Two years spent battling dust and cooking on camp stoves means an Auckland family now has their forever home.
It took two years of dust, sweat and cooking on camp stoves but this family now have their forever home
When Janey Larsen was growing up, her mum, an antique rug importer, had a favourite saying: “If you have a rug and a chest you can make a home anywhere in the world.” “So mum gave me an amazing Persian rug and an antique chest for my 21st,” Janey says. “She has passed that love of unique things on to me.”
The same rug now warms the entrance of the interior designer’s newly renovated Remuera bungalow, sitting companionably alongside a 200-year-old armchair from a French chateau, a contemporary custom-made bench seat and a spirited Piera McArthur painting, one of two that brighten the otherwise neutral colour scheme. The stairs at the back of the foyer are where she imagines she and husband Dave will watch their daughters
Lucy, 10, and Hannah, eight, pose for pictures in their ball gowns in a few years’ time. After owning five different houses, including three they renovated, this one is their “forever” home.
“Home is everything,” Janey says. “It’s where your loved ones are, all the things you’ve collected, it’s where you feel safe and comfortable. It tells the story of your life.” If this house is the Larsens’ story, it’s one of travel, family, hard work, focus and a passion for the old and the beautiful.
The expertly layered decor would be the home’s most impressive feature, if it wasn’t for the view. Taking in the Waitematā harbour from the CBD to Rangitoto with a crystal expanse of the Ōrākei basin in the foreground, it bustles with ferries, tugboats and cruise ships at all hours of the day. “It reminds me of the Richard Scarry kids’ books, the busy, busy harbour.” >
The view is handy too for her husband Dave, chief executive of Rayglass Boats, who often spots clients heading out on the water in their purchases. “He’ll be standing here on his phone talking to them, going, ‘Oh yes, mate, I see you,’” Janey says.
When they were on the hunt for their next home four years ago she vividly remembers standing on nearby Benson Road telling a real estate agent that she didn’t just want a do-up, she wanted the biggest, oldest house he could think of: “The mother of all renovations.”
“He had a think for a moment and said, ‘I do know of a place, but it’s not for sale.’ And I said, ‘Well, let’s knock on the door!’”
It took several knocks on the door to convince the owner to sell the 1000sqm property, which had been in their family since the area was farmland. When the Larsens eventually bought it, the house was divided into three separate flats and was in an unloved state, with original appliances and a roof that caved in twice during storms. “We’d lie in bed and hear the tiles crack,” Janey remembers. “If you asked him now, Dave would definitely say his favourite part of the renovation is the new roof.”
The glorious view was also totally obscured by trees. “We didn’t know if we were going to be able to clear them at all,” says Janey. “It was a bit of a gamble.” >
Once the build began it would take two years of dust, sweat and cooking on camp stoves for the graceful family home to emerge. The Larsens lived on site the whole time, moving from flat to flat as the builders worked their way around the house. “It meant I was there to make a decision on every light switch, power point and bathroom tile.”
Often there was no working kitchen, with Janey heating up spaghetti in the bathroom. “There was a time when I was taking turns with Dave to visit Lucy who was sick in hospital,” she remembers. “That was tough, but Dave and I are a good team. We supported each other completely.”
Despite the discomfort and time it took, Janey loved the whole process: “I was in renovation heaven.”
Reconfigured, rewired and refurbished, with a ground floor extension and new pool added, it’s virtually a brand new home made to feel as though it’s always been this way.
Five bedrooms, three living areas and several other nooks in which to work, relax and play mean the family has plenty of space to spread out.
The main living area’s giant sliding doors peel back to open up to the garden and covered outdoor living area, but Janey’s favourite room is the smaller formal living room, a sophisticated, adult space with a Balinese vibe.
There’s also a guest bedroom with a view that would rival any luxury hotel and a powder room wallpapered in a dramatic moody rose print. >
And for the girls, there’s a secret, 90sqm playroom accessed through a cupboard where they have slumber parties in tepees that Dave made. “It’s a bit The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” Janey says. Magical, yes, but also practical, lined with hardwearing marine ply.
The service areas are thoughtfully designed too, with two separate garages, a scullery tucked behind the kitchen and a laundry with an enviable 4.3m of bench space.
“I had to fight for the big laundry,” Janey says. Architectural designer Rex Little initially wanted to make it much smaller. “I asked him how often he did the laundry and he said, ‘I’ve never even put one load on.’ So I won that argument.”
In fact, Janey hasn’t had to compromise on much at all with this house. “Dave looked after the outside and left the inside up to me,” she says. “And with so much space to play with I really did get everything that I wanted.”
THIS PAGE The ply-lined playroomis accessed through Hannah’s bedroom wardrobe; the cockatoo print is from Hawthorne Group and the pink pompom rug is from Furtex. OPPOSITE (clockwise from top) Janey chose blue for the master bedroom for its cool masculinity; the Union Jack rug is from Source Mondial and the George Nelson Bubble lights are from the US. The guest bedroom has one of the best views in the house. The girls’ bathroom has Artedomus tiles, Victoria & Albert basins and the stool is a piece of wood from a friend’s farm.
THIS PAGE (from top) Bay trees, hydrangeas, buxus and mondo grass are planted down the side of the house. A brand new roof and copper spouting have been added to the exterior; the house has two garages, “one each” for Janey and Dave. OPPOSITE (clockwise from top) The Larsens use their outdoor area year-round thanks to a Louvretec roof and a Jetmaster fire; the wooden outdoor furniture is from Bali and the wicker chairs are from Citta. The Orakei basin is a favourite walking spot. John Streeter designed the pool; the urn is from Willory.