From its foundations to its rafters, this renovated 1950s Beach Haven home has been a journey of discovery for Bill and Sharon Lee.

When they bought here in October 2012, they had no idea that this was the home built by hand by the late Frank Larking, a local identity who invested his skilful love of Beach Haven in this house and in the development of the local beach.

Frank paid £45 for this land in 1949 and, according to local history, it took him a year to cast — by hand — the 2785 concrete blocks he needed for his family home.

Amid overseas Air Force postings and major health issues, Frank worked for 13 years to create his low-maintenance family home with volcanic rock features, cedar joinery and shoji-style lounge doors reminiscent of his post-war years in Japan.

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Beyond its landmark architectural form, Bill and Sharon discovered much more about this home that had remained in its original condition during subsequent ownership after Frank's death in 2009.

In the basement, Bill found a few original concrete blocks, filled with crushed cans as insulation. Beneath the asbestos roof, the roofing contractor discovered so many rafters that he told Bill there was no chance of the new iron roof even being damaged by walking on it.

Within the ceiling, Bill discovered Frank's functional ducted heat transfer system from the lounge fireplace into the bedrooms and the main bathroom.

When Bill and Sharon updated the fireplace, they partially plastered and painted out the lounge-side of the volcanic scoria chimney that soars through the front apex of the house behind the rock-clad garage.

They did so to lessen its dominant effect while still keeping the lounge's original textured walls, timber-edged pelmets and cedar sills around new double-glazed, aluminium-framed windows.

Original joinery features elsewhere include the interior sliding doors, the cedar front and back doors and the tall cedar casement windows and side louvres that open two of the bedrooms and the end study to the patio.

Here Bill and Sharon have installed cafe drop side curtains above the half-height wall for year-round living and dining and easy access down to the rear deck and garden.

These pull down in winter and open up in summer to turn the patio into a flexible dining/living space and an easy transition area down to the rear deck and garden.
Bill and Sharon's only structural alterations have been to open up the separate kitchen and dining room into one space, and to integrate a laundry into the guest bathroom.

Off the main hallway, the bedrooms and the study showcase Frank's close attention to the aesthetic of the era, including the full-height wardrobes with built-in drawers. Some light fittings are Frank's originals; one or two others are Bill and Sharon's choices, alongside modern fixtures.

Original exterior features including the sloping eaves, internal copper guttering and deep window reveals and masonry sills. In keeping with their intention to retain original features and modernise where necessary, Bill and Sharon plastered the concrete block exterior as an update. They also created a carport within the front courtyard's rock walls.

Frank and Bill have both left artistic touches here. Frank's touch is in the pebbles set in concrete in 1962, on the back path, to sign off his project. Bill's is in the kitchen mosaic of Beach Haven wharf that he will leave behind when he and his wife move to Mangawhai Heads.

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