How do you decide which builder?

Words by Monique Balvert-O'Connor

Photos by Jahl @ Marshall Masters Photography

Federation Homes plays a significant part in the lives of Katie and Ollie Mitch.

The couple choose to work for the Te Puna-based company, and when it came time to dust off the plans for a new-build, Katie and Ollie didn’t go far to find a building team to deliver.

It’s five years since Katie and Ollie made the move from Auckland where Ollie had worked as a real estate agent. They took a year off, set up a coffee bar in an old shipping container in Papamoa had settled in for an “early life crisis,” Katie tells. But it wasn’t long before the world of real estate again beckoned. These days both contract to Federation Homes – Ollie as a business development manager, and Katie as marketing consultant (and she works in a sales support role to Ollie).

When the two moved to the Bay of Plenty, they bought a big site on Papamoa Beach Road and had lots of dreams around what to do with it. They got an architect friend to draw up house plans and set out to find a builder to connect with the design concept. Easier said than done, they inform. In the interim, prices had gone up beyond their budget so the plans got put up on the shelf.

“If, however, we’d met the Federation Homes team when we first moved down here then the house would have been built earlier. We now know how simple the process could have been,” Ollie says.

Katie and Ollie began working for Federation Homes four years ago and their house plans were brought to life shortly afterwards.

“We took the project off the shelf and trusted Federation Homes with it.” A wise decision, Katie’s happy to say.

While the house was designed as a family home for them and their young children, their plans changed during their coffee bar year when they bought elsewhere. Their Papamoa Beach road build has been a rental property ever since the Federation Homes team completed it.

“We designed it for us; but then we didn’t end up building it for us, so we changed a few things,” Ollie shares. The initial plan included hardwood flooring, which has been replaced with vinyl planking; and a recess in the main living area was to have housed a fireplace – instead it provides a nook for the TV and it’s a heat pump that warms the house.

“But we have retained the emphasis on good quality, and a simple aesthetic,” Katie points out. “There’s overkill on the insulation, for example, there’s extra squishy carpet and big, tall windows. Federation Homes was happy to accommodate such things.”

The Mitch’s contemporary house spans 150m2 and features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, open plan living and a super-sized deck. It’s a light-infused, north-facing house offering plenty of opportunities for sun lounging. A slider off the master bedroom and six-meter stacker door off the living area ensure easy access to outdoor living.

It can be said that extra touches elevate it to designer home status with these including a sunken lounge on the deck, an atrium-like area connecting the master bedroom to the hub of the home; and an office nook incorporated into the main bedroom zone. The ceilings are raked and high-pitched in the living area and master bedroom.

Ollie likes how the design has the master bedroom feeding off the main living area – divided by the atrium space. There’s connectivity, but a large cavity slider is at the ready if there’s a need for separation.

The house is clad in black-painted (Resene’s Foundry) Weathertex weathergrove - an Australian product that hails from sustainably grown eucalyptus forests. This cladding has also been brought inside to add design wow in the living room and main bathroom. In the former, the black, vertical boards line the recessed TV nook and contrast dramatically with the surrounding light walls. In the bathroom they create a feature wall adding to the drama of a less-than-boring room. Not content with standard bathroom cabinetry offerings, Katie designed a steel and timber unit as the base for a black marble basin. A steel frame was made to fit and powder coated black, with rimu then added as shelving. This custom-made cabinetry can be found in the en suite too.

Timber also provides accents in the main living area of the home, adding interest and warmth in a predominantly white zone. The walls are white, as are the kitchen’s splashblack tiles and cabinetry (white gloss). The combination of light touches of timber with masses of white suits Katie’s desire for a Scandinavian-inspired interior.

There is no garage on the property, so Katie and Ollie have ensured the house features a more than standard amount of storage space. The hallway includes a wall of cupboards, and the top of a long, built-in bench seat, lifts to provide storage opportunities in the dining area.

Ollie and Katie say there is much they would recommend about building with Federation Homes. The company was wonderfully transparent with pricing, they say, displayed excellent workmanship, and made the process so streamlined and simple. While Federation Homes embraced their custom-made ideas, it was also helpful when the team came up with suggestions along the way.

“All their builders are staff, not contractors. We got to see how engaged they are in the job, how much pride they take in their work, and their great attention to detail,” Ollie says.

“We got to see all this so know first-hand what a great product we are selling. Being clients has given us a whole new perspective on the team, which is really helpful.”

“At the end of the day you need to do what’s best for your family,” Katie adds. “We chose Federation Homes not because we work for them, bur because we honestly believe they can deliver a superior product at the end of the day. Working with their great team is the icing on the top.”

Katie and Ollie say chances are they would have built as soon as they arrived in the Bay of Plenty had they known about Federation Homes and the company’s offer of architectural design at no additional cost to the build. Federation Homes has a real focus on custom design as every home is a one-off – custom design and a fixed price deal would have worked well for them, they say.

It could well do so in the future. Their Papamoa site is large enough to fit another abode or two and Katie and Ollie have called on the Federation Homes design team to come up with a two-townhouse concept.

“Now that concept is on the shelf, waiting for us to pull it off,” Katie laughs. Federation Homes is at the ready.