By Donna Fleming
For 23 years, Kirsten MacFarlane has been privileged to live in a home that is a spectacular and — until now — a somewhat secret legacy of an incredibly talented architect.
While the late Robert Paterson was known for works including the grand chateau-inspired home Mirabell in South Auckland, the three-storey glass-walled gem he designed by the water's edge in Waterview has gone under the radar.
That's suited Kirsten just fine — she loves the privacy of her home, tucked away down a driveway — but now that she's selling, she'd like to see Robert get some recognition for the unique dwelling he envisaged more than 30 years ago.
"It's an amazing place. He really was innovative, but nobody seems to know about it," Kirsten says.
Robert — who was considered an authority on classic English architect Edward Lutyens — went for a different, modernist style when he designed the Alverston St house for private clients in 1985.
Unfortunately, as far as Kirsten knows, he never saw the finished home. He died, aged just 43, in January 1989 and it appears the house wasn't built until later that year or possibly the next.
Kirsten became the third owner in 1996, hooked in by the uninterrupted views through double-height glass walls in the living room, as well as the waterside location. The house looks over mangroves to an inlet bordered by Waterview and Avondale and towards the Northwestern Motorway, and the Waitematā Harbour.
This body of water is part of the Motu Manawa-Pollen Island Marine Reserve, which means fishing and power craft are not allowed, so it is extremely peaceful, with plenty of wildlife.
And even though the motorway is visible — and car lights speeding past in the distance at night create a mesmerising sight — it usually can't be heard from the house.
While Kirsten loved the house's distinctive style, she has done a lot of work to it, including re-cladding, adding a bathroom, extending and updating the kitchen and putting on a deck off the living room. "That completely changed my life, being able to step outside
easily. It has been wonderful for entertaining."
She also moved the fireplace in the living room to a more central position and put walls on an open mezzanine area. This prevented her son Oskar, who was just six months old when she bought the house, tumbling off, and also created a study/office area that is hidden from the living room but still gets the benefit of the views and plentiful light.
Previous owners had enclosed an area under the house — which was originally a pole house — to create a downstairs space which has been used as guest accommodation (it has its own bathroom and kitchenette) but could also be another living room or work-from-home area.
Doors from this part of the house open out to a recently added deck and the garden, which has been extensively landscaped over the years and now features many sub-tropical plants as well as puriri, pohutukawa, nikau and an ancient gingko tree.
A channel through the mangroves makes it easy to kayak out into the inlet.
Kirsten's partner of three years, builder Andrew Perkins, has helped with further improvements, such as constructing the new deck and putting a modern glass balustrade on the upstairs landing. There are two bedrooms on the upper level, connected by a bathroom, with the open plan master bedroom offering the views through the glass living room walls.
It has always been important to Kirsten — whose father is an artist and whose mother owned an art gallery — to have a home that's perfect for displaying art, and the Alverston St house definitely has a gallery vibe. And as a keen sailor, she wanted to feel like she was on a boat, and that's achieved when you stand on the wooden living room floor and look towards the water.
Andrew is impressed with the way Kirsten, with help from her family, has enhanced this special home, modernising it without detracting from its striking features. "I think it is in keeping with what Robert Paterson would have wanted," he says.
"I feel satisfied with what we've done and I'm sad to be leaving but we are moving to the South Island for a whole new adventure," says Kirsten. "We want to build a house there, and there are definitely things we will take from this house and put in whatever we build. Robert Paterson did do a fantastic job."
82 ALVERSTON ST, WATERVIEW
• 4 bedrooms, 3 bathroom, 2 parking spaces.
• Land 625sq m, house 205sq m.
• Sale: By negotiation.
• Inspect: Sat/Sun 2-2.30pm.
• Schools: Waterview Primary, Avondale Intermediate, Avondale College.
• Contact: Angela Saunders, Ray White, 021 448 900.