An Edwardian beauty now aching with ambience had new life breathed into it by a Helensville couple who've had a swag of experience re-invigorating houses.
In an era teeming with show-home style neutral houses it's refreshing to explore a property with such distinctive atmosphere. There's no denying some of that stems from owner Sally's furnishings but peel them away and new owners still get an extremely character-rich base.
"We've 'done' lots of lovely big old houses," says Sally, who lives here with husband Martin, 15-year-old daughter Bella, three cats, two small dogs and chickens. "At one stage we even used to commute from a 1912 Arts-and-Crafts home outside of Timaru, which we owned with another couple."
They have lived at the end of their long, tree-lined driveway on the edge of Helensville township for nearly three years. "Helensville reminds me of when we first bought in Ponsonby 35 years ago; friendly and a bit bohemian," Sally says.
Ornate, high-stud plaster and pressed tin ceilings and leadlights are some of many original character features in the 1910 kauri-rich villa. They understand it was relocated to this site in 1973 from around Onehunga or One Tree Hill. "Apparently that was done by a builder who restored it very fastidiously."
The driveway culminates in a circle, with lots of off-street parking fronting the proud two-storey home. City-based friends are ever-keen to pass through the covered entranceway, sometimes bearing local vineyards' wine and sometimes for the weekend.
The central hallway introduces the impressive original kauri staircase. Charm is retained by not renovating every character element to spit-polished 'as-new' status, such as stair treads allowed to show a slight patina of age. The couple redecorated much of the interior, lightening its palette. "It's a very light house anyway, with lots of beautiful big windows and big bays," Sally says.
This is evident in the restful living room with trio of chandeliered plaster ceiling roses. Its open fire with art nouveau surround provides winter cosiness. Previous owners made the kitchen a tastefully modern, English-style expanse with timber benches, informal dining area and impressive Falcon double oven.
One of the first things Sally did was open up the formal dining room more to the kitchen. It already flowed well out to an expansive deck with grape-laden pergola and fruit trees nearby. "This place has got really nice indoor-outdoor flow which makes a big difference with older houses."
A roomy front home office-library, a renovated toilet and two picturesque sunrooms round out the ground floor.
Upstairs, a big landing feeds five bedrooms, some with admirably ornate ceilings. Two are whoppers while the master and another adjoin a restful front sunroom which opens up covered veranda-style. The fifth, next to the master can be a bedroom, nursery or master's dressing room.
Sally's established a picturesque potager vege garden alongside the house, in front of a character utility-tool shed. Martin finds it satisfying mowing their lawns and urban grandkids can't wait to carefully check for newly laid eggs.
Practicalities around other commitments mean they have to move but they'll miss the country charm of their grand Edwardian home.