The Wolf's new front door speaks to visitors and the bespoke lounge fireplace is activated from his cellphone: it's 1906 cottage meets 2020 building standards.
"But the best thing is it's now fit for purpose," explains Peter Wolfkamp, site foreman from the popular The Block NZ series, host of Newstalk ZB's The Resident Builder on Sundays 6am-9am and public speaker.
Known as The Wolf on TV, the builder and his wife Debbie Coleman have been working for almost a year on a heritage worker's cottage in Devonport, which they plan to rent out.
"I initially thought $150,000 but I did a spreadsheet and the budget came in closer to $245,000 and I stuck to that," Wolfkamp said.
Wolfkamp made his name working on other people's houses but the couple are still renovating their own Devonport home.
The cottage is one of four neighbouring places on Owens Rd. The romantic story of their genesis is that they were built for the Coromandel gold rush and barged across. The less romantic tale is that a Devonport ferry company created them as worker accommodation.
Wolfkamp used his own building experience and sector connections to pick the best products and methods for the renovation on the 1906 cottage.
"I hunted for ages to find that," he says of his new E-LOK electronic front door latch, bluetoothed to cell phones.
Coleman shows how when an incorrect code is entered, the device scolds "operation fail!"
Before Christmas, Wolfkamp had help from two builder friends and more recently from landscapers.
But he estimates at least $50,000 of his own time was spent on the cottage and his "paws" were so sore each night he had to pack them in ice for the first fortnight: "I've been off the tools for four years. I was working up until the last six years but lately, I've been doing more media."
Without The Block NZ this year, he was free to complete the project.
Around 20sq m of flooring was laid in the ceiling cavity of the three-bedroom 95sq m home, accessed via Sellwood Attic Stairs from the Victorian-style hatch.
Wolfkamp's cottage tour begins at the veranda, where steps, sub-floor joists, T&G decking and balustrades were replaced and where the resident builder confesses he became trapped during the summer, having wedged himself into a tight space beneath.
Inside, grey and white Resene colours dominate, carried through in such attention to detail that even the laundry bucket matches.
In the road-facing master bedroom, wallpaper designed by sister artist Tanya Wolfkamp was inspired by botanist Joseph Banks' sketches, featuring indigenous flora, covering an entire feature wall.
Insulation specialists Heat Savers injected foam into the walls after linings were off "and you can see it filling up the gaps, coming through the sarking". Autex Greenstuf is used underfloor and in the ceilings.
New underfloor, roof, exterior and interior wall insulation means the home's thermal properties are upgraded to today's standards, "which in an old cottage is a rarity". Floor-to-ceiling wardrobes are now in both front bedrooms.
The roof was sagging, rusted iron leaking. So new lengths of timber strengthened existing beams and for around $15,000 Metal Roofing Services laid a new matt grey Colorsteel corrugated roof "so it wasn't screaming shiny. I'm very happy with that". New guttering and downpipes hooked into the stormwater.
Back-to-back second bedroom/lounge fire surrounds were stripped, orange bricks were coated in a Rockcote render, then sealed.
"All orange was eliminated," Wolfkamp says. T&G rimu ceilings were painted white.
"It was good back in the 80s but not today," he says.
"Wait for this!" exclaims Coleman in the lounge whose main feature is a dramatic purpose-built archway-styled glass-fronted gas fireplace costing $7500. That stands an impressive 900cm high x 990cm wide, built by Dunedin-based fireplace manufacturer Esca, which has grown from eight staff 18 years ago to 100-plus today. Wolfkamp praised their results.
Part of the lounge floor was replaced and new foundations laid. New flooring throughout is a French oak Quick Step laminate, the existing kauri floors in poor condition. A concrete pad in the kitchen lean-to was poured at the same height as existing native timber floors, making the overlay even more practical.
An old internal hot water cylinder was replaced with an external Bosch gas califont "because then you're only heating the water you use and they are tremendous space savers".
Electrical equipment from PDL includes arc fault detection in the distribution board.
To let more light into the bathroom, Wolfkamp replaced a shallow window with a taller yet still narrow double-sash Victorian-style window – "not that easy to find in the yards". The cast iron bath was retained and resurfaced and marble tiles went on the floor and walls.
All waste went in Green Gorilla bins and bags "because they divert so much from landfill".
The northeast facing kitchen got new double-glazed black powder-coated aluminium joinery. T Brothers Cabinetry made the $20,000 bespoke kitchen with its laundry cupboard, automatically ventilated once appliances run. ABG Stone made the benchtops, even creating a stone above-bench sill to counter water, wear and tear.
Outside, a paved courtyard is ready for seating and fencing was corrugated iron offcuts, sprayed Resene Nero "to make it fade away".
Wolfkamp has named the place Huis, Dutch for house to reflect his own heritage. He hopes the work will inspire others and says 0.5 per cent of a home's valuation should be set aside annually for maintenance and upgrades.
"Kiwi homes are often terrible," he says, citing an Otago University study estimating 700,000 places are poorly insulated.
"Run your own body corporate levy," smiles the resident builder as he quietly shuts the keyless front door.