The Architect's Home - Present
Architect & Builder in part: John Wray
- Moving back to Aotearoa in ’96 we bought a traditional villa in the Auckland suburb of Mount Eden. It had become de rigueur to modernise these old beauties by leaving the front as a facade and creating a completely contrasting minimalist, open plan extension to the rear. Given what we did in London (see The Architect’s Home – Past) this was perhaps to be expected, but life is full of surprises and the occasional volte-face. Maybe we had lived for too long in a minimalist ‘coffee commercial’ or maybe it was because of an exposure to other influences but whatever the reason, we chose instead to go in completely the opposite direction.
Villas are full of ornate, old world detail and we decided to not just go with it but to celebrate and enhance this - to make it grand. A change of minimalism for maximilism, if you will, but still a passion for detail. The result may not be a purists traditional home and it may have taken on some American influences but it is undeniably rewarding to live in.
- Renovations that involve this kind of passion are just as much about the process as the end result, as I am sure Kevin McCloud would say. For those who just like the end result and don’t want to see their meal prepared, please look away now. But for those who really enjoy seeing utter turmoil somehow becoming something recognisable and possibly even special, please enjoy the gritty bits below.
The “renovation”, when it comes to old buildings like this, is often actually a rebuild. We planned on new foundations, new windows and a new roof. We also had planned on replacing the old weatherboards as it was cheaper than burning off the old lead based paint off the original timber. We gained a modern envelope with actual insulation (foreign to many a villa) and all without the risk of the house catching fire in the process. What we didn’t perhaps plan on was just how much of the original structural timber we had to replace due to it being somewhat less than straight or it having been completely ‘bodged about’ by previous owners. After six months of living with our friendly, it would have to be said, builders and their preoccupation with power tools – a hammer? - we had what is politely termed a ‘shell’.
Then the real job started.
- This project is, in the grand tradition of architect’s houses, a ‘labour of love'. It would have to be given the time involved. Also in that tradition, it is very much a ‘work in progress’. We started with the outside landscaping, well before the reconstruction building began, and then, once we had our ‘shell’ to ourselves, moved to the interior, taking it room by room. Just like in London we took on all of the work, laying floors, installing window sashes, erecting a few more walls,connecting off all the wiring & plumbing, tiling, papering, glazing, making & installing all the endless miles of timber trim, batten, cornice, dado, skirting & architrave and then painting or staining it all. This included a fair bit of joinery, for the various skylights, small tables and window seat, but this time round we actually had the main kitchen units made and installed by someone else; luxury!
The following sections progress in the order that they were undertaken.
- The existing & newly enhanced detail of the house was picked out with three colours which were intensified versions from the heritage paint colour palette – villas were not originally white.
The gardens were set out using the “outdoor rooms” principal of formal gardening with a little bit of English country thrown in to soften the effect.
...and at night
- The light streaming through the coloured glass windows meant that the room needed a monochromatic colour scheme to let it sing. Pearlescent paint was used to paint the stripes to add another level of reflective complexity. The flat ceiling was painted to resemble the effect of being in a tent to increase the sense of space. The various shower hinges, handles, towel rail and basin stands were made to design and then nickel plated to tie in with the English tapware.
- The concept was to create a lantern with the delicate double arched doors carried round on all faces, both glazed and solid. The vines were painted onto the ceiling by the artist Ross Lewis and enhance the outdoors, gazebo-like feel. The exterior of the pent roof and skylight were clad in shingles to acknowledge this room’s departure from the typical villa form.
- This was intentionally finished in a softer & richer fashion than other rooms, with the choice of wall paper and lighting, mixed with stained timber finishes, creating a cosy, closeting feel. This was further enhanced at the bedhead by the lowered ceiling of the lean-to extension.
- This farmhouse style Kitchen & Dining room has a blue & white Wedgewood theme. The ornate kitchen joinery and bespoke handmade tiles complete the image with a hint of an American flavour. The arched entry from the hall incorporates display shelving to create a portal-like effect as you walk through.
- Watch this space.