If ever a home could be described as the perfect reflection of the owner’s personality, Willie Murney’s Ashburton home is the one. He tells Spirit Magazine about his 14-month journey to achieving his dream home.

Willie’s grandfather emigrated from Ireland last century, bringing the family to settle in Ashburton, and Willie has always been immensely proud of his strong Irish heritage.  He has dual Irish and Kiwi citizenship, has lived and worked in Ireland and it was there that he fell in love with traditional stonework. “Wherever you go in Ireland there are stone chimneys still standing, decades, and even centuries after the rest of the building has disintegrated. I liked that. Stone is enduring, so I wanted to include as much of it as I could into my own home.”

When the opportunity came up to buy the 1100 square metre section, he didn’t hesitate. With visions of sturdy Irish chimneys in his head, Willie worked with the architect and building company, Bradfords, to create a home that he describes as a ‘nod to his Irish heritage.’

The impressive, textured stonework is the first of many “wow” moments. “My mother comes from Central Otago, so that’s where the stone comes from – a recognition of her heritage.”

Entry is via a stone entranceway, with a solid overhead beam bearing the words, céad míle fáilte, an Irish greeting meaning “a hundred thousand welcomes.”

From the entranceway, a well-lit hallway leads to the bedrooms, bathrooms and staircase on one side, whilst the main living and dining lie on the other. A window at the end of the hallway creates the perfect frame for a large, stone urn sourced from Vietnam.

Inside, you immediately notice the attention to detail with regard to the materials used in this spacious, high-ceilinged property. The stonework continues, with a sturdy stone chimney standing in pride of place in the living area. Timber also features strongly throughout, accentuating the subtle golden tones of Central Otago in the stone.

In keeping with the natural theme, hues throughout are very neutral, with shades of grey, black and white, complimented with warm, earthy tones. Alongside the rugged fireplace, a honey-toned timber wall houses the TV and entertainment system, with carefully placed personal mementos.  Patterns and textures have been used to add interest.

It’s clear that a faultless eye has been at work. Willie credits Lume Design with having designed all the joinery and cabinetry; the kitchen, bathrooms, walk in robes, laundry and display wall with TV, as well as all the lighting both within the house and out into the landscape.

Interiors by Lume designed the flooring, window treatments, paint and wallpaper, furniture. “I gave them carte blanche to recommend and advise, and this is the result. There’s not a thing I’d change.”

The kitchen is one of Willie’s favourite places. The eye-catching black splashback, black cabinetry and black granite counter-top work harmoniously with more of the honey-toned timber. The engineered timber flooring used in here is both robust and beautiful. He’s particularly pleased with the negative detail handles on the kitchen cabinetry – a feature he’d noted elsewhere that really appealed.  The butler’s pantry is an entertainer’s dream, running the full length of the kitchen, providing masses of extra storage, an area to prepare food in and a place to hide away mess from dinner guests – perfect!

Another favourite feature is in the very stylish, tiled family bathroom, where a ceiling mounted tap cascades water to the elegant, free-standing tub below – a touch of pure luxury.

From the master bedroom, the uninterrupted view of the mountains is breath-taking. “The view was the clincher for me. The minute I saw this section I knew that I wanted that view. It’s so familiar, but always changing.  I never tire of it.”

One of Willie’s most ingenious ideas was to ensure the home’s indoor-outdoor flow was totally seamless. Enormous bi-fold doors open wide in summer, drawing in cool breezes, and inviting guests outside, where a deep cedar-lined verandah provides shade from the heat. Alfresco seating is laid out, waiting for the guests to arrive and the wine to be poured. With the barbecue and outdoor entertainment on stand-by, the scene is set for a summer of entertaining.

“Everyone involved in the build was totally professional – I put myself totally in their hands – trusted them to deliver, and they did. “I’m thrilled with the home we’ve created.”

Photo courtesy Lume Design

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.