From the footpath, this former state house in the no-exit part of Grey Lynn's tree-lined Selbourne St looks quiet and unassuming. Step over the threshold though and you'll find a generous, newly renovated house with space for three children and parents who work from home.
Its owners are Emily Perkins and Karl Maughan, two of New Zealand's foremost creative talents. Emily is a novelist and short story writer. Her latest novel The Forrests has, like her four previous books, won critical acclaim. Karl's large-scale, hyper-real paintings of flowering gardens are instantly recognisable and highly sought after.
Despite looking diminutive from the road, Emily and Karl's house is big enough to cater for their different working styles.
"I have the radio on, but Emily doesn't," explains Karl.
It's also accommodated their family's needs as the children have grown up. Daughters Veronica and Mary are now 13 and 8, while son Cass is 11. Mary was only a toddler when they moved in seven years ago, returning from an 11-year stint in England.
Karl works on his canvases in a converted garage studio, while Emily says she's written in every room in the house over the past seven years.
Emily also teaches at the University of Auckland, but it's a new job in Wellington that's prompting the family to move on. Emily will be teaching creative writing at Victoria University's International Institute of Modern Letters. Her job was finalised in October and coincided with the near-completion of a new kitchen and sitting room extension at Selbourne St, designed by architect Briar Green.
"Briar is so fantastic. She's got an incredible eye and knows how light works and what spaces a family needs," Emily says.
Entry to the Perkins-Maughan house is through a new bespoke timber gate. It leads to a maturely planted lush courtyard that's already been enjoyed by the family for some years. From here, there's a nikau-flanked door to Karl's studio, while to the right is a new entrance to the house. A wall within the entrance foyer displays part of the house's origins in a new setting. Stripped back to natural timber, what were once exterior weatherboards are now an inside feature wall.
The airy new sitting room has clerestory windows that flood the room with natural light and sliders that open to a deck and overlook the garden. "I love that mid-height view of the trees," says Emily.
There is an abundant garden with raspberries and herbs, magnolia and plum trees and a prolific avocado tree. Unlike what you might expect based on Karl's work, there isn't a flowering shrub in sight.
"There was a green garden when we got here so we've followed that," Karl says.
"I like the textures of the leaves and anyway, I paint flowers all day."
Back inside the house, the new sitting room's ply-lined ceiling follows the angles of the ceiling in the original house. Matched matai flooring also provides continuity between old and new.
The new kitchen has a large amount of storage - a mix of drawers, open shelves, a moveable island unit and copious shelving hidden behind sliding doors.
Veronica and Cass' bedrooms are upstairs, as well as a family bathroom and separate toilet. Downstairs there is a further living area warmed by a woodburner. The main bedroom has a walk-in wardrobe and an en suite. French doors off this bedroom, and Mary's room, open to the garden.
With Emily's new job to look forward to and Karl already set up with a studio in the capital, all that remains is finding a family base in Wellington and new owners for this special Grey Lynn home.By Penny Lewis