City architect's own home

By Joanna Smith

SIZE: Land 2099sq m, house 200sq m.
PRICE INDICATION: CV $720,000. Set date of sale April 10, closes at 2pm.
INSPECT: Sat/Sun 1-1.30 pm or by appointment.
SCHOOL ZONES: Titirangi Primary or Kaurilands School, Glen Eden Intermediate, Green Bay High School.
CONTACT: Lisa-Maree Wallen, ph 021 666 741, or Lynn Lacy-Hauck, 021 190 0611, Ray White.
FEATURES: Original modernist home designed by architect Ewen Wainscott on the market for the first time since it was built in the early 1960s. Two levels with beautiful detailing throughout, including redwood timber and copper nails, hand-made bricks, shoji screens, copper light fittings and floor to ceiling windows overlooking native bush.
12 Kopiko Road, Titirangi. Photo / Ted Baghurst
12 Kopiko Road, Titirangi. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Ewen Wainscott was the architect of the family - and the city - but it was his wife, Eileen, who influenced the design of their Titirangi family home. "Design mattered to her," says son Bramwell. "She was interested in the practicalities of life."

It was Eileen who bought the property in 1961, down the road from Tibor Donner, Ewen's friend and mentor, whom he succeeded as Auckland's City Architect in 1967. For more than two years, Eileen and Ewen sat on the site, tracking sun and views. On the north face of Mt Atkinson, it had glimpses of Rangitoto, although the bush has long since grown.

The house that emerged was a modernist gem.

"It was true to the form of its time," says Bramwell, "but people still respond to its contemporary feel and warmth." The efficient layout shows his mother's influence. "She believed in economy of movement," he says, "an advocate for how people lived."

Ewen's meticulous design demonstrates the influences of the time, and a commitment to locally sourced materials. "There's rimu throughout," says Bramwell, "and totara beams, copper nails and even a chain downspout because Dad didn't want boring piping."

Sliding doors and the latest Cooper louvre windows are timeless touches, alongside the mid-century copper light fittings.

Bramwell also notes his father's dislikes: symmetry and lawns. So the house is perched on the hillside, a redwood-clad box offset on a brick base.

"The bricks were the last from the New Lynn kilns. Dad picked out seconds with the most texture."

The gently sloped mono-pitched roof is echoed in the front carport. Bramwell created a carefree terraced bush garden, although he recalls free-ranging with his sister, dog and local kids around the neighbourhood.

Bramwell was his father's assistant, checking out progress on city projects like St Patrick's Square or the "new" art gallery extension. Closer to home, he was the "boy", working with his dad on constant improvements, finishing the basement spaces as family needs changed.

The upper level was cleverly designed for Eileen's "economy of movement". An entry off the carport, directly to the kitchen, was a novelty for the time. More typical was the redwood-panelled lobby and sliding mahogany veneer door to the living room. The Japanese-style sliding shoji screen creates a dramatic lantern, revealing the walls of windows and bush beyond.

"It was all about borrowed light," says Bramwell of the sloping ceilings, clerestory windows and floor-level glass panels.

The kitchen is a gem of compact design, featuring a stainless steel sink counter suspended on poles to match the airy glass china cabinet. The north-facing deck was well used and the overhangs were carefully calculated for winter sun and summer shade. "Mum kept it open all the time," says Bramwell, "so there was always a breeze."

The modern ventilation continues in the bathroom and toilet, with those original textured louvre windows still going strong. The two upstairs bedrooms feature walls of built-in rimu storage, complementing clever storage hidden throughout the house.

Downstairs, the original laundry (with chute from the bathroom upstairs) was soon joined by a bedroom and bathroom for Bramwell. Later, the teenagers got a generous rumpus room with even more storage attached to the roomy workshop under the carport.

More recently, another makeover turned the rumpus into a self-contained unit, with another bathroom and bedroom space. The living room has its own kitchenette and opens to a tranquil paved patio, with separate entrance.

Eileen was Ewen's biggest fan, but with her passing, it's time for someone else to treasure the "little family nest" she loved for over half a century.

- NZ Herald

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