Herald homes of the year: Classic piece of city's heritage

By Penny Lewis

HeraldHomes real estate editor Penny Lewis shares her favourite homes listed for sale in the past year.

Whare Tane combines American influence and New Zealand's natural and cultural landscape. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Whare Tane combines American influence and New Zealand's natural and cultural landscape. Photo / Ted Baghurst

An astonishing piece of 1920s architectural heritage lies at the foot of Maungawhau, Mt Eden. Called Whare Tane, the house is a mashup of the period's international styles - Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie houses - and Pakeha New Zealand's fascination with Maori-influenced design.

The overall design combines forward-thinking architecture with expressions of American influence and a strong awareness of New Zealand's natural and cultural landscape.

The house reflects the era's growing sense of national identity, in part sparked by its original owner, prominent illustrator and cartoonist, Trevor Lloyd. Lloyd was the first to use the Kiwi as the national symbol, in a 1905 cartoon about the defeat of the British Lions.

His illustrations of native flora and fauna and use of Maori symbolism were ahead of the times, too.

Although the house is a bit frayed around the edges, the solid construction and forward thinking design remain.

The building is concrete, sitting on basalt stone quarried from the site. Architect John Anderson clearly referenced Lloyd Wright's prairie-style houses, with its flat-roofed horizontal design. Now softened by ivy, it must have seemed radical compared to the nearby English-style cottages. The modernist exterior opens to a wood panelled lobby, a celebration of arts and crafts decoration.

The home's decorations are part of the furniture - Maori-style carvings on newel posts and door frames and even carved tiki (with movable tongues) as light switches and latches. Lloyd himself made the tiki-style brass lampshade.

To make use of this light the living areas are upstairs, with bedrooms on the ground floor. The panelled stairwell opens on to a dining area with adjacent living room through multi-paned French doors. This floor reflects the architect's Scottish background, with geometric decorations reminiscent of Glasgow's Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Generous windows and a balcony off the dining room reveal panoramic views of the whole city. A deciduous magnolia tree in the garden below provides summer shade and winter sun. The living room - originally called the music room - features a massive basalt fireplace, complete with three kiwi embossed on the brass hood, and built-in inglenooks.

Also on this floor is the shell of the original kitchen and an ancient lavatory, opening to the mountainside garden.

Downstairs, the three bedrooms retain their original wooden floors and ceilings. The study has another basalt fireplace and westerly windows overlooking the mountain reserve. The adjacent empty shell was once the bathroom.

In the foyer, the tiki-latched door reveals stairs to the basement, originally used as Lloyd's studios. The basalt boulder walls remain, although the rotten wooden floors have been removed. An arched door opens to the garden, now a green wilderness with remnants of scoria-edged paths.

The house is registered by the Historic Places Trust and scheduled by the council so new owners will need to work sensitively to restore this special piece of Auckland's heritage.

Whare Tane

26 and 28 Clive Rd, Epsom

Size: (26 Clive Rd) land 871sq m, house 164sq m; (28 Clive Rd) land 1230sq m

Price: Sold for $1.55 million

Features: Crafted 1920s residence of architectural significance on the slopes of Mt Eden. Beautiful internal stone and timber detailing. Adjacent section of 1230sq m also for sale.

- NZ Herald

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