A stroke of fortune brought Pip and Shane McNeil to this lush Whangārei section. Today, with chickens, fruit trees and area aplenty, they can not imagine themselves anywhere else

The good life

A stroke of fortune brought Pip and Shane McNeil to this lush Whangārei section. Today, with chickens, fruit trees and area aplenty, they can not imagine themselves anywhere else

Meet & greet
Pip McNeil (early childhood teacher), Shane McNeil (salesperson at Toyota), Caelin, 6, and Bowen, 3, plus Roxy the Jack Russell.

Since the McNeil children race round their own nest (4000sqm) section, weaving in and out of trees and shrubs and delightedly hunting for poultry eggs, it’s clear to see they are living the fantastic life. Their parents, Pip and Shane, purchased their Whangārei Heads home in 2017 in the hopes that its expansive outdoor area would enable Caelin and Bowen to possess the kind of childhood they’d had — and so far, so good.

DINING AND LIVING A central hub for the family, the La-Z-Boy dining table is where morning coffee, meals, homework and end-of-day chats take place. The living room, situated at the other end of the house, features a treasured cane shelf given to the family by Shane’s mother.

“The boys adore after their daddy around the section, doing the lawns, collecting firewood, collecting eggs and playing all kinds of imaginary games,” Pip says.
Up before buying the property, the couple was living in Tauranga (Shane’s home town) with baby Caelin, but Pip hankered for house — Whangārei.
“After having Bowen and knowing I had been due to go back to work, we decided to proceed to Whangārei to become closer to my family and for the lifestyle — to the beaches and the relaxed living,” she says.
They had been looking for homes for a few weeks and had put an offer on a place in Onerahi, sight unseen, which, if they drove up to see it, wasn’t at all what they thought it had been. But while they were at the area they moved to an open house — rather reluctantly as the internet listing had couple of photographs and didn’t show it in a favourable light. It was be a hidden gem.

BEDROOMS (opposite) Prints by Maiko Nagao feature in both the guest bedroom (top) and the main bedroom (bottom). The bedside tables in the main bedroom are from Freedom Furniture and the linen is from A&C Homestore.

“When we came to look about and discovered it had four bedrooms, an area for a playroom and two separate living spaces, we simply fell in love,” Pip says.
The design
The house isn’t ideal, Pip hastens to add, but it’s more than enough going for it to be the ideal family home for them at the moment. “We currently have a gloomy,’80s-style kitchen that we’d love to renovate,” she says. “The bathroom needs an update and we have dreams of building a fun place off the front of the kitchen/dining space. But the prior owners had given the house a makeover, with a beautiful fresh white paint job, which enabled us to move straight in without needing to fix or do anything instantly.”

The’70s house has a deck in addition to the extra sofa, which makes it a spacious home with more than enough room for two active boys to keep themselves occupied, and also the house layout, Pip says, works really well for the household. The living room is at the other end of the house, which is great because when all the jobs have been done for the evening, it is the ideal space to unwind.
“And the benefit of owning a playroom for the boys is equally remarkable. It is somewhere to store their toys that means their rooms are clutter free, plus they have their own space to play in and explore.”
When decorating her house, Pip took inspiration from their natural surroundings. “We’re surrounded by lush, green trees and just minutes from the beach,so that I wanted our home to reflect that and have a relaxed texture — bright and neutral,” she explains.
To do this, she produced a foundation of light and neutral colors accompanied by indoor plants, wall baskets and artworks. “I find Pinterest is a great inspiration for creating a general vibe or theme, and then I just trawl secondhand and online shops to see if I can stumble across whatever matches!”
Among her best finds — the cane shelves in the living room that feature a very attractive, wave-like pattern
1came from her mother-in-law.
Their master bedroom has been kept neutral and light because it has a smaller room on the darker side of the home. For the area’s color palette, Pip drew inspiration in the beautiful print on the wall, by Kiwi artist Maiko Nagao, and she had been dead set on linen bedding to bring a touch of luxury.
As it came to Caelin’s room, Pip knew exactly what to do. “Caelin is obsessed with the sea,” she states. “So his sailing ship mobile (which is a kite, also ) and whale print were must-haves and actually set the tone for his room. Beds are big for my kids — the boys love playing on each other’s beds and sprawling out to read novels. Recently they’ve been playing the ukulele employing the tiny step on Bowen’s mattress for a wee perch!”
Bowen has among the lightest and brightest rooms in the home, which gave Pip the opportunity to use a rust, gray and mustard colour palette.
That outside area
Of course, the pièce de résistance in the McNeils’ home is the property. Each day, Caelin and Bowen burn plenty of energy bouncing around on the tramp, riding their bikes down the segment and playing in their own bamboo teepee. When they are ready to refuel, they are often lucky enough to consume homemade pizza straight out of the outdoor oven.
“The oven was here when we moved in — it is made of clay and straw. Shane gave it an upgrade with a lick of paint and now we use it a lot for homemade noodles and marshmallow-toasting,” says Pip.
Future programs
With the fruit trees, cows, pizza oven and plenty of space to roam, this home will satisfy the McNeils for a lot of years however.
“When we bought the house we can see ourselves spending another 10 decades here. There’s so much we could still do for this so we are eager to stay and renovate the kitchen and bathroom and add an outside entertaining area.
In the meantime, she and Shane are happy living the good life at a place that reminds them so much of their childhoods. “This lifestyle gives us the very best of both worlds: semi-rural living close to town, and also the beach minutes away. It’s exactly what we needed for our kids.”

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