Susi and Carl Brumback lived in the American city of Akron, Ohio but, from 1984, Carl was a regular business traveller to New Zealand.
“We fell in love with New Zealand,” Susi says. “It was our dream, so we saved and saved and couldn’t get back quickly enough.”
They moved from the US in 2000 and became New Zealand citizens in 2003.
They found their dream house tucked away at the bottom of a street of modern minimalism in Cockle Bay. The house was the second to be built on the cliff top of the new estate in 1982 and, to their amazement, looked out to a stunning view of Waiheke Island and Coromandel.
It has all the hallmarks of an alpine lodge, with Matai floors, Oregan Pine timber ceilings and beams downstairs, and high-pitched Oregan Pine ceilings upstairs. The Brumbacks have enhanced the Swiss chalet feel with flower boxes all around and a “gingerbread” theme, with carved wooden fret work trims around alcoves and doorways.
But the icing on the gingerbread cake is Kitchencraft’s makeover of the kitchen, which glistens with the hues of Heart Rimu timber, complementing the granite countertops. Along with the cabinetry, Rimu is used for a counter splashback and a custom-made cover for the gas cooker extractor hood.
“I was never a convert of drawers until now,” Susi says. “But I would never go back to cupboards. There isn’t one in sight. Everything is very reachable,” which is a bonus for the diminutive five-foot-tall homemaker.
A highlight of the makeover is the crafty use of corners with drawers cut to fit into a bench corner. The drawer front splits into two, butting into each other when opened. When the drawer is closed they fold back flush with each bench side.
A Heart Rimu food pass, running along the outside of the windows, is given a stunning touch by Woodzone, of Clevedon, with a bull-nose rounded trim, also used on the breakfast bench.
Making a startling statement is a Perrin and Rowe brass sink mixer, while a hand-held spray nozzle is installed in the smaller rinsing sink.
Continuing the lodge touch is Carl’s collection of decorative beer mugs and Susi’s antique alpine house music box, given to her years ago and lovingly displayed in Cockle Bay.
The expansive views continue through bifold doors opening to a deck on both sides of the living room and inside the eye is irresistibly drawn to a remarkable Coromandel screen from China mounted on the wall. It was inherited by the Brumbacks from the former owner of their Ohio home.
Upstairs the Swiss chalet atmosphere comes into its own with the pitched Oregan Pine ceiling and Matai floors.
The Brumbacks have converted a former family area to a master bedroom leading to a balcony overlooking the view and a spare bedroom has been turned into a substantial clothes closet.
A stunning feature of the guest bedroom is precious furniture brought from America. Susi’s grandfather helped build the Panama Canal and her mother was brought up in Panama. A touch of South America has been brought to Cockle Bay with a grand four-poster bed and timber dressers.
“This is all family furniture so I can’t get rid of these pieces,” Susi says.
Susi and Carl share another part of the house with their beloved Norwich terrier, Tuco and singing bird, Sunny who was found on the 18th hole of the Howick golf course three years ago.
Their dedicated part of the house is a small reading room, complete with a door flap exit to the garden run area, fenced off in true alpine gingerbread style.