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Jun 2013
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Major excavation and design work created a wide-open living area that is flooded with sunlight.

WORDS Jason Burgess PHOTOGRAPHY Jason Burgess

Sometimes when hiring the dream team to renovate your home it pays to shop around. Jackie and Craig Rich admit that they were “fresh off the boat” when they first sought the services of a builder and architect for renovations to their new home. Almost two years of endless frustration and compounding expenses followed, after which the couple decided to make a mayday call to Refresh after hearing a random radio ad – a move which they say narrowly averted a shipwreck!

The Riches and their two young children had only been in the country three months before setting to work refurbishing their “doer-upper with good bones”. Jackie had managed renovations in their native Scotland while on maternity leave, but with a good job in a new country she no longer had the inclination nor the time.

Building troubles

A builder who they met through school acquaintances was called in for a simple decking project. Unbeknown to the Riches, he subcontracted it to an ever-changing roster of incompetent labourers who milked the job for every hour they were on-site. The same builder also put them in touch with an architect who became incommunicado over time. He kept misinterpreting their brief, running paper estimates $100,000 over budget and regularly missed deadlines.

The family felt hitched to the architect because they were progressively paying him his percentage fee – a whopping 14 percent, which they were told was the industry standard for architects.

A modern living room with glassdoor

The benefits of working with a Refresh Renovations franchise

The Riches contacted Refresh just as they entered the consent process. They spoke with a Refresh project manager who was working on a job nearby. “He was the first person who understood what we wanted,” said Craig.

Visiting the Refresh project manager on the site he was working on, and looking through pictures of other projects that Refresh had completed, Jackie and Craig began to regain their confidence in the renovation process. “He always got back to us, answered our questions and asked us more. He remained engaged.”

When the plans went to council the Riches got the Refresh project manager in to quote. He began querying the necessity of some planned expensive and impractical features that sacrificed the fundamentals of their brief. He then suggested modifications and a meeting with Allan McIntosh, an architect at Buildology.

The Riches’ remit to Allan was to find more space in a cost-effective way. They wanted a family home, not a showpiece. “Allan came in with lots of suggestions,” says Craig, “some of which we had previously been told were impossible.”

“After our initial discussion we immediately shaved $85,000 from the original plan,” declares Allan. “We redistributed those savings into other areas of the build like creating a larger downstairs living area and a substantial bathroom.”

Carrying out the house renovation and excavation

Allan virtually doubled the size of the original plans, raised the height of the ceiling, took out unnecessary walls and put in oversized doors and windows to maximise light.

Prior to digging out the downstairs area, the existing two bedrooms, a rumpus, bathroom, laundry and stairwell were demolished.

Existing piles were removed and temporary bearers and supports were implemented to create the necessary space for the excavations. It took builder Pete MacLeod and apprentice Louie three and a half weeks of hand digging to achieve the required extra area and set the footings for a concrete floor and a one metre high block retaining wall.

In total the excavation increased the floor plan from the originally planned 45 square metres to 78 square metres. Pete had already enclosed the backyard with a new fence and retaining wall to take all the exhumed earth, thus adding two more level metres of garden area.

Five new I-beams run length-wise with ten timber and steel bolted flitch plates running width-wise between the 250mm floor joists. The extra strengthening facilitates the 20 centimetre raised ceiling height, ensures that the upstairs floor will not sag or bow and also provides a lintel strong enough to bear the new oversize Pacific Suite top hung joinery.

an outdoor flow with dining table

Translated that equates to a four-metre-long Shynday Kitchens’ galley kitchen and a generous communal bathroom plus unimpeded open plan-family living flowing outdoors through oversized sliders.

Creating indoor-outdoor flow

Since their previous house had been an 1885 stone farmhouse in Sterling, the Riches were keen to steer away from the traditional look. “We wanted indoor-outdoor flow – with the climate in Scotland you only get indoor and indoor further!”

Outside, the upstairs deck was demolished and rebuilt. Between the pool and the house a concrete pad was laid along the length of the house. This raised the ground level to the height of the existing pool deck where timber decking was then overlaid to match.

The Riches’ sense of relief is palpable. “In the early months of the project,” says Craig, “it felt like we were on the Titanic. Now the whole family is enjoying the relief of having missed
the iceberg!”

Major excavation work, combined with a clever architectural redesign, created a wide-open living area that is flooded with sunlight and provides easy access to the garden. Winter sun pours into the downstairs living area of Jackie and Craig Rich’s home. An enormous wall of north-facing bi-fold doors opens out onto a rare flat and generous backyard, a pool to one side, a kid’s swing to the other. It is the kind of indoor-outdoor flow that the couple could only dream of in their native Scotland. Craig effuses, “It’s fantastic, much better than we hoped.”

Inside, warm oak floors offset the ultra-clean lines of the open plan kitchen/dining/living space. Except for one bathroom, there are no internal walls. The entire lower floor plan is one huge room – 78 square metres to be exact. The Refresh project manager and Allan MacIntosh of Buildology Architectural Design made sure that the Riches didn’t have to settle for a smaller and darker space, by extending the available area and doing away with originally planned internal walls. “Allan walked us through the house with 3D graphics and we were able to inspect everything, especially downstairs where a bulk of the money was going to be spent.” The Refresh team lowered the front door by a metre to rebuild the internal landing for a new open tread staircase. It’s designed to allow natural ventilation, and to sweep visitors downstairs to where they can enjoy an unobstructed garden view. Top hung, double glazed Vistalite bifold foldback joinery frames that scene.

Enjoying the newly-renovated home

“The first weekend we had the new downstairs area to ourselves, it was phenomenal. We had all the doors open. We had friends around; the kids could have a splash in the pool and we could sit in here watching without getting soaked! Nobody sees us in this garden and you don’t hear the road. It’s just an awesome space.”

A modernist kitchen with new appliances

A four-metre-long galley kitchen was fitted with Iceberg quartz composite benchtops throughout. The kitchen extends past a cavity slider into an adjacent walk-in utility room/pantry where a second sink and fridge freezer plus copious cupboard storage are easily accessed.

“One of the biggest challenges for both the Riches and the Refresh team was that the family lived on-site during the renovation, which included a three-week period of major excavation work to increase the floor plan. “Pete respected the fact that we were living here,” says Craig.

Robinhood sinks and pull-out taps feature in both the kitchen and utility room. These robust taps were chosen for their practicality and their clean bold lines. The cabinetry is completed with soft closing cupboard doors and drawers. “Otherwise,” says Craig, “you know, with kids, it’s slam, slam, slam!” The kitchen appliances are all stainless steel, with a Westinghouse side-by-side fridge freezer offsetting the Westinghouse BOSS twin wall oven. A Fisher and Paykel five-burner gas cook top handles all the boiling and sautéing while a double dishdrawer of the same brand is incorporated beneath the metre deep entertaining island.

One-watt LED downlights provide a soft glow over the cooking area bookending the Bosch kitchen extractor. The same LED lighting system was used under the counter of the lounge facing side of the island. Five-watt LEDs outside illuminate the al fresco area beneath the top deck.

Above the kitchen island hangs one of two rows of four Astrid1 light pendants from Lighting Plus. The other set, installed on the lounge side, defines the dining area. A hidden Feelux Dim Slimline lighting system extends nine metres down the back wall and can wash the entire six-metre wide room in one of 14 choices of ambient light – with settings ranging from ‘morning’ through to ‘sunset’. “It is so effective it can even floodlight the garden,” laughs Craig.

Builder Pete MacLeod says one of the challenges in creating a large open space is making sure the ceiling is perfect. “At first the painters rolled the ceiling but when we turned the lights on, it was so unforgiving, they came back and sprayed it.” The colour throughout the living areas is Resene Alabaster. For the bathroom, Kludi taps and two showerheads, including a rain shower and a Heritage ‘pulsing’ heated towel rail with a power save mode, were sourced from Chesters Plumbing and Bathroom. The couple says that the staff at Chesters were fabulous: “They’re very practical and not afraid to challenge us with common sense questions.” Hot water is supplied from a Rinnai Infinity continuous flow water heater.

Have a look at our Refresh case study in Auckland House extension with second storey addition in Celevedon.

 

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This article by Jason Burgess featured in the Autumn 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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