.

Indicative of its 1980s roots, the property had a 7m kidney-shaped pool set into a timber deck when they bought it.

With the deck starting to disintegrate, they were faced with the decision of repairing or completely remodelling the space, which flows out from the kitchen at the rear of the house.

They opted for the latter, enlisting the services of Pools Plus - a Tauranga-based, family-run business that specialises in pool installations.

By constructing a large retaining wall and backfilling it, they extended the area by four metres to make way for the new, 13m-long fibreglass pool which is 4.5m at its widest and 2m at its deepest.

“Pools Plus have been amazing,” says Brendan. “They took care of everything, including the retaining walls, earthworks, planning and layout and consulting with council.”

Laser levels were used to contour the ground to the exact shape of the pool, which was lifted in by crane.

Edged with White Quartzite pool coping from Natural Stone Imports Taupo, the pool’s ‘Pacific Shimmer’ finish glitters as it catches the light. Its iridescence is enhanced by a shallow, 2.5m by 4m sunpod at one end, featuring tiles by local artisan Stuart Allen, of Palmer and Allen BOP. Like paua shells, the multi-hued tiles come to life as the sun changes position.

“In the early evening they really light up,” says Janelle.“I don’t swim much, so the sunpod was built for me. I like to sit here and put my feet in.”

Four fountains, activated at the touch of a button, are a firm favourite with Kalarn and Sumatra, while glass balustrades from Provista Balustrade Systems, enclose the pool area, letting in the sweeping vistas of native bush on one side and landscaped gardens on the other.

“The native bird life is abundant here,” says Brendan. “Once we counted 23 kereru on the jacaranda tree. They come at a certain time of year.”

After the sun has set, a sophisticated lighting system brings the water to life in a rainbow of colours.

Overlooking the pool, and setting the scene for rest and relaxation, is what they refer to as the “cabana” - a summerhouse that blends a mix of cultures in its design.

“It’s like a Roman bath house, but set in the tropics,” says Janelle.

Moroccan-inspired tiles, light fittings, crockery and cushions add a North African influence, while copperware from India is reminiscent of holidays abroad.

“We’ve done a lot of travelling through India and Asia and it’s rubbed off a bit,” says Janelle. “It is an eclectic mix rather than everything matching.”

Wooden furniture by Greenslades Furniture, brings warm, earthy tones to the room.

A Corfu shelving unit, which combines wood and metal, is home to crockery and keepsakes from their travels.

The Spanish-designed, 3m Mulhouse dining table, crafted from recycled elm cottage doors and paired with black vintage leather Halo Mimi dining chairs that seat 10, is the centrepiece of the room.

Patterned bowls filled with colourful herbs and spices adorn the length of the table, awaiting guests.

“We often have a table full of people,” says Janelle. “We love to have friends over because they feel so relaxed here.

“During the summer we eat out here every night.”

A large feature window, framing a tropical garden outside complete with a pond, water feature, Thai figurines and fish, provides a tranquil backdrop to the dining area.

Overhead, the airy diaphragm ceiling is painted with Resene SpaceCote Flat with fly deterrent, in Seafog, while the walls are Resene Quarter Rakaia.

“Resene manufacture a paint additive specially designed to deter flies on the ceiling, and it really works,” says Janelle. “I don’t know how I would get up there to clean the ceiling otherwise.”

The kitchen bench, supplied by Pacific Stone, is an engineered Caesarstone imported from Israel, and has a unique matte ‘leather-look’ finish. A servery window slides back to reveal another bench in black granite, along with outside stools for wet, pool-drenched kids to perch on for meals.

Husband and wife team, Shelley and Jared Laban of Concept Construction, were in charge of the design and build of the cabana, with all building materials supplied by Mount Oregon ITM. Cablerite Electrical fitted out the electrics.

Due to being classified as a high wind zone, and being next to an embankment, the building needed to be strengthened with 14 large steel posts that were driven 2.5m into the ground.

“The builder, Jared, nicknamed it ‘the bunker’ because it is so full of steel,” says Brendan.

And, as the summerhouse forms part of the pool enclosure, all the windows, supplied by NZ Windows, are made from reinforced glass, while Energy Efficient Solutions installed a heat pump so the cabana is also comfortable for winter use.

On the exterior, cedar soffits are matched by 90mm Louvre woodgrain aluminium Florida shutters, supplied by Sante Fe Shutters, bringing an authentic cabana aesthetic.

It’s the idyllic holiday location without leaving home.

While the Marks are not planning on doing further renovations anytime soon, they say one final thing needs addressing.

“The outside of the house could benefit from a freshen-up now, in order to marry in the new project with the original house,” says Janelle.