Converting a Basement into a Self-contained Apartment in Napier

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The lower level of this Napier home has been converted into a gorgeous separate dwelling complete with a kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and walk-in scullery.

The lower level of this Napier home has been converted into a gorgeous separate dwelling complete with a kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and walk-in wardrobe.

Before After
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A New Place to Call Home

Diana (initially based in Auckland) was facing the choice of moving into a retirement village or her daughter Rachel’s home in Napier. What mattered most was that the new place felt like home. There needed to be room for the precious items she’d collected over the years. But she also wanted to be close to her family. And with that in mind, Diana made the leap to Hawke’s Bay.
Rachel planned to convert the basement of her property into a separate flat for her mother; it would become a home with everything Diana needed. Unsure of how to start the renovation, she contacted local Renovation Partners Sophia Roydhouse-Ross and Mike Ross to manage the project from design to build.

Designing the Concept

Before the renovation, the basement was used for storage and didn't have any plumbing or heating. The area was cold, damp, and dark, making Diana apprehensive about moving in; she even nicknamed it ‘the dungeon’. However, as soon as Sophia and Mike visited, they saw its potential. It was just a matter of capturing it through the right design.
Launching into creating the concept, Diana knew exactly what she wanted; a bright, warm, and stylish home with plenty of space to display the art and china she’d gathered from global travels. She also had specific pieces of furniture she wanted to incorporate to make it her home.
Sophia and Mike worked closely with their architect partner to design the entire renovation. Several practical improvements were required to transform the ‘dungeon’ into a comfortable home. Changes included installing a fire-resistant rated ceiling, new electrical wiring, a plumbing system, insulation, security alarm, and a floor-mounted heat pump. In addition, the basement and main house would receive their own infinity gas systems.
As the basement was to become a separate dwelling, the new design also needed to include two off-street car parks. This requirement proved tricky due to the property’s location. But Sophia and Mike found a solution in reducing the size of the existing deck to create the necessary space. The Renovation Partners continued to handle the application process for council consent. And once they obtained approval, the project was ready to begin!

Dealing with the Napier Floods

A week into construction, Napier experienced a once in a hundred-year flood. While the renovation was scheduled for 8-10 weeks, the floods affected the property and restricted tradespeople from working on the project, resulting in an increased timeline. But despite the longer wait, the floods came with a positive result. Sophia and Mike helped Rachel expand the project scope to include new stormwater drainage for avoiding future flooding damage. 
The effects of COVID-19 also caused delays in the delivery of materials, including the new kitchen’s large marble splashback. Thankfully, the materials were not essential to install immediately, so everyone was happy to wait for their arrival.
Taking these challenges in their stride, Sophia and Mike executed most of the self-contained apartment in four months, with minor installations occurring slightly later. Overall, the project ran close to the original budget of $200,000, only extending by $20k to account for the necessary changes and new drainage.

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A Tasteful Kitchen 

The kitchen is a testament to Diana’s great taste. "She picked out a gorgeous white marble benchtop that’s continued in the splashback," says Sophia. "Harnessing the power of white was an excellent move to brighten up the kitchen, making it appear more spacious. In contrast, black cabinetry and fixtures perfectly balance out the white, while timber flooring brings a natural warmth to the space." 
Just as requested, the kitchen has been established with adequate shelving to display Diana’s precious possessions. "Her beautiful blue china now stands proudly along the kitchen’s back wall," Sophia says.

Warm and Bright Interiors

Maximising sunlight was essential to ‘de-dungeon-ify’ Diana’s self-contained apartment. Thus,  the windows and glass sliding doors have been built as large as possible to capture the sun without compromising the property’s structure. 
As an innovative improvement, the slatting underneath the upstairs balcony has been painted white to reflect all light downward and into the lower level. This change truly enhances the amount of light the apartment receives. And with semi-sheer curtains decorating the interiors, Diana can still maintain privacy while allowing the sun to filter through. 

A Spacious yet Compact Home

While the apartment is compact, it features all essential elements of a home – and without feeling crowded. In the front of the apartment, the bedroom, living area, and kitchen share the space with a cohesive, modern design. 
Meanwhile, the laundry and bathroom are combined in a separate room with a smart layout. Featuring a full laundry unit, floating vanity, and a large, black-framed shower, the utility room neatly provides all you could need in a minimalist design. It’s stylish, light, and practical, precisely what Diana wanted.
The walk-in wardrobe makes up the apartment’s third room and boasts plentiful built-in storage – half concealed and half exposed – for Diana’s clothes, shoes, and books. "With her beautiful matching tallboy, chest of drawers, and wall-hung mirror brought in, the room certainly feels like her own," says Sophia.

Sun-drenched Outdoor Living 

With a picturesque nature reserve just across the road, here was an excellent opportunity to create a scenic outdoor living area. 
Sophia and Mike cantilevered the deck as far as possible without compromising the off-street car parks required by the council, leaving Diana with a generously sized deck that captures the sun. Now, she can spend her mornings relaxing outdoors, watching her grandchildren head off to school. 

A Fantastic Basement Conversion

Despite the challenges of Napier’s floods and COVID-19 delays, Sophia and Mike managed to smoothly orchestrate the entire renovation, transforming the basement into a beautiful self-contained apartment through modern design and functional upgrades. 
Diana is overjoyed with her new apartment. More than just a self-contained unit, the property feels like home. The interiors are elegant, practical, and provide room for each of her collected items. The results have left a lasting impression on Diana, who is immensely pleased that Sophia and Mike encouraged her to renovate.

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This project was completed in
August 2021
Project description
Basement conversion into separate dwelling.
Hawkes Bay
New Zealand
Project duration
4 months
Cost estimate
Actual cost
Napier flooding, COVID-19 shipping delays, and council consent requirements.
Interesting aspects
Large walk-in showers and a custom-designed storage solution.
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Sophia Roydhouse-Ross is Renovation Consultant of RNR Renovations Ltd, a franchisee of Renovation Franchise Ltd, doing business in Hawkes Bay.

Actual costs vary by project. Plan ahead to reduce the impact of industry changes or disruptions. For more information see here.

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