A grand retreat

By Robyn Welsh

SIZE: Land cross lease share of 776sq m, house approx 168sq m.
INSPECT: Sat/Sun 11-11.30pm. Auction: October 10.
SCHOOL ZONES: Freemans Bay Primary, Ponsonby Intermediate, Western Springs College, Auckland Girls' Grammar.
CONTACT: Marty Hall or Heather Lanting, Ray White, ph Marty 0274 500 168 or Heather 0274 394 124.
FEATURES: Two-storey Californian-style bunga low on cross-leased site redesigned for independent living upstairs and down; separate entry but not legally in two flats. Living, kitchen, bathroom, laundry, two bedrooms, plus mezza nine upstairs; three bedrooms, en suite, main bathroom/laundry, kitchen, living downstairs.
23a Hepburn Street, Freemans Bay. Photo / Michelle Hyslop
23a Hepburn Street, Freemans Bay. Photo / Michelle Hyslop

Architect Tony Ward's 10-year labour of love that crafted a resort-style retreat from the bare bones of a 1930s bungalow has been Michelle Felise's favourite place for solitude.

The peaceful ambience is a big part of what attracted Tony to this property in 1991. It's the same magic that inspired him to truck this home in two halves from the Waitakere Ranges and give it renewed spirit, alongside Western Park.

Michelle and Sasa Felise's connection to this private setting goes back five years. For Michelle it's the goldfish ponds that flank the bridge entry to the house that are special about this tranquil "tree house" just minutes from the central city.

"Sometimes I'll just sit here for 10 or 15 minutes and watch the fish before I even go inside because it's so peaceful and calming," Michelle says.

Sustained by rainwater trickling down a metal chain, the circular pond was built by Tony from bricks salvaged from the house while it was being prepared for the shift here.

It was Tony's Japanese-style sensory connection to the house and the recycled materials, including timber and stained-glass windows, that enhanced the character of a home already well defined with original heart rimu timber underfoot.

Acknowledging the line of the bungalow at the front that he'd earlier renovated, Tony retained the footprint of the house. Along its original central ridgeline he created the self-contained upper-storey with a separate entrance by the front door, although it is not legally a second dwelling.

Throughout, its 40-degree vaulted ceiling, the long central skylight and rough-sawn macrocarpa timber beams are dramatic.

The gantry, which Tony installed beneath the uppermost mezzanine viewing balcony, is the practical touch. Furniture can be hoisted into these upstairs areas via a gate opening in the balustrade below.

Beneath the rustic portico into the central front door and small hallway, the kitchen opens into the open-plan living and dining area.

Bifold windows and doors along the entire eastern face of the house link the living areas to the wrap-around deck, creating a seamless connection upstairs with the canopies of the trees. The bedrooms and bathrooms unfold along the south side. The en suite/wet room is filled with natural light from the conservatory-style timber roof windows above the door out to the private courtyard. A sliding door connects this en suite to the main bathroom/laundry, which also opens off the hallway.

Tony added a touch of the Pacific with herringbone bamboo panels in the bungalow door panels, the lounge bay window, the mezzanine bedroom and in the hand-made bamboo/ply sliding doors that conserve space in the upstairs bedroom.

On his website, Tony describes the home's story as "a love affair with a house". He designed it for himself and he did much of the building with the help of friends.

For Michelle and Sasa and their friends, it has made memories, too. "People come here and never expect it to be like this so close to the city."

- NZ Herald

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