When Mr J.C. Pennington Esq. perused his architect's plans for his College Hill apartment development back in 1931, he'd have had no doubts about his plastered brick investment standing the test of time.

But it's a far bet that he'd never have envisaged apartment seven of eight in the "Penningtons" development looking like this some 90 years on.

This transformation is the work of Nicola Pike who never baulked at the painstaking, challenging demolition and rebuild of her top floor apartment to give it a modern urban vibe.

Built with brick internal walls, this apartment's original floorplan reflected a different lifestyle. "It was a series of rooms and small doors," says Nicola who bought here in November 2012.

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She says that layout didn't work for her. "It had absolutely no character. It had no outlook and it trapped the sunshine.

By the time she commissioned architect Nicholas Stevens for the revamp, she had lived through its shortcomings and identified solutions. But from day one, her home wasn't quite original as it had been through various decade updates. The night she moved in, she and friends celebrated with a spot of wallpaper-stripping.

7/101 College Hill, Ponsonby, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst
7/101 College Hill, Ponsonby, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst

The five-month rebuild involved all but two interior walls taken out and the requisite structural strengthening undertaken in the roof.

"Every wall that had to come out was a challenge because of the constraints," she says.

The brick wall leading into the bathroom with its original set-in bath, has been overlaid with wallboard to create a cavity for power points.

The plastered brick bedroom wall and the tiled, brick fireplace in the lounge were treated differently. They presented the opportunity to restore some of the building's inherent character although it didn't come easily. It took a tradesman several days to chip off old plaster and tidy the original brickwork ready for its paint finish.

Another feature here is Nicola's replacement bi-fold lounge window for summer ventilation and filtered winter light through neighbouring deciduous trees.

7/101 College Hill, Ponsonby, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst
7/101 College Hill, Ponsonby, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst

It complements the original casement windows elsewhere, including the guest bedroom window that frames an urban view to the Sky Tower. A cavity slider between the bedroom and the lounge offers privacy and the chance to open the bedroom up to the warmth of the log-burning fire in winter.

In her own bedroom, Nicola's touch of luxe is the velvet curtain that screens her full-width wardrobe system. Her choice of fabric, adjustable louvres on the street-side terrace window and wool carpet, rather than timber flooring, mellow the room's acoustics.

Within the kitchen and its long rear porch views of the city, Nicola has prioritised storage and a deep bench. "It is very large for an apartment kitchen but I wanted every appliance full-sized because I love entertaining," she says.

It was worth every challenge, she says.

"And where else can you walk along the road and get the best coffee?"

7/101 COLLEGE HILL, PONSONBY
• 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1 parking spaces.
• 60sq m.
• Auction: May 15.
• Inspect: Sat/Sun 2-2.30pm.
• Body Corp: $3712 a year.
• Schools: Ponsonby Primary and Intermediate, Auckland Girls' Grammar.
• Contact: Chris Batchelor, Bayleys, 021 217 7026; Robyn Clark, 021 707 529.