A year’s grace

There was no buy­ing and flick­ing on for these first-home buy­ers who in­stead chose to lav­ish some longterm love on an old Christchurch villa

Your Home and Garden - - Your Renovation - Text by Ady Shan­non. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Kate Clar­idge.

Some­times ren­o­va­tion is about know­ing what to keep as well as what to rip out – Gail Har­ris orig­i­nally wanted to chop down the cherry tree in her front yard (pic­tured top right) but her mum told her to give it a year. Now its pink spring blos­som is the cen­tre­piece of her for­mal gar­den.

When love kicks in, there’s no turn­ing back. In 1998 Gail and Cory Har­ris were young and dat­ing when they spot­ted their dream cot­tage for sale in the leafy Christchurch sub­urb of Beck­en­ham. At that time they didn’t know that the tree-lined av­enue was renowned for its su­perb, faith­fully re­stored vil­las but, step­ping in­side at that first open home, Gail knew she’d found her ideal home.

“I came through and I just fell for it, quite quickly, quite heav­ily. I was so keen to get it that I knocked over all the Open Home signs on the path as we left, just in case some­one else came along and wanted it as much as I did,” Gail laughs. She also bought her first ever lot­tery ticket that night in the hope it would en­able her and Cory to get on the prop­erty lad­der. She did not win the lot­tery, but some­how the pair man­aged to buy the home of her dreams.

The pre­vi­ous owner was a builder-de­vel­oper who had sub­di­vided the prop­erty for a town­house de­vel­op­ment at the rear. “He had lit­er­ally dipped the house in cream paint, in­side and out. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it,” Gail re­calls. “Be­fore we took pos­ses­sion, we’d take sand­wiches and sit in our car over the road and talk about all the things we were go­ing to do.” A mass of ar­chi­tec­turally in­ap­pro­pri­ate changes had been made to the home over many years by var­i­ous own­ers, and the gar­den was un­kempt.

But Gail and Cory could see beyond the faults. “I have al­ways loved vil­las and I saw the po­ten­tial straight away. I never no­ticed the chil­dren’s swim school next door, the kinder­garten op­po­site and the pri­mary school over the rear bound­ary of the orig­i­nal site. At the time, we didn’t have chil­dren,” says Gail. These were all neigh­bour­hood bonuses that would be­come ob­vi­ous later.

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