Interiors: Back to front

By Leanne Moore

Restrictions on what could be changed on their house, meant one Auckland family had to think outside the box on renovations.

Unique fabrics and plants have been used to give each bedroom its own character. Photo / Your Home and Garden
Unique fabrics and plants have been used to give each bedroom its own character. Photo / Your Home and Garden

When Susan Gower and her husband bought their Grey Lynn villa in 1997 they were initially happy to renovate within its existing blueprint.

"We liked the house immediately so had to act quickly to secure it, which stretched us," says Gower. "[Property] values then plateaued for a couple of years, but we were relatively happy because we knew we'd stay here long term. We wanted to improve the living conditions without spending too much on an alteration."

In close to original condition, the villa had only had one small change made to it: an outside toilet and laundry had been built on to the back porch behind the kitchen. In 2000, the couple changed the kitchen, opened up the lounge and renovated the bathroom to incorporate it into the house.

But after five years and two children (George, now 10, and William, 7), they needed bigger spaces than the traditional villa design allowed, and wanted more light and better connection to the outdoors.

"Our garage was at the back of the house on our northern boundary, taking up the sun and living space," says Gower, who works as a commercial and residential interior designer. "We wanted to have it at the front of the house. And we were encouraged by the development of the property next door. They were the first people to do an extensive alteration in this street. The house sold a year later for a record price for a house in this area."

But because their century-old villa is in a "Residential 1" zone, there were restrictions on what the couple could change.

They had to retain the historic character of the front yard and villa frontage so as not to affect the streetscape but they were allowed to alter the rear in a more modern fashion.
Putting the garage under the front of the house allowed them to maximise their site coverage. The old lounge became another bedroom, while the extension at the rear accommodates a dining room and a new lounge.

The old and new parts of the house are deliberately distinct. The old part retains its Edwardian detailing, while the new structure is light and open and features lots of glass. Instead of wooden floors, there is concrete with underfloor heating. A glass roof with aluminium louvres sits over the new dining area. The electrically controlled windows enable the family to manage the light and shade in this space.

Gower is happy with the renovations despite the challenges they faced.

"I think we did the best we could within the constraints we had," says Gower. "There's not one thing where we'd say, 'We could have done that better.'"

Style tips

Forward planning: The couple spent a lot of time thinking about how the home could fit with the family's changing needs. "We came to the conclusion that we had to think bigger and more long-term in order to do it properly," Gower says.
Restful space: Unique fabrics and plants have been used to give each bedroom its own character.
Visual link: The green splashback in the kitchen was inspired by a ceramic glaze and provides a visual connection with the colour used in the main bedroom.

- NZ Herald

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