Quality and style in The Avenues

By Robyn Welsh

SIZE: Land 415sq m, house 177sq m.
PRICE INDICATION: Similar properties in the area are selling in excess of $2 million. Auction June23.
INSPECT: Sat/Sun 12-12.30pm.
SCHOOL ZONES: Bayfield Primary, Ponsonby Intermediate, Western Springs College and Auckland Girls' Grammar.
CONTACT: John Wills, Custom Residential, ph 021 333 053 or 360 4860.
FEATURES: Elegant single-level bay villa and double carport with exterior and interior heritage detailing. North-facing dining, kitchen and lounge opening to courtyard with built-in bench seating and landscaped garden. Carpeted bedrooms, with tiled main bathroom and en suite.
50 Albany Rd, Herne Bay. Photo / Michelle Hyslop
50 Albany Rd, Herne Bay. Photo / Michelle Hyslop

There's as much high drama going on at the back of Chris and Anna O'Brien's villa as there is at the front, and that's how they've always liked it.

Chris is referring to the high villa stud that is part of what makes these villas in "The Avenues" so sought after.

As for the drama, he's applauding the design decisions of whichever previous owner reworked the rear of this circa 1905 home to maintain the height throughout.

Gone is any evidence of the rear lean-to roofline that defined such villas built in the days when the utility areas including the kitchen were as far away from the ubiquitous front parlour as possible so that visitors were always entertained in style.

"One of the reasons I bought this house and why we've loved it so much is its volume," says Chris. "This was the only villa I saw that had that volume throughout, without those lean-tos at the back. I don't know why people would even want to keep those."

As a result, both the north-facing living areas and the bedrooms along the south side enjoy enviable year-round natural light.

Under Chris' watch, the skilful placement of new replica windows in the dining room was just one of his heritage touches and plays a big part in this home's abundant light. It's also in keeping with his approach to "reinstating the good stuff" without the need for any structural alterations.

In the dining room, those two new double-hung front windows match the two on the adjoining north-facing wall. A beautiful blue, textured glass internal picture window echoes the deep blue in the leadlight glass in the west-facing front door. "That window also draws light right into the hallway and into the south side of the house."

Light aside, a huge part of this home's appeal for Chris and Anna and their son Thomas, aged 19 months, is in the way their spacious dining room, kitchen and rear lounge are separate yet well-connected and have well-proportioned spaces.

Their kitchen's location between the dining room and lounge is perfect for all the right reasons. Says Anna, a fashion designer, "I can be working in the kitchen and still keep an eye on Thomas when he's playing."

Being able to entertain as many as 70 guests here from a kitchen that is handy yet virtually out of sight is proof of their home's modern functionality, they say.

This home has perfectly supported their love of outdoor entertaining.

The French doors and fanlight windows that frame perimeter camellia hedges are all opened in summer. In the cooler months the French doors near their wood-burning fireplace are opened so the family and their friends can still eat outside surrounded by the fire's ambient warmth.

Chris and Anna have balanced their appreciation for such villa detail, including their reinstated board-and-batten ceilings, with their commitment to quality finishes, as seen in the mosaic wall tiles and porcelain-tiled floors in their en suite. Even the carport has had its share of attention, from the matching fretwork to the ceiling panelling.

For Chris, a commercial investment strategist, this home is the first villa among the five houses he has owned. At first sight, he knew it would be the perfect canvas for a memorable black-and-tan colour combination that he noticed some years back in the lobby of London's Blakes Hotel.

Here, he has translated that palette into blocks of wall colour throughout the living areas and chosen a similar hand-painted blue and tan-striped wallpaper for the hallway.

"For us, this home has been about quality, authenticity and simplicity," says Chris.

"This house has such charm and we'll really miss that, too."

- NZ Herald

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