If a little old Devonport house needed a loving restoration, it could do no better than be bought by a heritage expert and an engineer.

Associate professor of engineering Joe Deans had been living in the stucco Arts and Crafts bungalow for a couple of years with his kids when he met Kelston Girls' deputy principal Trish. Twenty-five years ago the pair merged families (the kids ranged from 9 to 14) and skills to restore the sweetheart.

"The house had been 'done' in the 1960s, we think," says Trish. "It was pink and grey, the architraves had been stripped off, there were false ceilings.

But we were a block from the sea, you put on your jandals and you were at the beach. The lovely garden had big old pohutukawa.


This street had originally been a pastoral road to an old farmhouse, now burnt down, so there were lovely exotic trees."

Around busy lives and children coming and going, the pair plugged away at the house. They were delighted to discover that under a plain door to the porch — classic to sit on and survey the street — was an original leadlight window on a rimu panelled door.

In the sitting room, their "gift to the house" as Trish puts it, was to have new leadlight windows installed in the bay window — elongated roses in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a tribute for Scotsman Joe.

As they worked their way through, they added insulation beneath new gib, sourced rimu for new architraves and skirting boards, and found craftsmen to make panelled doors for their master bedroom.

Underneath the 1960s dropped ceilings they found the simple battens of the original. Where they couldn't find original features, they took cues from other parts of the house.

The simple curved and battened arches in the hallway repeat the shapes of the front entry and railings, new french doors at the back of the house are in the same cedar multi-paned style as the originals hiding under paint in the front of the house.

As well as the fabric of the house, Trish was also uncovering stories and photographs of the Devonport street since its Pakeha foundation in 1866, including a photo of the house soon after it was built, with the colourful gingko tree already out front.

The simple arrangement of the house suited the pair — there is a generous master bedroom plus two other bedrooms. The bathroom had its original clawfoot tub, which the Deans repaired, and the narrow headboard was brought back to life.

They replaced the parlour fireplace with a modern gas one, stripped floors and painted. The only major work was turning a jumble of rooms out the back, including a tiny single garage for a 1920s-sized car, into a more family friendly kitchen and dining room.

Trish was careful to create a kitchen that reflects the time. As well as its modern stainless steel benches and up-to-date cabinets, it has a casual table and a welsh dresser with impressive collections.

A roomy laundry, guest loo and storage scullery — common now — was ahead of its time 20 years ago when it was done.

The dining area opens to a covered deck and gravelled courtyard. The fourth bedroom, which also opens to the back yard through french doors, is now Trish's office, with work-inspiring views of the garden.

The couple had a digger shape the sloping back yard into three levels, working around an existing concrete retaining wall on the ground level.

Over the years they installed railway sleeper paths and steps, with a lawn on the top under the spreading trees having views across the neighbourhood.

The planting of natives and bedding plants in drifts of soft greys and pastels is typical of English Arts and Crafts style. Trish says the garden now takes care of itself, and changes with the seasons.

The neighbourhood was perfect for the growing family: the kids could cycle to school, Trish likes to walk around to Takapuna at high tide. The house hosted many a gathering of family or Joe's masters students.

Its picture book looks have seen the house featured in books and magazines of Auckland architecture, as well as the odd TV ad. But with kids grown and Joe gone, it is time for Trish to move to something smaller, leaving this delightful piece of Devonport history for the next family.

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