Everything that is significant about this 19th-century Victorian cottage and its enduring neighbourhood vibe is there to see from its street frontage.

This cottage sits close to the front boundary just as these houses were back in the 1870s when this neighbourhood took shape as one of the city's earliest housing developments.

Back then there was little more than a path from the front gate to the veranda.

Now, 150 years on, Kate Gillespie has elevated this frontage by creating a 21st century, tropical, resort-style vista that hints at her boutique hotel-style theme within.


"I wanted to do a high quality renovation to create this retreat," says Kate, an art and design consultant. "I have not cut any corners."

Auckland unitary plan information on Cooper St's heritage significance says this heritage area was subdivided "for the artisan class", from the Arch Hill farm in what was known then as Newton West.

The 1865 sale notice described the sites as "choice building lots" and "deserving of particular attention for their healthy and commanding position".

29 Cooper St, Arch Hill, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst
29 Cooper St, Arch Hill, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst

As for the compact house, its simple facade and front yard were about propriety and formality.

"Only the footpath separates the properties from the carriageway, a characteristic of artisan housing of the period," says the heritage paper.

Kate has retained the original front face of the house for its charm and integrity. She kept the pre-existing low picket fence but replaced the matching gate to herald the start of a new style of journey up to the front door.

She chose richly coloured kwila timber decking with integrated garden lighting that's installed alongside and around the dramatic frame of mature palm trees.

29 Cooper St, Arch Hill, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst
29 Cooper St, Arch Hill, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst

"I wanted the feeling of a retreat, an oasis," she says. "The house is small in size but it has such a spacious feel. I used natural materials to keep that retreat feeling right through."

When Kate bought the property in May last year, she discovered the previous owner had begun concept drawings with architect Greg Jones of Jones Architects, whose work she
was already familiar with.

Together she and Greg mapped out the rear living area extension that has doubled the size of the house. Within the original house space, they reconfigured three double bedrooms, a master en suite and dressing room, a family bathroom and a separate laundry with side access up from the front garage.

From front to back, Kate has topped her love of the building process with measured artistic swathes of colour and texture. Both bathrooms feature Italian marble and tiles, with mini globe wall lights and heated vertical towel holders, rather than the traditional heated horizontal rails.

29 Cooper St, Arch Hill, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst
29 Cooper St, Arch Hill, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Timber is present in the dressing room cabinetry and the wide-plank French oak engineered timber flooring that complements wool carpet in the bedrooms.

One guest bedroom is painted a deep teal, with a softer shade repeated in the tiles on the leading wall of the main bathroom opposite. Kate says it is her choice of mineralised paint that enhances the way the natural light changes the look of her main neutral paint colour.

The locals here cherish the character of Arch Hill that represents some of the oldest surviving housing stock in the inner city. For Kate, this project let her into a little of its "best kept secret" status that locals here hold dear to their hearts.

• 3 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 1 parking spaces.
• Land 306sq m, house 130sq m.
• Auction: May 12.
• Inspect: Please call.
• Schools: Grey Lynn, Newton Central, Kowhai Intermediate, Auckland Girls' Grammar.
• Contact: Keith Dowdle, Custom Residential, 021 877 905.