By Deborah Telford

You could be forgiven for thinking the stylish makeover of this Freemans Bay house involved professional input from an architect and interior designer.

But Jo Urlich can claim much credit for transforming the Wood St property from a rundown rental into an effortlessly elegant family home, which boasts light and a surprising amount of space.

Jo and her husband bought the two-storey 1890 villa five years ago after selling a smaller house in Vermont St, Ponsonby.


"We'd looked at a few houses but none of them had a decent view. Our Vermont St house had a nice westerly outlook so we wanted something similar," says Jo.

This property's striking city views and central location - Wood St runs off the lower end of College Hill and is less than two kilometres from Queen St - sold Jo the first time she saw it.

She could also see past the home's altered interior and scruffy garden, which included fake stones, a water feature and "a sea of uneven red bricks".

"The house was in horrendous condition. Somebody had certainly had a few goes at it."
Working with an architectural draftsman, Jo began a six-month renovation of the house within about 12 months of moving into it five years ago.

The couple and their son, Raphael, who's now 7, moved out of the house during the renovation while Jo was pregnant with their daughter, Luella, who is now 4.

The project involved reconfiguring the internal layout of the main downstairs level, including pushing out one wall to the west to create more living space and increasing the size of the upstairs level by about a third.

"The house has such a great aspect that we wanted to make the most of the sun by creating a larger living area that would flow out to the garden. This space is brilliant and we use it all of the time."

The renovation also added a second bathroom, a separate toilet, new decking, a loggia off the living room and included repiling, rewiring, carpeting and painting.

"Pretty much nothing was left untouched."

More recently they have installed a heated, mineral pool in the north-facing back garden and changed some windows in the house, which still has beautiful, original leadlights.

Walking past a single garage and off-street parking space, you enter the house on its ground level.

A small hallway leads through to a semi open-plan dining room, family room and kitchen with the street-facing, formal lounge opening off here.

This east-facing room catches the morning light and has great views of the city skyline, especially from its window seat.

Jo's sense of style is evident in the beautiful light fittings and finishings she has chosen, including Spanish wood-look porcelain ceramic herring bone-patterned flooring in the living area. The pristine kitchen includes a striking antiqued-mirror splash back behind generous bench space.

Beyond the kitchen, an existing west wing has been converted into a guest bedroom which overlooks the pool, a separate laundry, an office and the main bathroom.

Stairs off the hallway lead up to three bedrooms on the upper level including the master and en suite. This level includes a separate toilet and the bedrooms have views to the city or back towards Ponsonby.

"It's a great house with lots of space for everyone. I love the sun, so it's nice to always have a sunny spot to sit in."

The fully fenced garden is quiet and private so the property does not seem close to the city.

The family has loved having friendly neighbours, and being able to walk to Ponsonby, the central city and great local parks and facilities including nearby Costley Reserve and the Westhaven boardwalk where the kids ride bikes and scooters.

The new plan is to leave Auckland.

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