Respected Auckland architects Lindy and Colin Leuschke have a long history with Omaha Beach going back over 30 years. During their time on the peninsula, they have owned and built homes on three different sections for themselves, plus designed over 30 homes for their clients. So they know a thing or two about the place and what works well from a design point of view.
A self-confessed ‘old surfie and yachtie’, Colin was very familiar with the coastline around Omaha well before they bought their first section. “Back in the early 70s, when Omaha was first launched, we were too young and too poor to buy a property up here,” says Colin. “Besides, being yachties, we thought anyone that had a beach house was a bit backward,” smiles Lindy.
It wasn’t until the mid 1980s, after they’d returned to New Zealand form a stint overseas and set up their architectural practice that Omaha came onto their horizon. Even then, it was only going to be as an investment.
“We saw an advert for the first re-release of sections, after the groynes had been put in. They were $40,000 for a beachfront section, which was about half the price of a similar section at Pauanui at the time, plus they were giving very favourable terms… about 7% for five years, which in those days was unbelievable.”
With no intention of doing anything but speculate on their new section, the Leuschkes didn’t even bother going up there to look at it – just bought it off the plan. “It was only when we went up to see it that we realised that it had this big sand dune in front of it,” says Lindy. “But we liked it, so we built on it anyway.”
In fact, they came to really like it. The yacht was sold and they took the plunge on another piece of land – this time with sea views. Sixteen years later, with their view being gradually taken by an advancing sand dune, they sold up and moved to South Omaha, where they are now.
“One of the primary drivers for that second move was that we realised that we were spending more and more time up here,” says Colin. “When we first built at Omaha, it was just as a summer cottage, but in fact we were using it year round. We needed something more ‘winterised’, so the third house is a ‘full house’, with air conditioning and heating, so you can establish yourself there 12 months of the year and be completely happy.”
During the time they’ve been in Omaha they say there’s been a huge growth in confidence in the area, not to mention you can now get a great flat white up there and don’t have go back down to Auckland for a decent meal.
“With the first houses that were designed and built up here, people were frightened of overcapitalising, so they built cheap little baches, as we did. Back in 1986, we debated whether or not to put in an ensuite, or use cheap pine instead of cedar weatherboards. But that’s totally changed now,” says Lindy.
“Before Omaha, there were just baches; houses that turned up at the beach. Omaha has changed that. It has been the cradle of design into what we now call the New Zealand beach house.”
“As far as materials go, natural materials absolutely, always look best,” affirms Colin. “Whenever we’ve designed a house using natural materials, 20 years later they look fine, whereas the plastered or painted ones have really dated.”
Then there’s the weather. If you have a beachfront section, it’s not that dissimilar to being on a boat. In the cockpit of a boat, you are constantly aware of where the weather is coming from, and living on the beachfront is no different.
“What a lot of architects don’t understand is that you get a strong on-shore sea breeze all summer long at Omaha. And because they’ve all been classically trained about catching the north sun and the views, they stick a deck facing east to the view, which unfortunately is uninhabitable for most of the summer. It’s fine up until 9am, then the 15-knot sea breeze comes in and you have to abandon ship,” says Colin.
“At the end of January, when you’re having friends over for dinner, you need to have two or three different options to sit outside, so you can decide, depending on the wind, where you’re going to have your G’n’T, where you’re going to barbecue, and where you’re going to eat. Generally you won’t decide until a hour before your guests arrive, where you’ll be sitting,” says Lindy.
To cope with the ever-changing conditions up at Omaha, Lindy has developed a design approach that has the living-dining room as a long glasshouse that runs north to south, with decks on either side, so you can be on the western deck with doors closed, but still see through to the water – or if the sea breeze allows, sit on the seaward deck with the last rays of the sun streaming through the house from the west. It’s about having options that allow you to make the most of the weather conditions and any time of the day.
Omaha definitely has its own microclimate. Apart from the aforementioned sea breeze during the summer months it averages a couple of degrees higher than Auckland over the year, plus it experiences far less rainfall locally, as it falls in the shadow of the Pakiri Hills to the north and the Takatu to the west. Conditions can vary quite dramatically from section to section, too – especially when it comes to growing plants.
“Where we’re are, on the beachfront, we are very exposed, but you do have that intimacy with the water. But if you go back even just one section, you can still be very close to the water, yet you can have really lovely gardens and sheltered outdoor spaces,” says Lindy. “And that’s what’s so great about those sections up at Omaha Point, because you have two beaches to choose from so close by.”
Although the absolute beachfront sites are the most coveted, with good reason, having a home on one of the central sites is like living in a micro oasis, as opposed to being on the exposed edges. And if you’re a gardener, these sections offer far more options – you can grow plants that just wouldn’t survive on the other sites, like hibiscus, says Lindy.
Although Lindy and Colin have always chosen the ocean over the harbour, they say it’s down to personal preference. Some people hate the surf – they like swimming, but don’t like the surf, so choose the harbour, says Colin.
“We will often go across to the harbour if we’re doing ‘lengths’. It’s a lot calmer and more conducive for swimming over there. Then there’s the wharf, which is great for families with teenagers and little kids. It’s very safe. You also get beautiful sunsets living on the harbour, and a lovely outlook… and movement. There’s always something happening on the harbour.”
It’s clear from talking with Colin and Lindy that they are firm advocates of Omaha Beach, for many reasons. Both are still busy with their architectural practice in Newmarket, but that doesn’t seem to stop them spending almost half their time up at Omaha, without affecting their day-to-day business.
“Normally, we’ll drive up after the rush on a Thursday evening, or Friday morning, then come back late Sunday, or mind-morning on Monday,” says Colin. “It’s all about being sensible with you planning,” adds Lindy. “You don’t want to be driving back to Auckland at 4pm on a Sunday with all the day trippers, for example, or planning to drive up on an evening when there’s a big concert up here. If you can work your schedule around the traditionally busy ‘commuting’ times, getting to and from Omaha is a breeze.”
“What’s really interesting is how it’s changed during winter,” says Colin. “You can rock up on a Friday night and stop off on the way at any one of half a dozen places for a drink and an easy meal, or go to the movies at Matakana. You can do all the stuff you’d do in town.”
“Or you can just hibernate,” smiles Lindy. “And the other thing I love about being up there is that I can do everything I do in the city, but I don’t have to dress up. I love that.”
If you are looking for the perfect section for your new beach house then check out our limited release of sections here
Respected Auckland architects Lindy and Colin Leuschke have a long history with Omaha Beach going back over 30 years.
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