7 Sefton Ave, Grey Lynn
SIZE: Land 668sq m, house (approx) 158sq m.
PRICE INDICATION: Interest expected above CV of $820,000. Auction November 28.
INSPECT: Sat/Sun 1-1.30pm.
ON THE WEB: barfoot.co.nz/486876
SCHOOL ZONES: Grey Lynn Primary, Pasadena Intermediate, Western Springs College.
CONTACT: Bruce Murtagh or Matt O'Rourke, Barfoot & Thompson, ph 360 2323, Bruce 021 433 669, Matt 021 375 909.
FEATURES: Renovated concrete home with traditional street frontage but modern extension at the rear to create open-plan living and flow to outdoors. North-facing backyard with shipping container converted into modern studio/office. *Plus off-street parking

With a background in design, Michelle Dowd and Phil Ivey weren't daunted by the deceased estate they bought 10 years ago.

The concrete home, which Phil says is commonly mistaken for an ex-state house, was built in 1947 and had the same owner until the couple bought it.

That meant there was a fair bit of work involved to make it comfortable.

"Within the first weekend that we owned it we stripped out every piece of plasterboard in the house; it was a mess," says Phil. "Michelle's parents came around to have a look and they were so shocked I think they wanted to take her away - but within six weeks it was liveable again."


Two years later they extended the home, with a Cameron Pollock-designed "box" slotted into the rear of the house to create an open-plan living, dining and kitchen area connecting to the north-facing backyard.

At the time of the renovation, Michelle was expecting their first child and despite the builder's promises that they would be in the home well before Ethan was born, she was directing operations while heavily pregnant and when Phil was working overseas.

"We literally moved in the week before Ethan was born," says Phil.

From the street, the home has a traditional look and that is carried through to the layout of the front rooms, with bedrooms either side of the hallway - one with a fireplace and French doors opening out to a terrace. Down the hallway is another bedroom and then a bathroom that has been remodelled using art director Michelle's skills. Glass-reinforced concrete has been used to house a resurfaced enamel bathtub and to make a benchtop that sits on a custom-made stainless steel vanity.

A door conceals stairs going down to the garage tucked under the house. What used to be an unlined space backed by dirt has been converted into a clean, dry storage area with a sealed floor that accommodates all manner of family paraphernalia.

"Phil did quite a lot of work lining it and putting in shelving," says Michelle.

Rimu floors continue from the original to the new part of the home so that there is a seamless flow from the lounge through to the kitchen and dining area.

Designed by Rotherham Interiors, the kitchen has a breakfast bar, stainless-steel benchtops and handle-less cabinetry. Glass sliders open to the east and to the north with decking and paving wrapping around the house to create outdoor areas bordered with succulents and palms.

From here the lawn slopes up and in the top corner of the section sits a converted shipping container that Phil uses as his office.

He needed the space for his work as production designer on Elysium, the movie by Neill Blomkamp, who directed the critically acclaimed sci-fi movie, District 9, a project that Phil also worked on.

Phil says the container, which has a glazed wall facing the house and bifolds out to the lawn, was converted to his specifications in five weeks and craned into place over the fence.

"It's fully lined, insulated and wired up," he says.

The sleek-looking studio, though, is a result of the fact that the family has run out of space at its present home, especially after the arrival of twins Emerson and Ryder, now aged 5.

"With three boys now, we've simply outgrown it," says Michelle.

But because they like the neighbourhood and the boys' nearby school, the couple has bought the next-door property. "We love the size of this section and its aspect, and next door is the same so we know what we are in for," says Phil.

Except this time, as Michelle points out, they also know the needs of their family now and into the future so they will be demolishing the existing house and building new.