Party out the front

An­drew Meir­ing adds to a her­itage Devon­port villa with a thought­ful mix of stone, wood, con­crete and glass

HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - TEXT — Jes­sica-Belle Greer PHO­TOG­RA­PHY — Jackie Meir­ing

In faded 1880s pho­to­graphs of North Head Maun­gauika, Devon­port, a white villa with a play­ful tur­ret sits high on the hill.

The house faces the town­ship be­low and a farm track runs up its side. The his­tory of the villa is as faded as the pho­to­graphs, but it’s be­lieved to have been a rental in one of Auck­land’s ear­li­est set­tle­ments. “It was an en­ter­pris­ing chap who bought the sec­tions,” says the owner. “It would have been a beau­ti­ful view be­fore it was built up.” For the own­ers and their three teenage chil­dren, this his­toric home is a place to put down roots, hav­ing re­turned to Auck­land af­ter years in Hong Kong. With a fam­ily con­nec­tion to Devon­port, they set­tled on the sub­urb for its char­ac­ter, com­mu­nity and con­nec­tion to the sea. “We lived on an is­land in Hong Kong and re­ally liked that feel­ing of hav­ing a wa­ter bound­ary.” An­drew Meir­ing of An­drew Meir­ing Ar­chi­tects was en­listed for an ex­ten­sion form­ing a kitchen and sit­ting room area. While it’s rare for his­toric homes to find room at the front, this home was locked in its po­si­tion at the back of the sec­tion – the only way out was through the front. From the coun­cil’s per­spec­tive, one of the most im­por­tant things to pre­serve for a cat­e­gory-one listed home is street frontage. How­ever, a 1960s Ver­non Brown ex­ten­sion al­ready com­pro­mised this. A drive­way and car­port in front of the ex­ten­sion also de­tracted from the romance of the his­toric home. Now, three cuboid struc­tures – a garage, ter­race and liv­ing room – re­place the drive and car­port. “His­tor­i­cally, we’ve com­pletely con­tained the orig­i­nal form, al­though it now has all this stuff around it,” says Meir­ing.

A gate at the street is flanked by stone walls that con­tain the garage to the left and pool at right. Through the gate, vis­i­tors walk the length of the liv­ing ar­eas, past a slim pond where fish, pa­pyrus and lilies thrive, be­fore reach­ing the front door. This el­e­gant board­walk sits a few steps above the pool and lawn to the right. Once in­side, steps lead right to a con­tem­po­rary kitchen, which re­places the late ar­chi­tect’s ren­o­va­tion, then through to the orig­i­nal villa. The liv­ing area and ter­race peel off to the left. “It’s typ­i­cal to glaze the con­nec­tion point,” says Meir­ing of the glassy en­try, which sits be­tween the villa and the ex­ten­sion, “but I had to change heights and get a new form in front of the en­trance, to start in­tro­duc­ing a more con­tem­po­rary con­text.” At the same time, Meir­ing was care­ful to keep the long ax­ial link from the street to the front door; the white-painted tim­ber of the per­gola links right through to the ex­ist­ing villa, stitch­ing the var­i­ous parts to­gether in par­tic­u­larly el­e­gant fash­ion. Meir­ing was pleas­antly sur­prised that Auck­land Coun­cil met his al­ter­ation plans with an open mind. “It was quite un­usual that they let us do a for­ward ex­ten­sion and one of this kind,” he says, “but they went for it straight away and were un­ob­struc­tive.” Ma­te­ri­al­ity acts as a com­mon thread. The garage and pool walls are made with Auck­land basalt and give the update a time-hon­oured, hand­crafted feel. Basalt pavers line the walk­way, while honed pavers in­side subtly mute the light. Black shin­gles cover the roof of the kitchen and en­case the liv­ing area, pro­vid­ing a tex­tu­ral con­nec­tion be­tween old and new. “The idea is not to try to con­nect the struc­tures in terms of form but ma­te­ri­ally,” says Meir­ing.

In the villa, restora­tion and the ad­di­tion of two bath­rooms were the fo­cus. The tur­ret, a for­mer folly ac­cessed from the ve­ran­dah, now con­tains the en suite. Stripped back to its bones, light floods the space and the own­ers can ad­mire its struc­ture while they bathe. While the house is on the flat, its po­si­tion on North Head means it’s sur­rounded by slopes. The ex­ten­sion looks up the hill and ma­jor earth­works were re­quired to cut into the bank and gain space. “The idea was to make the garage subter­ranean so it sat like a land­scap­ing el­e­ment,” says Meir­ing. “We wanted it fur­ther to­wards the street and needed more func­tion for the other struc­tures, so we just had to gain a bit more space.” A re­tain­ing wall back­ing the length of the liv­ing ar­eas al­lows for a coat room, laun­dry and garage ac­cess. It’s all tucked in by a bank where seven-me­tre piles se­cure the site and the neigh­bour­ing villa that was cre­at­ing sur­charge weight on the hill. “It looked like road­works, like the Water­view Tun­nel was com­ing through,” jokes Meir­ing. Pieces col­lected from the own­ers’ time in Hong Kong and New Zealand art dress the house. There are cus­tom-made de­tails, such as mo­saic bath­room tiles and a powder-coated handrail on the stairs that lead to the kitchen. “We didn’t want to just go and buy. We wanted a hand­made qual­ity,” says the owner. Out­side, den­sity has been thinned from the ex­otic trees in the yard to make way for the pool and lawn, where an avo­cado tree drops its heavy fruit. A large flame tree, with a sea­sonal show of red flow­ers, re­mains front and cen­tre of the villa. The fam­ily cat has the run on the place and has made an ex­trav­a­gant wa­ter bowl of the pond. The fam­ily has made it a mis­sion to un­veil the home’s lay­ers of his­tory, strip­ping walls back to re­veal orig­i­nal kauri boards that match the raw, oiled floors. The pre­vi­ous owner lived here for 55 years and re­mem­bers his mother teach­ing him how to play cricket down the hall­way. Dents from the con­tin­u­ous whack­ing of cricket balls into the walls haven’t been glossed over. “That’s a build­ing’s his­tory,” says the owner. “I don’t think you should cover it all up and make it look per­fect.”.

The fam­ily has made it a mis­sion to un­veil the home’s lay­ers of his­tory, strip­ping back walls to re­veal orig­i­nal kauri boards.

Above right Orig­i­nal floor­boards at the en­trance lead onto stone paving that cov­ers the liv­ing area and board­walk. Fac­ing page The ren­o­va­tion in­cludes a new kitchen in the orig­i­nal villa. The stools at the kitchen is­land were pur­chased in China. The...

Above ‘Hee’ chairs by Hee Welling for Hay from Cult De­sign.

Be­low Op­po­site Alexan­der and Amelia sit pool­side. Ar­chi­tect An­drew Meir­ing and He­len Jones on the villa ter­race. The fruit­laden avo­cado tree is a fea­ture of the yard.

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