The best of both worlds

The renovation of this Dunedin home included partial demolition of the exterior to maximise...
The renovation of this Dunedin home included partial demolition of the exterior to maximise indoor-outdoor flow. Photos: Linda Robertson
An extensive renovation has made a big difference to the feel and function of this historic family home. Kim Dungey reports.

Built in the 1920s and renovated last year, this grand Dunedin home celebrates the best of both eras.

Commissioned by solicitor Ralph Aspinall, the house featured quality finishes including ornate fibrous plaster ceilings and beautiful leadlight doors and windows.

But until the renovation, the living areas suffered from a lack of light and there was little connection with the garden.

A recent renovation created bright, open living spaces in this Dunedin home that was built in...
A recent renovation created bright, open living spaces in this Dunedin home that was built in 1922 and later became known as The Arches.
The 10-month rebuild created new living areas, bathrooms and outdoor entertaining areas, increased indoor-outdoor flow and let more natural light into the interior. It also earned W. Hamilton Building Ltd four awards in this year’s Master Builders’ house of the year competition.

Thought to have been designed by leading arts and crafts architect Basil Hooper, the property was originally a storey-and-a-half bungalow of four bedrooms but underwent a huge transformation in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The kitchen was inspired by a picture the owners had cut from a magazine and designed around...
The kitchen was inspired by a picture the owners had cut from a magazine and designed around large copper lights identical to ones they had seen in Dunedin’s Copper Cafe.
At that stage, the owners renovated most of the house, adding bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs and increasing its size from just under 300sq m to about 540sq m.

The  current owners — a professional couple with four children aged 9 to 17 — visited in 2015, when it had been a long-term rental.

For years, they had walked around the area, wondering what lay beyond the imposing gates and diamond quarry leadlight windows, and the first open home did not disappoint.

The original dining room, with its oak fire surround and leadlight windows, is now used as a...
The original dining room, with its oak fire surround and leadlight windows, is now used as a formal lounge and by the children as a music room.‘‘We’re not into formal dining so a formal lounge that can be closed off works much better for us,’’ says one of the owners.
The decor was traditional and the layout, far from family-friendly. But the location, elegant staircase and view from the balcony won them over, one of them says. The house had enormous potential and, a rare find in Maori Hill, sat on almost 2000sq m of land.

"I remember saying, ‘I think we can do something really good with this house and we should do everything we can to buy it’."

Having negotiated a sale and a short, 10-day settlement, their original intention was to simply add skylights and modernise the existing living areas.

However, architect Hamish Wixon recommended moving the kitchen-family area from the darkest corner of the house to the sunnier, opposite end and this proved to be the "right decision".

Before the renovations, they barely set foot in this area with its study, music room and formal reception lounge: "You came through the front door there and walked past it down to the living area at the other, dark end of the house and that was about it. It just sat idle."

The family area off the kitchen was previously a study with small windows.
The family area off the kitchen was previously a study with small windows.
The project involved knocking out internal walls, replacing small windows with large bifolding doors and demolishing a 1990s conservatory. The new layout includes four living areas, six bedrooms, three bathrooms and two separate toilets.

At one end of the house, a TV lounge opens to a covered outdoor seating area, spa pool and swim spa. At the other end, the new kitchen-family area extends on to a patio with built-in seating and fireplace.The standout feature in the kitchen is the island with painted pressed tin on one side and  copper lights overhead. But getting the bench top into place was a "logistical nightmare", the owner says.

The stairs, panelling and oak flooring in the hall were added by previous owners in the early 2000s.
The stairs, panelling and oak flooring in the hall were added by previous owners in the early 2000s.
"It’s 4.8m long, solid concrete and weighs 900kg. The floor and all the kitchen cabinetry had to be reinforced to be able to hold it."

W. Hamilton Building Ltd director Bill Hamilton says the top was craned off a truck on to a purpose-built trolley, then carefully manoeuvred into the house over new floorboards that the builders had protected.

"It would have taken 16 men to lift it if we’d done it completely by hand. We managed to avoid that by thinking of other ways to get it in there but it still took about eight."

Large bifold doors open the kitchen-family area to a patio designed by Wayne Butson of Design and...
Large bifold doors open the kitchen-family area to a patio designed by Wayne Butson of Design and Garden Landscapes.
The firm — which was established more than 20 years ago and has a workforce of 23 — was"rapt" to win the supreme award for renovation of the year in the regional Master Builders’ house of the year competition and one of only 100 gold reserve awards presented nationally, he adds.

The bathrooms feature large grey tiles and oak vanities with granite tops. The white embossed...
The bathrooms feature large grey tiles and oak vanities with granite tops. The white embossed tiles have the look of pressed tin and are a nod to the Arts and Crafts era in which the home was built.

The double brick walls and heavy slate roof meant careful consideration had to be given to supporting existing elements while the work took place.

The builders also went to extra lengths to hide new structural steel and to make sure that details such as the location of light fittings and the design of built-in shelving were in keeping with the home’s original character.

The owners, who always wanted to be sympathetic to the nearly century-old property, say it was a case of making it more contemporary but keeping traditional elements.

Their original plan to paint, carpet, put in a new kitchen and "tidy up" the bathrooms turned into considerably more than that but they wanted to "do it once, do it right and have no regrets".

"The end result is completely different to what we imagined it could be when we first saw the house."

"It’s an amazing home for a large family to spread out in and we now fully use the whole house, indoors and out, year-round."

kim.dungey@odt.co.nz

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