Through fire, flood and plague

Heritage building enthusiasts Ted and Ita Daniels have created an ultra-modern apartment on top of Dunedin’s historic Stanton Building. Kim Dungey reports.

The finish line is in sight for a Dunedin couple whose roof-top apartment near Queens Gardens has been more than five years in the making.

Jewellers Ted and Ita Daniels plan to be living at the top of the historic Stanton Building by Christmas.

The owners of this Dunedin apartment wanted to preserve the building’s heritage but showcase...
The owners of this Dunedin apartment wanted to preserve the building’s heritage but showcase contemporary design. Reflective glass means the roof appears to float. Photos: Gregor Richardson
Adding a third storey to the 1907 building was never going to be easy — the resource consent process took nearly three years, the Level 4 lockdown and subsequent backlogs stopped work for two months and nearly all the materials had to be lifted in by crane from a nearby car park — but the couple’s resolve has been rewarded with a home that boasts arguably some of the best views of Dunedin’s skyline and harbour.

The polished concrete floor has stones gathered from local beaches. A space-saving swivel door is...
The polished concrete floor has stones gathered from local beaches. A space-saving swivel door is hidden within the wall at right; the ceiling is still to be completed.
The most distinctive feature is the roof, shaped like a folded fan, which daughter Nina designed to reflect the sawtooth roofs of nearby industrial buildings.

The Stanton was one of three properties near the Exchange that the couple bought with Wayne Marsh in 2009. The Standard Insurance Building and the former Bank of New Zealand Building are both on Princes St, while the Stanton is in behind, facing Queen’s Gardens.

In the 10 years the property had been empty, pigeons had moved in and water had pooled inside, Mr Daniels says.

"We probably just got it in time before it was ready for demolition."

Six years ago, while linking the Standard and Stanton Buildings with a new atrium and lift, Mr Daniels began thinking about adding a third-storey apartment to the latter premises.

"I thought it would be pretty cool that and maybe I could persuade my wife ...

"She wasn’t that keen at first because we have a home with a lovely garden in the bush. But she didn’t take much persuading at all once she saw the plan."

Ted and Ita Daniels are looking forward to moving into the apartment permanently.
Ted and Ita Daniels are looking forward to moving into the apartment permanently.
While the couple wanted their 160sq m apartment to look simple, modern and uncluttered, getting there was anything but straight forward. There was an objection to the shape of the roof and a two-year build time. Dealing with an old property meant nothing was square and working on top of the building meant using a crane to lift the steel and timber framing, plasterboard and 200kg windows from the city council’s Dowling St car park.

Kauri salvaged from the fire-damaged Bracken Court was used in the floating staircase.
Kauri salvaged from the fire-damaged Bracken Court was used in the floating staircase.
"We didn’t make it easy for ourselves, but we persevered and made it work."

Architectural draughtsman Geoff Terpstra prepared the plans for council consent and the interior of the apartment was designed by Nina Daniels as part of her final year studying interior architecture at Otago Polytechnic.

Entry is via a rooftop garden and the front door is set into a wall of old bricks, which the building’s original sloping roof rested on.

Both the open-plan living area and the main bedroom open on to a small balcony and have floor-to-ceiling glass, with expansive views across Queens Gardens and the warehouse precinct to the harbour and peninsula beyond.

Given the building’s shape, none of the rooms are square, but the Daniels think this only makes it more interesting.

Still to be completed, the 4.5m-high ceiling follows the complex angles of the roof and will be lined with Siberian larch. A friend took on the mammoth job of painting the 4000m of timber.

The kitchen island includes an induction cook top. The mezzanine above is destined to be Mrs...
The kitchen island includes an induction cook top. The mezzanine above is destined to be Mrs Daniels’ editing room.
In living and circulation areas, polished concrete floors absorb the sun and include stones gathered at local beaches and quarries.

This image was prepared by Lowrise Design to show the proposed fan-shaped roofline.
This image was prepared by Lowrise Design to show the proposed fan-shaped roofline.
The kitchen has an American ash bench top and tall, glass-fronted cabinets for displaying special pieces.

A concealed, centre-pivot door leads to the two bedrooms, bathroom and toilet. There is also a small second kitchen with access to the outdoor area, a play area for the grandchildren, and a mezzanine where Mrs Daniels — a keen photographer — will do editing.

Below the apartment, their electrician discovered a "basement under the basement". Once full of bottles and rubble, it is being used for storage but likely to become a "man cave" in the future.

The couple emigrated to Dunedin from Holland in 1980. Mr Daniels says they planned to stay a year or two but the city grew on them. They loved the scenery and the Victorian and Edwardian architecture, but locals were in "demolition mode". Many buildings were pulled down because they were considered earthquake risks or because they were empty and car parks were seen as better investments.

"I totally disagreed with it, but the council let it happen."

Siberian larch extends from the interior to the exterior, blurring the line between inside and out.
Siberian larch extends from the interior to the exterior, blurring the line between inside and out.
Rather than just complain, the couple set about restoring heritage buildings for commercial-retail, including an art deco building in Crawford St called Victoria Chambers.

Bracken Court was refurbished for $3million after fire swept through the Moray Pl building while they were overseas. And after selling the former BNZ Building, they spent eight years and $2million returning the Standard Building to its former glory. At the time, it had rotten floors, an orange facade and was missing all of its original decorative mouldings.

Steel and vintage bricks feature in the roof-top garden. The pergola will be partially covered.
Steel and vintage bricks feature in the roof-top garden. The pergola will be partially covered.
Their latest project, the apartment in the Stanton Building, cost about $1.4million, which was more than double the original budget.

A friend hearing about the Bracken Court blaze, Covid-related delays and water going through their Leith Valley home, delaying its sale, joked they had survived "a fire, a flood and a plague of biblical proportions", Mrs Daniels says.

The couple did not want square or rectangular rooms.
The couple did not want square or rectangular rooms.
"But there’s always a silver lining somewhere as long as you want to see it."

Renovating the Stanton’s lower floors for offices, their jewellery workshop and another apartment is expected to take another two years. In the roof-top apartment, the ceilings, glass balustrade and roof top garden are still to be completed.

But the couple are already staying there a few days a week and hope to be there permanently next month.

"If we could, we’d move in tomorrow because we really love it here," Mr Daniels says. "It’s such a nice space to be in."

THE STANTON BUILDING

The first building on this central Dunedin site is believed to have served as the Hallenstein’s Clothing Factory and then an auction rooms before being demolished. Completed in 1907 for a tailor, the existing property is of brick and concrete construction, with precast concrete floor panels and reinforced concrete ring beams on each floor holding the building together. Two more storeys were planned but never built.

Floor to ceiling glass captures views of First Church, Queens Gardens and the warehouse precinct.
Floor to ceiling glass captures views of First Church, Queens Gardens and the warehouse precinct.
The building was later bought by the Bank of New Zealand, which used part of it for offices and rented the rest to Stanton Bros stationers and printers. That company, which appears to have started in the early 1930s, had contracts for printing Government forms. Its offices were on the ground floor with sorting rooms on the first floor and the print and die-making division on the second floor (then the top floor of the building).

A long slim basin fits with the minimalist-style bathroom.
A long slim basin fits with the minimalist-style bathroom.

The apartment features a variety of light-coloured timbers. These glass-fronted cabinets are at...
The apartment features a variety of light-coloured timbers. These glass-fronted cabinets are at one end of the kitchen.

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