Sadly, the 1940s are an overlooked period in New Zealand architecture. We tend to fuss about 100-year-old villas, 1920s' bungalows or cool mid-century modern, but there are some splendid pockets of interesting buildings from the wartime period -- if you know what to look for -- nicely proportioned, clean lined, but still homely.
David Mead and his wife, Nicole, knew they'd spotted a goodie when they first visited their Bell Rd house in 2006.
"We couldn't pass up its location or size," says David. "We were attracted to its bones; we were very lucky to find it. At the time, it pushed us a bit, but the owners who had been there 35 years had only done minor renovations. There was a kitchen from the 70s. We got the 40s character, very elegant, and thought it would just need a bit of rearranging."
Buying the house was a good move, but David reckons their even better decision was hiring architectural designer Murray Hird, of Cadman Architectural Design. They worked on the plans with him through 2007 and started the six-month build in 2008.
Six years later, the Meads are still thrilled with how cleverly Murray and his design team manipulated the spaces into a modern, workable home but without significantly altering the footprint or the period character.
They started with an elegant two-storeyed weatherboard house on an imposing rise, but had to grapple with an old single garage up a steep driveway, a rabbit warren of dark downstairs rooms, with an old-fashioned kitchen and living room upstairs.
The seamless look of the alterations belies the cunning changes Murray made: the slope was cut away to insert a generous double garage at street level, complete with internal stairs and a dumb waiter to carry groceries to the top-floor kitchen.
Messy terraces were rearranged into an inviting front entry, the front door was made large and imposing.
On the ground floor, Hird cleaned up an odd arrangement of stairs and walls to create a striking, light-filled stairwell in the existing curved tower.
The floor level of the old garage was matched to the rest of this floor and poky service rooms reshaped to make a large, light-filled master bedroom with en suite and walk-in closet.
Two more bedrooms and a sleek, tile-lined family bathroom were created from the tangle of odd rooms. There was even room left for a tiny study tucked into a corner, as well as plenty of storage.
The couple moved in with children Amy, then 5, Daniel, then 2, and baby Sophie was born soon after. The bedroom arrangement worked well for the kids as they grew. Amy claimed the upper floor bedroom as hers. The bathroom on this floor is still in its quaint 40s state, with original basin and a separate guest loo.
The previous owners had installed a lift, which neatly slots in beside the stairwell, bringing people up to the large first floor landing. Upstairs required less juggling, just modernising.
David is full of praise for the finishes and details specified by interior designer Tania Earwaker -- elegant tiles, chocolate stained floors, crisp paintwork. The light-filled living room opens on to the kitchen and family room, which in turn opens to the paved deck and long backyard.
A second sitting room has been converted to a media room, which also has garden access.
The family has plans drawn up for a swimming pool, cabana and landscaping but, after a trial year, they've made the decision to relocate to Arrowtown.