Photographer Darryl Ward instantly loved the mid-century house in the Titirangi bush. He was so confident after only one look, he went off to a photo shoot and left his business partner to bid at the auction.
Underneath the mess of a vacant house was a solid structure. "I fell for its good lines and simple, modernist form," says Darryl. "I've just removed the frilly bits and polished it up."
Designed in 1952 by architect Bill Chick, the house was expensively detailed for its time. Titirangi has always been a haven for artists and, reputedly, the house was built for a jeweller. Bill Chick - who endowed a scholarship to the School of Architecture - worked in Chicago in the 1940s and brought back the Prairie style.
When Darryl moved in nearly a decade ago, he knew the house was a keeper. Perched on a flat, sunny site, only minutes from Titirangi village, its triple section slopes down into the bush. The elongated boomerang shape and deep, flat eaves reflect that Chicago style, although the frilly wrought iron had to go.
Working with Sue Hillery, of Hillery Priest Architecture, Darryl has restored the house from the ground up - rewired, reroofed, strengthened and insulated. His enviable collection of mid-century furniture suits the generous sunny spaces and quirky 1950s features.
Sun pours in the wraparound windows of the double-height entry atrium, penetrating the upper-level living area. The American maple panelling has been restored but the pastel lino floor has gone.
Outside, the coloured patio pavers remain. "It's an amazing hang-out in summer, eating under the trees or lounging on the patio," says Darryl. Covered decks on two floors allow the view to be enjoyed in all weather. Sliding doors the length of the living room open to a tiled sunroom that also opens to the outside.
An enormous Hinuera stone fireplace anchors the living room. Floral Axminster was replaced with soft olive carpet, but the original striated plywood panels and dimpled cornices remain with the 50s built-ins that still look modern.
The kitchen is a mid-century time capsule, complete with chequerboard linoleum floor and marbled countertops. "I've stealthed in storage without destroying the look," says Darryl. His stealth moves include a hidden DishDrawer and a sleek fitted pantry behind a geometric-patterned door. Less stealthy is the magnificent Frigidaire cooker, which comes with its 1962 manual. More vintage linoleum and pastel tiles adorn the large laundry, with a separate toilet accessible from the garden.
The master suite illustrates sensitive renovation combined with modern luxury. New maple panelling and built-in furniture echo the originals, while the white-tiled bathroom is homage to a more glamorous age (but with much better heating). Sliding doors open to the covered deck and bush views.
Downstairs, the second bathroom also enjoys the glamour treatment and underfloor heating, plus an adjoining Magmed sauna. A switch in the master bedroom heats it in minutes. The four bedrooms retain a more vintage style, each sporting timber built-ins. A double bedroom opens to the north-facing terrace, as do a smaller sewing room (with cunning drop-down table) and cosy bunk-room adored by Darryl's 4-year-old son. The south-facing study was used as a studio, as has the attached double garage that has been fully lined and soundproofed. A heat pump warms the whole downstairs area, with another upstairs.
"I really love this house and never thought I'd leave," says Darryl. But he and partner Katie Lockhart - a designer and stylist - have found a 1960s California ranch house to work on.