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  • Prime Property

Prime Property

WORDS Patricia Moore IMAGES Scott Espie

After 10-years of living in a featured Auckland villa, the dated kitchen, purple bathrooms and lack of storage were all finally too much for the owners; Peter and Paul decided it was time for a major renovation. They’d flirted with the idea previously but had been unhappy with the plans presented: “Too formulaic. We’d seen the same thing in a dozen local renovations. We were after a design that reflected how we wanted to live,” says Peter. “Garry was prepared to listen to what we needed and how we wanted to live in the house.”


Discussion is a vital part of any renovation project and the more home owners bring to the table, the better the outcome, says architect Garry Cullen of Ardmore Architects.


In this case, it all began very informally. “Friends asked if I knew anyone interested in a domestic alteration project; I’d been involved in a number of villa alterations, including two of my own, so, armed with some butter paper (draft sketch paper) and a bottle of wine, we got together one Sunday afternoon to see what could be done.”


The short answer was ‘plenty’. The owners didn’t like the existing kitchen (“I’m surprised it lasted ten years intact,” says Garry). The main bedroom on the upper level was cramped and hot during summer and a structural post in the living room was a source of annoyance, as was the disconnect with the north-facing garden.

“They wanted to be able to entertain in style and cater for extended family visits.”

They talked, the wine flowed and so did the ideas. The owners had very firm ideas about the problems they wanted to solve but they realised early on there was more to gain by listening to Garry’s advice and experience. 

“He introduced some amazing ideas we’d never thought of – such as dropping the kitchen/living/dining space down four steps from the rest of the house.”

 Garry drew up free-hand plans plus an outline of materials and finishes, which were sent off to the quantity surveyor for an estimate of costs; something he advises doing at an early stage in a renovation project/

Those first costing’s could well have seen the whole project abandoned. (“Eye-watering” was Peter’s word). Time for Version two; going further out, rather than up, met the budget, although there was a degree of brief creep, says Garry. “What began as ‘style on a budget’ turned into more style than budget.”


Yes, they had a budget, says Peter, adding, “it’s a guesstimate of what a project might cost. A budget ain’t a budget until it’s fully blown!”


That said, they kept a close eye on progress and on costs. “We used an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of budget versus actual costs and did a whole lot of juggling. The taps we chose were more expensive but we didn’t need to do a mains power upgrade. And we saved by choosing less expensive vanity basins. Then, having seen how manky the existing walls looked in comparison to the new walls, we chose to repaint the entire interior of the house – and we agreed to let an ad agency hire our ‘building-site’ to shoot a television commercial. That funded our house re-warming party. It’s a process!”


They’re ‘high-maintenance clients’ says Peter, with strong views on design and finishes, and, through fortnightly on-site project meetings, both Peter and Paul were actively involved in every step of the project.

Because a previous lean-to addition meant the existing site coverage was already slightly over the guidelines of the area, it was important to have a clear understanding of the notifications required. Both neighbours were engaged early on with the concept plans, and while one chose not to sign off on them, it was agreed with the Council that, as the proposed pavilion extension was compliant with height in relation to the boundary, their consent was not critical. “Resource consent was granted and the go-ahead to prepare building consent and put out to tender was given.”

“A special family reunion became the catalyst to have the renovation complete by the third week in November last year.” No pressure! Richard van Weerd of VW Developments was the successful contractor and work began, on-site, in July last year.

The homeowners had a fixed price contract with Richard and he and his subbies were amazing, says Paul. “The build time was to be five months and our move back home date was agreed. To Richard’s credit, we moved back in on the agreed date just five months later.”


The pavilion extension was dropped almost 800mm, so the rear deck related to the existing garden. The roof of the pavilion was lifted above the side walls to make it float and receive plenty of light without overlooking the neighbours. “Pivot high-level windows added natural cross-flow ventilation,” says Garry.

Getting the kitchen right was key to the success of the project. “At this point the ‘style on a budget’ was sacrificed for clean, uncluttered lines that would produce a timeless look,” says Garry. “The island unit looks like a small aircraft carrier but it allows Paul to do a lot of product development for his business, The Little Cake Kitchen.”

The new floor level was constructed as a concrete slab with timber overlay, flowing out on to a timber deck, all at the same level. The rear wall is designed as a series of five glass doors with the centre one fixed and a tensioned stainless steel cross-brace positioned in front of it. “The outer doors stack over the central one creating an amazing indoor/outdoor flow. A built-in barbeque completes the space.”

There’s an element of bravery to any major home renovation – oiling the floors rather than using polyurethane and doing away with the lawn were both bold moves, says Paul. But perhaps the bravest thing the couple did was head to Brisbane for a wedding and two week holiday, “smack in the middle of the project. As a couple of self-confessed control freak it was brave not be around at this time.”

There are limits to what can be done with a heritage dwelling and such projects throw up more than a fair share of challenges. For Richard these included the restricted access to the rear, which meant all materials had to be carried down either side of the house. Garry was faced with problems around Resource Consent and ensuring he had involved his clients. And for the owners: “Trusting a whole gang of people to deliver our dream, was challenging.”

After five months, during which both Paul and Peter reckon they spent, on average, a day a week racing around looking at everything from channel shower drains and outdoor heaters to floor finishes, stereo equipment and door handles “and online shopping for decanters to use as feature light fittings, then finding someone to slice the bottoms off,” the project was delivered on time and on budget.

So would they do it all again? “No need to! We have a home we love with amazing details, fantastic light and sophisticated elegance. The new blends with the old. Entertaining and living at home has never been better.”

  • Post author
    Renovate Magazine