It was adding "dinner set" to her bridal gift list that got Debbie Morgan into hot water with her future mother-in-law. She wanted to know why Debbie would include such a thing, given the capabilities of the man she was marrying. After all, the groom was renowned master potter Kim Morgan. But family harmony was restored when Debbie explained that the reason she wasn't enthusing over Kim's work was simply that she'd never seen any of it - bar one piece.
Kiwi-born Kim had been exploring Europe when he met his future wife in Greece and followed her home to the island of Jersey. They married, but local work rules initially stopped Kim setting up a studio. "I simply had the one piece in my backpack that travelled with me to show people what I do," he says.
Twenty years on and home is a new Hawke's Bay house where the wedding present dinner set is one of the few shop-bought items in the Morgan kitchen's crockery drawers.
Debbie is now surrounded by her husband's work, from grand one-off design pieces to the more practical plates, mugs, vases and bowls. One specially customised dinner plate has the message "Annabel you must eat all the food on your plate" etched into its clay - the 10-year-old daughter of this house never stood the chance of being a fussy eater.
Annabel, her mum, dad and brothers Benjamin, 16, and Kieran, 13, live just over the hill from the coast in Hawke's Bay's Tukituki Valley. Within cooee of the main house is Kim's studio, with a view that goes a long way towards fuelling his creative juices. Sitting at his potter's wheel on the studio deck, he looks out on the Tukituki's rocky riverbed and the towering peaks of Mount Erin and Mount Kahuranaki. Layers of green dominate the landscape, from the willows on the river flat to the pine trees above and the regenerated native bush higher still. Grazing paddocks in between add to the patchwork.
Proximity to the river is a plus for this family. "We have kayaks and once a year we join friends up the road for a raft race. The kids have to make their own rafts and get to see how quickly they sink," says Debbie.
The Morgan property spans 8ha so there's room aplenty, not just for gambolling children and a prolific vegetable garden and orchard, but also for the menagerie. There's Minty the dog, Slippers the kitten, a goat, hens, cattle, two horses and pigs Ralph and Laurent. The horses are Debbie's special addition to the family - she hunts on one and the other is its stablemate: "Oh, the freedom of going adventuring on horseback," she enthuses. "I couldn't do that in Jersey."
Being surrounded by space, says Debbie, is just one of the reasons she fell in love with the valley she now calls home. It's a feeling that extends to the timber house with its high-pitched roof that they moved into in June 2010. Just down the road from the Morgans' previous award-winning house, it's very much hers, she says. It is, quite simply, her dream home.
The contemporary homestead features a mix of ideas, courtesy of Havelock North architect Simon Clarkson and Debbie herself. The spacious, mainly glass-walled sunroom leading out to the pool, for example, apparently had its genesis in a copy of NZ House & Garden. Debbie also points out other favourite features, including handcrafted double barn doors of light-hued elm wood leading from the main entrance into the living room, where the knotted wood look is repeated in the coffee table Kim made from recycled timber. Similarly rustic is the fireplace surround, complete with old bolts embedded in gnarled timber. A row of Kim's pottery bottles adorns the mantel.
"I like their still-life aspect," says Kim. "I think the mantelpiece was crying out for something like them."
The must-have list for Debbie's dream home included exposed rafters and American oak flooring with a black ash stain in the kitchen and dining room. The high ceiling in this open-plan zone allows for tall windows to make the most of the grand view.
She turned to kitchen designer Leanne Larking to oversee the cooking zone. The tongue-and-groove cabinetry, in Resene 'Thorndon Cream', includes plenty of open shelving to display Kim's work. A top shelf is home to a piece Debbie cherishes - finished with a Japanese glaze, it's reminiscent of snow on rocks.
The Morgans' sprawling single-storeyed home has a bedroom for each child feeding off the family room. The master bedroom is in another wing, along with a spare room with its own entrance and bathroom. Which means that it could be used as bed and breakfast accommodation when Kim holds pottery weekends, says Debbie. And a currently rented cottage on the property will one day become a homestay.
Both the board-and-batten cottage and Kim's pottery studio, which resemble mini black barns, were constructed before the main homestead, as Kim needed a work zone and the family needed somewhere to live while their home was being built. It was the perfect arrangement, allowing them to build their house at leisure. Because a dream home just can't be rushed.