A dark and damaged heritage-listed home with no working inside toilet and a leaky roof has been fully restored with such attention to detail it could pass as new.
The Auckland home designed and built by renowned architect James Chapman-Taylor for celebrated jeweller Reuben Watts has been taken back to its former glory by new owners.
Auckland surgeon Michael Booth and Great Catering Company owner Sue Fleischl bought the Arts and Crafts home on Rewiti Avenue, Takapuna, in March 2016.
Since then it has been a labour of love for the pair, who have embraced the strict Heritage A listing as a way to get the restoration just right.
"Michael is a big fan of Chapman-Taylor and he brought me to one of the open homes and I looked around and said, 'Oh, this is a big project for some poor person,"' Fleischl said.
"On the day of the auction he went along for a look and I got a text saying: 'I bought the house!'" The open homes buzzed with visitors but the pair believed potential buyers were put off by the protective heritage listing, which includes the interior and exterior of the three-bedroom home.
They paid $1.7 million at auction for the home but have lost count of what they have spent restoring it.
The 860sq m property, just a stroll from Takapuna Beach, has a recent council valuation of close to $2.5m.
The two-storey home was built in 1923 by Chapman-Taylor and his son and had only a coal range to cook on, no refrigeration in the kitchen and non-compliant wiring.
But instead of seeing the heritage protection as restrictive, Booth and Fleischl worked hard with Auckland Council and Heritage New Zealand to retain the integrity of the house.
They pored over Chapman-Taylor books, sought advice from owners of other Chapman-Taylor homes and learned the history of the house from the previous owner.
Throughout the solid concrete house the timber has been chiselled by hand with an adze to give it texture. This has been professionally restored, carefully crafted door catches repaired, forged steel fixtures polished and the tiled roof and ceiling have had a full restoration.
Original Winstone tiles were sourced for the roof, original Crittall metal windows restored and every piece of wiring was replaced with full conduit wiring.
A water-damaged mural in the master bedroom has been assessed by Heritage NZ and the Auckland Art Gallery and will soon be professionally restored.
"We went from a very comfortable villa in Ponsonby to putting on gumboots and heading outside to the lean-to at night to use the bathroom," Fleischl said.
"We hunted and gathered at antique shops for the correct taps and fittings, had original gas lamps wired. We feel like the custodians of this very special house." Their extensive research included many conversations with previous owner Peter Golder, who was born in the house.
From Golder's memories and during the repair process they discovered coloured glass windows that blocked the view to the beach were not original.
"He said he remembers looking through the window in the nursery and looking down to the beach to see what friends were down there," Fleischl said.
"That gave us the okay to replace the coloured glass that was added later and we were able to restore the clear glass." Original wallpaper and paint were also found under large dark panels in the entrance, so this area was also restored to its much brighter original state.
Booth and Fleishl have become firm friends with Golder, now in his 80s.
"When we took over the house we put the beds in and we had a party and lit every fire — we had a housewarming.
"Peter was here until 2 in the morning. He was the life of the party, dancing and stoking up the fires." As a professional chef, Fleischl said the only addition they are making to the property is a full kitchen — separate to the house.
"We still love the little kitchen and will use it every morning for coffee. The coal range will still be used as well." The gardens are undergoing a full makeover by designer Xanthe White and include old English flowers that Fleischl thinks Chapman-Taylor would love.
The garden will also include seeds from a sweet pea plant a long-term neighbour said came from the property some 50 years ago.
"It is the sort of home that when you are working out the front everyone stops for a chat," Fleischl said.
"We have loved hearing stories about the home and we want people to know about it."