ARTICLE Delilah Southon
Auckland couple Jess and Warren Britten share their unique heritage renovation, which has become exceedingly popular through their Instagram account @hallweneed.
It was a combination of extensive research and a healthy dash of madness that Auckland based couple Jess Britten and Warren Durling were lead to an incredible opportunity.
Jess Britten, from Christchurch and Warren Durling, from Auckland are the next ‘big thing’ in home renovation, with their significant following on social media documenting their renovation process via their popular Instagram account ‘@HallWeNeed’.
After actively searching in a saturated Auckland property market for two years, the creative duo stumbled upon a heritage hall in Auckland’s Freemans Bay, online. They were immediately drawn to the vast space and unique character, quite the opposite to what they were searching for weeks earlier. After a quick visit to the open home they “immediately fell in love with the hall” explains Jess. In the following weeks, the pair realised that the hall, which neither of them could stop thinking about, was the way to go. So with a sense of fun and a bit of due diligence the pair purchased the heritage hall to live in and renovate.
Listed as a heritage building with both the Auckland City Council and Heritage New Zealand, the hall has a ‘category A’ protection, which means that no original features can be altered inside or out – “not that we’d ever want to” says Jess. As they see it, they are guardians of the hall, there to live in it, restore it to its former glory, and keep it maintained so it doesn’t ever fall into a state of disrepair.
The allure of character buildings has always been strong for Jess and Warren, Jess having grown up in one herself. It was one of those big dreams that they never thought would actually happen.
The renovation process started in February 2016. The first major renovation project they undertook was to covert the former meeting room upstairs into a master bedroom. Jess admits that she naively thought that the first process would be finished in three to six months, but it has ended up to be a lengthier journey of six to twelve months. The couple believe that the hardest part has been finalising the design and going through the consent process, admitting that unless you can afford to pay someone to do these things for you, you are somewhat on your own, and it can be really difficult at times to move forward confidently.
The couple expresses that so far the most challenging part has been accepting how long everything takes. “It’s an exercise in patience more than anything else” laughs Jess. This in part is custom to the fact that everything is new – being the first home they have owned, first renovation they’ve undertaken and first sniff of a heritage building they have worked with. It is also largely in part due to the couple doing most of the renovations themselves – manual labour has helped to keep costs down.
Jess has taken on most of the design work whilst Warren does an efficient job of taking care of the financial aspects of the project. Jess is constantly inspired by people and their nuances, as well as travel and immersing herself in tactile environments, like fabric stores, tile shops or foreign bizarres. Thus, the beauty of the match between the hall, Warren and Jess. From the moment you step inside there is a rich, tangible feel that is filled with history and charm from floor to the high ceilings.
Looking ahead in the renovation, the couple insists that they are both really looking forward to having a bedroom, and coming in a close second would be a kitchen, likening their experiences to camp life currently. Visitors comment on how raw the space is at present.
Jess laughs that people often say “you’re brave... which is code for you’re crazy”.
Lucky enough to be doing what they love, they try to look at everything as a stepping stone to the long term goal of converting the hall into a home with multiple bedrooms, while still retaining the elements like the 5.5 metre ceiling that made them fall in love with the space.
“Good things take time, and quality is the most important thing to us, we’re just trying to enjoy the journey” expresses Jess. Although the hall is now their home, they love the idea of others getting involved and experiencing the magic of historical buildings that they are inspired by every day.
Instagram has also been an important source of inspiration and encouragement for Warren and Jess. Having decided to document and share their journey on their account ironically named ‘HallWeNeed’ has fortunately allowed them to become a part of a community of people who are passionate about design, heritage, architecture, DIY and renovation.
Humbled by how genuinely interested and supportive the community is, the couple have met countless people during the renovation process, who have been “generous with their advice, time and expertise” which the pair will be eternally grateful for, says Warren and Jess.
Stay tuned: Jess and Warren will be featured in a future issue of Renovate magazine to show off their hall with an update of their renovation. Read more on our website www.renovate-mag.com, their website www.hallweneed.com or visit @HallWeNeed on Instagram and Facebook.
Read more about the couple and their journey in the latest issue of Renovate Magazine