This charming 1950s house with a picture perfect view of Rangitoto underwent a modern renovation.
WORDS Stephanie Matheson PHOTOGRAPHY Jason Burgess, Stephanie Matheson and Caroline Ducobu
TV presenter Evie Ashton is a seasoned renovator. She’s been in the thick of house makeovers for many years, filming four full-scale projects and many smaller alterations. Now she’s taking renovating personally: she has her hands on a fantastic ‘doer-upper’ and is undertaking a complete overhaul. It’s no surprise that her renovation journey will also feature on TV – the renovation was covered in ‘The Kiwi Dream with Refresh Renovations’ on Prime TV in December 2013.
Evie’s dream home is located on a prime cliff section in Glendowie. It’s a two-bedroom 1950s house with spectacular views encompassing Rangitoto and Halfmoon Bay. “When I first saw the house I was speechless for about 10 minutes,” says Evie. “It’s hard to believe you’re still in the city. The view is extraordinary. I really like being up high; I find it emotionally uplifting.”
Along with the height and the view, however, comes the risk of being located on a cliff top. Evie explains: “There have been slips in the area, and in fact there was one on this property in the ‘60s. It took away a lot of the earth we could have worked with. We’ll probably need to bring in some soil for the foundations.”
To avoid the need for major fortification work, the renovation will stay within the footprint of the existing house.
Evie’s guiding principle for the renovation is to honour the house and the site. The home was built before the Harbour Bridge and has all the typical features of the ‘50s Kiwi home. “I really want to retain the feel of the era – the Hollywood influence, the long, clean lines,” says Evie. “You could put a slick modern building here, but it would just look like every other house.”
“This house is special. It’s humble and yet interesting – you can feel that it has existed for a long time and has been loved. There is the classic stone feature wall with a fireplace in the living room; it just has to stay. Then there is the ‘80s kitchen with all its nooks and crannies; we’ll update it with Laminex bench tops and move it back from the window front,” she says.
“The windows in the lounge have this old-school steel joinery. I’d love to keep it, but I’m still deciding whether to open it right up instead with new Fletcher Aluminium sliding doors and blinds from New Zealand Window Shades. As for the bathrooms, they have little, retro hexagonal tiles; I’m hoping that we can preserve some of them and maybe even build them into the new bathrooms with the help of Heritage Tiles.”
The house is truly modest with only two bedrooms. But with a young family herself – daughter Sabina is five years old and son Axel is two – Evie is interested in trying to create a third bedroom. “We’re looking at digging deeper in the work room to make another bedroom, but we’re not sure what we’re going to find. We don’t know how far down the concrete walls go – so there could be a surprise in store for us.”
Less digging is planned for the main garden area. “We’ll keep the section on a natural slope,” says Evie. “I want to use organic paving materials and introduce native trees. I’d also like to get some art out there; I love sculptures. My landscaper likes functional features, so I think he’ll talk me into an outdoor fireplace and a Hot Spring Spa.”
From structural decisions through to landscaping touches, Evie is a firm believer in staying closely involved throughout the whole renovation process. “With a renovation, you really never know what you’re going to find – it could be damp and the structural quality could be poor. You can’t put the walls back once they’re down, so you have to stay involved and make the best decision at the time,” she says.
Evie is determined to stay in control of the renovation and worked very closely with Refresh Renovations, the building team she chose to make her Kiwi dream come true.
In New Zealand, we’re spoilt for natural beauty from lush native forests through to spectacular coastline. But getting hold of a piece of that paradise in Auckland is not an easy feat. So, when TV presenter Evie Ashton was given the opportunity to work on a prime cliff top property for the Kiwi Dream, she jumped at the chance.
“When I visited the property for the first time, I felt as though I was being transported to a tropical island,” says Evie. “The view of Rangitoto is of course a classic Auckland view, but it’s so quiet and beautiful here that the city seems far far away.”
A two-bedroom 1950s Kiwi home, the house came with the typical features of the era including a stone feature wall with fireplace, exquisite steel joinery, hexagonal bathroom mosaics, and even cruise ship style stairs. The property is all about the coastal scenery, and the brief to the architect was very clear: to create a relaxed living environment in a house that highlights – but doesn’t compete with – the dramatic view.
This has translated into an understated elegance that frames the view from every angle. And just like in any good old bach, there is no grand front door entrance; you walk straight into the living area – and are stunned into silence by the breathtakingly beautiful panorama.
Before the renovation could start some key decisions had to be made with the architect around which of the old features to retain and which new elements to include.
Evie explains: “The stone feature wall and fireplace simply had to stay, they are so retro and add real character to the house. I thought about keeping the original steel joinery as well, but in the end I couldn’t resist opening the living area up completely.”
As a compromise, sleek steel joinery (instead of aluminium) from Crittall Arnould was used to stay true to the home’s ‘industrial language’. It’s an approving nod to the 50s and their original take on indoor-outdoor flow. The new eight-metre wide pavilion style opening takes this concept to the next level, supported by a massive steel beam that had to be transported in three parts and welded together on site.
With new joinery coming in, Evie took the opportunity to double glaze and install black see-through blinds from New Zealand Window Shades. “The blinds are fantastic and very sexy. So much light gets in here, sometimes too much. I wanted to find a stylish way to block it out,” says Evie. New skylights were also installed, and two of the four can be opened with automatic Velux openers to capture some of the coastal breeze.
Elsewhere in the house, namely the bedrooms and bathrooms, single glazed windows and glass louvres were retained. Autex’s GreenStuf insulation helps improve thermal efficiency and Warmup electric underfloor heating systems were laid throughout the house to control the temperature.
The home’s two bathrooms were turned into light and practical spaces. Evie says: “The old bathrooms were really cramped and while they had great retro tiles and colours, they just weren’t going to work in a modern home. ” Upstairs, the old bathroom was reorganised to function as the master bedroom’s en-suite.
Its outside wall was pushed out under the soffit to create extra room for a freestanding Athena bath. Methven’s Tahi thermostatic dual flow mixer dials up the desired water temperature and a new ceiling-height glass corner window creates a spa-like native bush experience. The downstairs bathroom was fitted with a hidden laundry and a walk-through shower behind the vanity.
Evie’s favourite part of the new house is the kitchen: “I love what Mal Corboy has done with it – from the drawers through to the overall feel of it. It’s sophisticated and goes with the steel theme and the stone fireplace. ” The cupboard doors were finished in a high gloss off white and a contrasting new Laminex metal finish.
They maximise the available space and conceal a whole array of smart Hettich storage components. The centre island makes the most of the kitchen’s new floor plan, which was redesigned by project architect Dean Wyllie and moved to the back of the house where once a small entrance area took up valuable space.
Installing the flooring in the open-plan kitchen, dining and living area turned out to be the project’s biggest hold up. As Evie got ready to see her fabulous Spazio Casa American oak floorboards laid, it became clear that the floor hadn’t been prepared correctly and was uneven after Evie ignored advice from Refresh not to use a dodgey tradesmen for that job. Refresh stepped in to solve this problem however and in came the jackhammers – with the final coat of paint just drying on the walls – to rip the top layer of concrete up. Out came the underfloor heating that had already been laid. The final result, however, is stunning and doesn’t show a trace of this drama.
Another challenge, and in Evie’s own words her ‘worst renovation moment’, presented itself when water started leaking into the newly converted basement room, which doubles as a media and guest room. “It was really scary,” admits Evie. “It’s essentially a room in the ground and waterproofing issues can be very costly.”
The Gib and the window had to be removed, and a special waterproofing substance injected into the concrete. Evie adds: “I was fortunate to have had a great project manager who was able to solve the problem. Project management is a big plus and some of the best money spent on a renovation I think.”
When it came to choosing colours for the house, Evie opted for a coastal palette: “The whole house is a natural space despite the industrial elements. It’s part of the landscape and the beach feeling overrides any other impression.” Inside, whites, off whites, and duck eggs summon up a relaxed and soothing atmosphere.
All lighting for the house came from Lighting Plus, and Evie sourced the furniture, including a pair of Barcelona chairs, from Bigsave Furniture. The exterior is painted in a Resene CoolColour, which is more durable for darker shades. A light aluminium roof from Metal Design Solutions with a stylish wide profile tops it all off.
In the garden, Pascal Tibbits from Natural Habitats created two distinct flat areas. The natural slope of the section was tamed by compacting the ground and planting a variety of native shrubs. Just below the deck, a new entertaining spot houses a spa pool from Hot Spring Spa.
Railroad sleepers and a metal outdoor fireplace extend the industrial flavour of the house to the outdoors. Several steps lead down to the lower lawn and a wooden ‘sanctum’. “Sitting here and looking out on the water sums up the whole point of the house,” smiles Evie. “And then to look back at the house itself and see how beautiful it has turned out – it’s simply wonderful.”
Renovation advice from Evie Ashton
“Create a mood board well in advance and collect as many images of colours and of the look and feel you want to create.
“Read the architect plans in detail and walk through the property. Try to notice things that you normally don’t perceive, things that are designed not to be seen such as pelmets.
“Try to make decisions before the first nail is being pulled up. The stress of changing things once work is underway is hideous. But if you really don’t like something I think you have to weather the storm and change it. Sometimes you won’t know this before you see things in place.
“Consider moving out of your home, especially if you have kids, while the renovation takes place. This way you avoid a lot of stress and won’t slow the process down.
“Recycle materials where possible. Old windows and doors can be sold on Trade Me or at salvage yards – it all adds up.”
Renovation at a glance
- A complete facelift of the house while retaining key features of its 1950s design.
- New window fronts in the living room and dining room.
- A brand new relocated kitchen.
- Shifting the hallway staircase to a new location.
- Turning the upstairs bathroom into an ensuite for the master bedroom and adding a new guest toilet.
- Updating the downstairs bathroom.
- Excavating the floor of the studio/workroom to create a third bedroom.
- Extensive landscaping.
This case study by Stephanie Matheson featured in Issue 002 and Issue 009 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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