A 1919 Grey Lynn villa is stylishly renovated into a comfortable and energy-efficient family home.
WORDS Jason Burgess PHOTOGRAPHY Jason Burgess
A Grey Lynn villa built in 1919 is authentically restored and stylishly renovated into a comfortable and energy-efficient family home under the careful instructions of a dedicated couple who were determined to leave nothing to chance in the pursuit of their dream.
When Jo Wallace and Nathan Shaw moved out of their Grey Lynn villa on the weekend before their upcoming renovation was scheduled to begin, nothing could have prepared them for the sight that greeted them upon their return the following Monday.“I was terrified!” admits Jo. “The whole side of the house was off and two massive Mexican alder trees had gone. ”Like many first time renovators, Jo wondered, “What have I done? Should we have left it as it was?” But once you’ve started there is no going back.
Seven years living in her “cold, dark, damp” but much- loved house had given Jo plenty of time to imagine an ideal home. She envisioned herself bathed in light and warmth with a sun drenched living area where sleek modern lines tied in with the solid bones of her existing Edwardian era abode. She had already started talking to architects well before she met and married Nathan.
The couple contracted Cadman Architectural Design after seeing their handiwork on a similar renovation at a neighbour’s villa. Jo says she saw and heard some fantastic design ideas from other architects but thought many were impractical. “At the end of the day we wanted great design but something that really worked for us.”
On his initial visit Murray Hird from Cadman immediately got Jo’s vision. “He walked around the garden and told me straight out what he’d recommend doing and gave me a real picture of what I could do.” The concept drawings quickly followed.
Planning the house renovation
When it came to detail drawings there were quite a few tweaks especially around the height to boundary lines. A $100,000 basement garage was ruled out of the equation in favour of extra space in the house.
Subsequent planning, engineering, building and resource consent stages took around eight months to complete and just as they were entering the final processes and engaging a builder, Jo fell pregnant with baby Noah. “I thought: are we doing the right thing? Everybody said don’t do it. My parents said: It will be a miracle if you two are still married at the end of this.”With an added bundle in the mix the couple approached a Refresh Renovations Project Manager, to oversee their venture. They were adamant that they needed a detailed project plan.
“Both Nathan and I manage a lot of projects in our own work,” says Jo. “We are quite structured, and so we wanted a plan with weekly meetings. We wanted to know everything relating to the budget and exactly when we would be invoiced.” The couple agreed to regular telephone updates with onsite meetings every week for a walk through and Q&A with their Refresh project manager.
Although the forecast construction time was estimated at five months, the project is running over, due mainly to the weather stalling efforts to lay the foundations of an immense concrete pad (which doubles the existing house size) so the framing could go up.
Also the couple admit to adding a few extra wishes to their list like upgrading to double glazing, fully restoring the existing sash windows from the inside including all the brass runners, and building a keystone wall at the bottom of the once steep yard to raise the lawn.
“Jo and Nathan required everything to be taken back and completely restored. It is exacting work without compromise. They didn’t want one end of the house modernised and working beautifully and the other end not. When they walk back into their home it will feel brand new,” says the Refresh project manager.
Staying true to the original
Jo was keen to retain as much of the villa feel as possible. There have been some compromises like letting go of an old fireplace, but the board and batten ceilings, ceiling roses, cornice details and a stained glass window near the front door have all been saved.
Everything except the villa door has been stripped out. The exterior paintwork was taken right back to timber. The weatherboards and joinery now have a new lease of life. The width, grain, colours and sizes of the existing kauri floors proved impossible to match so they have been replaced with American oak throughout. Original architraves and skirting boards survive to merge seamlessly with the clean lines of the extension.
Jo reveals that while she is overjoyed to be rid of the bathroom and kitchen lean-to that once served the existing house, ideally she would have loved to have had bigger bathrooms. Nathan wanted oversized showers in both the ensuite (off the master bedroom) and the main bathroom down the hall. As both fall within the footprint of the original structure, Jo – in conjunction with Fluid Interiors, who Refresh brought in to handle the bathroom and kitchen designs – has gone back to the drawing board sourcing suitable smaller cabinetry.
Renovating the kitchen, bathrooms and flooring
Grohe taps and shower fittings for the bathrooms and Kludi fixtures for the kitchen match the couple’s streamlined design at a cost-effective price point. “Comfort and energy efficiency” is Jo and Nathan’s mantra. They have done extensive research on heating solutions. Aesthetically they didn’t want anything visible and opted for a ducted heat pump for the original section of the house and a separate underfloor unit for the new section. When it came to costing and installing Jo says she was surprised by the general apathy of contractors. In the end, “Safegas were the only guys who came out, met our criteria and budget, and didn’t want to just stick boxes on the wall.”
A big challenge for the couple has been trying to mix and match pendant lights for the ornate antique ceilings with modern sensors and spots. It has also proven costly. Lighting plans were drawn up by independent companies, which “blew us out of the water,” says Jo. The couple admit that if they were to repeat the exercise they would put more into the lighting budget.
“Value and quality sometimes means not getting everything all at once, as with the lights. But for the kitchen, bathroom, flooring – all the visual and comfort aspects – we would never compromise. Sometimes that has cost us, but in the long run we are getting value for that, a brand new house. This may even be our forever house,” says Jo.
The leafy inner city suburb of Grey Lynn first sprang up in the 1890’s, as part of the former Surrey Hills Estate. The area was named after Governor Grey. It may have an aristocratic appellation but for the better part of a century it remained staunchly working class. When urban property values pitched upwards in the 1990s, gentrification began.
Few central Auckland thoroughfares share the same quietude and historical street front architecture as Grey Lynn’s tree-lined Selbourne Street. For Jo Wallace the trees and the sense of history were defining factors in her decision to purchase her two bedroom 1919 villa.
But as with many houses built in that era, Jo’s home was neither situated for the sun nor insulated against the elements. After too many long winters in the cold and dark Jo and husband Nathan Shaw began their quest to completely modernise their home without sacrificing its character.
The house was gutted and rendered down to the frame, including the exterior paint, which was taken back to the weatherboards. “It was a terrifying, wobbly moment,” says Jo, “to go from a perfectly good home to walls and old framing.”
“Seeing all the walls off,” adds Nathan, “it resembled a derelict house in a western movie.”
Villa refurbishments can be a risky business for property owners. Once demo begins there is no telling what lies behind the scrim. Borer, rot and bodgy building practices can dog any rebuild. Prudent renovators are always advised to factor a high probability of variation work into their budget.
According to the Refresh project manager, Jo and Nathan were lucky. “Surprisingly the original house was very straight, there were no nasty surprises! And as the full extension was brand new, there was not much work required beneath the floorboards.”
Seen from the road today, the lattice fringed convex veranda, leadlight hall window and front door of their neat-as-a-pin villa may hark back to the former century, but a Tardis-like contemporary home awaits within.
A 3.3 metre high stud – with original board and batten ceiling and plaster ceiling roses – and a capaciously wide hallway makes for an airy entry. The visitor passes four sleeping rooms and a communal bathroom before descending into the newly added light saturated living areas.
Floor-to-ceiling double glazed glass walls run the length of one side of the extension. Beyond them a 26 square metre north-facing deck sits flush with the new oak floors, increasing the feeling of openness. The lounge floats out above the lawn on a solid concrete floor, which eliminates vibrations and creaking floorboards.
An Escea gas flame fireplace provides a focal point and warmth to the living areas while a Temperzone ducted heat pump keeps each room toasty.
The centre piece of the kitchen is a generous three metre long, one metre deep Caesar Stone island bench, housing the sink and dishwasher. Ample under counter storage space is provided with touch release cupboards on the lounge side while soft close drawers finish the working side beneath the sink.
A stainless steel cooking bench with a flush five-burner Smeg gas cook top mirrors the island. A built-in Smeg rangehood remains invisible to the eye while a glass splash back provides an easy clean wall.
The kitchen, shared bathroom and master bedroom ensuite were all designed and built by Fluid Interiors. Nathan’s brief for both bathrooms was for “big-man” showers.
Ankle height LED sensor lights illuminate the bathrooms and hall. Dimmer controlled recessed halogen spots light the kitchen and lounge, and under bench LEDs set the mood on the lounge side on the island.
Facing the stairs a separate TV room sits off to the right and to the left an entryway leads past the laundry and utility room out to the driveway.
The interior colour throughout is an eighth Napa (Resene). The slight hint of brown warms the long walls. The spray application leaves a texture free surface that completes Jo’s overall clean line brief.
This article by Jason Burgess featured in the Summer 2012 issue of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.
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