Husband’s legacy lives on in a special Nelson seaside home

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Others have lawns or front yards – Nicola Maguire has a water fun area. Her home, at the edge of the Monaco Peninsula in Nelson’s Waimea Inlet, overlooks boats and birds and the occasional stranded tourist.

Rather than part with an old wooden family table, Nic Maguire updated it for his Nelson home by painting the lower portion black;  Polished concrete floors are the perfect solution for sandy feet and dripping grandkids.

Jane Ussher / New Zealand Home and Garden

Rather than part with an old wooden family table, Nic Maguire updated it for his Nelson home by painting the lower portion black; Polished concrete floors are the perfect solution for sandy feet and dripping grandkids.

The home was designed to admit water views, sunsets, summer breezes and the sound of the waves. It also offers a place of choice for natural and artificial distractions.

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“It’s just constantly changing,” Nic says. “Most people here own a small can, kayak, speedboat or kiteboard, or there will be someone out there doing yoga on a paddle board. People are swimming. An innocent tourist drives his rental car in the sand and gets stuck.

“And the birdlife here is amazing. There is a gray heron’s nest in the neighbor’s huge kānuka tree and I saw the chicks learning to fly. Or the kingfishers watching the fish.

The Monaco house that Nicola Maguire built with her late husband Pat seems to soar beyond the water's edge:

Jane Ussher / New Zealand Home and Garden

The Monaco house that Nicola Maguire built with her late husband Pat seems to soar beyond the water’s edge: “Architectural enthusiasts will appreciate the head-scratching that has occurred on the proportions. We were using the report of the golden rectangle, for an eye-pleasing line visible from the water,” she says.

Nic is more than a passive observer, however. When the tides and weather permit, she and her granddaughter Lucie Lane like to pull kayaks out from under the house and paddle into the heart of it. “It only takes two minutes to get the kayaks in the water.”

The house itself reflects a love of mid-century modernist architecture that Nic shared with her husband Pat until his death in August 2019. Pat’s engineering skills and experience as a product designer and lecturer allowed him to plan the house alongside the couple’s architect son, Patrick. Then, he eagerly assumes the roles of project manager and assistant builder. Nic also participated in the design and also participated in the construction site.

“I was the broom, sweeping and cleaning up scraps or nails, as well as the tea lady and the gofer. In the evening, I was an interior designer.

“For Pat, building this house was the realization of a dream he had always had. It was the culmination of everything he loved, all his ideas came together. He loved the proportions, loved looking at it from all angles and was very proud to work on it with Paddy our son.

Nic's late husband, Pat, loved designing and creating the cantilevered kitchen island on the left - and loved jumping on it at a party to show off his strength;  the three artworks are by Pat's cousin, John Kelly, and are part of a commission from the Tasmanian Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) to be adapted for its Moo Brew craft beer labels.

Jane Ussher / New Zealand Home and Garden

Nic’s late husband, Pat, loved designing and creating the cantilevered kitchen island on the left – and loved jumping on it at a party to show off his strength; the three artworks are by Pat’s cousin, John Kelly, and are part of a commission from the Tasmanian Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) to be adapted for its Moo Brew craft beer labels.

Nic traces the house’s aesthetic origins back to the couple’s teenage years; they met when she was 16 when she was a fan of miniskirt Beach Boys music and he was fascinated by American cars and design. This evolved into a passion for the work of Californian architects such as Pierre Koenig and Richard Neutra.

But it was a family vacation in a little wooden bach much closer to home that sparked an idea the couple carried for decades. “It was built practically on the sand of Kaiteriteri beach,” Nic recalls of the house that influenced them the most.

“He’s still there, actually. And we thought it would be an amazing lifestyle to be able to live so close to the sea.”

With four children – Michael, Patrick, Charlotte and Georgia – aged under 7, they parked the idea and returned to family life and work in Dunedin. But Nelson’s dream of the sea and the sun persisted and, in 2013, the Maguires bought a small waterfront bungalow in Monaco. Their demolition and construction plan was accelerated by the arrival of Cyclone Ita in 2014, which blew off the roof while Nic was home alone.

The open-plan living room opens onto the courtyard garden, which Nic and Pat landscaped themselves using non-invasive clumping bamboo to form hedges;  three of the six grandchildren had their placentas planted there under nikau and lancewood trees;  the circular painting on the right is And The Tongue Is A Fire by artist friend Wendy Lineham, while the painting on the left is by John Kelly.

Jane Ussher / New Zealand Home and Garden

The open-plan living room opens onto the courtyard garden, which Nic and Pat landscaped themselves using non-invasive clumping bamboo to form hedges; three of the six grandchildren had their placentas planted there under nikau and lancewood trees; the circular painting on the right is And The Tongue Is A Fire by artist friend Wendy Lineham, while the painting on the left is by John Kelly.

“It was absolutely terrifying, with corrugated iron flying all over the neighborhood and firefighters arriving. We decided it was time to build rather than repair.

This cyclone also brought them matai wood which they used to line the ceiling of the living room and the floor of the reading room. For a short time, trees felled by wild winds had their protected status lifted and could be bought and sold.

Pat’s cancer diagnosis came 10 months after the house was completed in early 2017. However, he was able to live and enjoy the house for another 18 months. “When he was diagnosed, he quickly pulled out his design notebook and said he better crack it up because he still had work to do. His mantra was always, just do it.

“Six weeks before he died in August 2019, he was in California with our son Michael at a bike trade expo and they went to a Hootie & The Blowfish rock concert together.”

Love of family strongly influenced the design choices for this Nelson home. Nic describes the most recent Christmas gathering, where seven adults and five grandchildren gathered for several weeks and the house easily accommodated everyone. Meals were taken in the courtyard, often after days spent lounging on the deck and reading or swimming or enjoying water sports. Sliding sectional doors doubled the sleeping space and blackout blinds were added for the youngest baby to sleep in, with additional beds in the garage.

“It was a bit difficult for me to continue because we really grew together. But when I look around, especially at Christmas with all the kids here, Pat has certainly left a legacy for the family. Not only in her sweet character and the home to enjoy, but also the privilege of actually having all this time together,” says Nic.

Q&A with Nic Maguire

We found the construction of a house: Remarkably stress-free and enjoyable. This is largely thanks to our brilliant local registered builder Wayne Pool.

Pat’s other design legacy is: The original Freeload rack, designed for mountain bikes. He physically fabricated the prototype in the garage and in 2012 sold the patented designed product to the Swedish company Thule Group. Following his cancer diagnosis, Pat challenged himself to refine and improve the original bike rack system alongside our sons Michael and Patrick and the resulting Aeroe business is now operated by them – see aeroe.com.

Monaco has: A relaxed atmosphere on weekdays but on weekends it becomes a playground for water sports enthusiasts. If you walk around Monaco, people always say hello to you. It has a vacation feel but unpretentious.

I have a weakness for : Architecture and design books.

Architectural influences include: New Zealand architects Sir Miles Warren, Ted McCoy and Group Architects. They all complemented the Los Angeles influence and inspired materials and landscaping, a New Zealand coastal context.

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