OLD & NEW
Our cover home’s magical mash-up
‘Iwas always scared of this house,” says Sandra Stockwell, now sitting, relaxed, in its beautifully renovated front reception room. “It was a real eyesore, and people would shout out at you whenever you walked past.”
A grand family home, built at the turn of the 19th century for a prominent Auckland councillor, the two-storey Freemans Bay villa had fallen into disrepair. It was converted into a 15-bedroom boarding house in the mid 1920s and it was all downhill from there.
Doug was nervous about this house too, but for a different reason. “If you ever wanted the ultimate villa, this is it. It’s the Holy Grail,” he says. “I never in my wildest dreams thought we would have anything like this. It was the unknown that concerned me – what we would uncover once we got into the house.”
But having lived in the area for 20 years, watched others renovate and seen property values rocket, Doug, a quantity surveyor, knew that if they had the courage to take on such a complex renovation the result would be remarkable.
Sandra and Doug’s vision was to restore the imposing property’s heritage elegance, with a modern touch. The couple had enough renovation experience to know they could make it happen. They’d already revamped two houses on the same street. Number 11 got a makeover in the late 90s, then when number 33 came on the market they snapped that up and converted it to a luxury B&B, Bella’s, named after their much-loved dog, a long-haired griffon. >
Best budget tip? Know the winning Lotto numbers, says Doug. But seriously, create a realistic budget as soon as you can and keep track of actual costs against the budget so you can adjust if you need to, he says. And try not to change your mind once construction starts, says Sandra. That can be costly.
How to make the best choices? Plan well ahead when choosing hardware and light fittings to avoid rushed purchases, says Sandra. Many high-end products need to be ordered ahead and can take months to arrive.
How to survive a massive reno? Doug’s advice: Never argue with your wife.
Working with a designer on their B&B sparked Sandra’s interest in interiors, and she enrolled to study with one of New Zealand’s most eminent designers, Nanette Cameron. “Working with Nanette opened up the doors to so many top-end designers, particularly across in Melbourne and Sydney. That was really inspirational to be able to go and visit these homes, first hand.”
All Sandra and Doug’s combined renovation and design experience was needed for this latest project. The home was so rundown that it was a challenge to imagine how it would look when it was finished, says Sandra.
“I’d like to think that we’ve been sympathetic to the history of the house, retaining its character – the plaster ceilings and the mouldings inside and restoring the verandahs on the outside – but given it a real modern twist,” says Sandra. >
In a bold move, the couple decided to emphasise the contrast between old and new. “This house has huge volumes and strong traditional features, so you can introduce some really edgy, contemporary pieces and design details and still get away with it,” Doug says. Nowhere is this more evident that in the kitchen and living area, where Doug came up with the idea of keeping the original detailing, but introducing ultra-modern finishes.
“I also love that area because of the exposed steel framing. It’s funny, some people come into the house and see the steel and say, ‘You’re going to cover that up, and box it all in, eh?’ I say: ‘No, we’re exposing it because we love it.’”
The couple worked with Doug’s former business partner John Eaglen from Eaglen Homes on the design and as the project gathered momentum they were hands-on renovators too.
Sandra spent months on scaffolding with her heat gun, stripping everything back to bare timber. “A lot of the tradies didn’t realise I was the owner,” she says. Doug restored the plaster ceilings.
When it comes to decision-making, Sandra says the pair are very different: “I’m impulsive and decisive – I know what I like and what I don’t like. Doug’s a slow burn. He analyses and contemplates every possible scenario, then finally makes a decision. It’s a challenging combination, but we get there in the end.” >
Favourite kitchen appliance: Zenith instant hot water tap. Throw away the kettle and no pausing of the TV required. (Sandra)
Biggest debate: Having such a large house with so many rooms, choosing paint colours for the interiors and exteriors was challenging. Test pots often appeared different when applied on the walls from the original paint charts. (Sandra)
We couldn’t have done it without: Our builder, Alistair Raw, who was multi-skilled and had a passion for the project. A very successful collaboration. (Doug) In the next five or 10 years I’d like to: Refurbish a brick warehouse-type building with a double-height space, exposed steel and brick, and lots of glass and timber. (Doug)
Sandra and Doug Stockwell
Sandra was prepared to wait when it came to purchases for their renovated home: “If you’ve got good taste, you’ll find that most things are too expensive,” she says. “My advice would be to stick to the higher end items, join their mailing lists and wait for the sales. Luckily with this project, we had the luxury of time – three years – so we could wait for the right pieces at the right price.”
Now that it’s finished, and having thoroughly enjoyed running their B&B, there are plans to open up their home again to luxury travellers. But they’re also revelling in their revamped home: “Essentially it’s like having a brand new home with all mod cons... but also having so much character,” says Sandra.
THIS PAGE Sandra and Doug Stockwell were delighted to discover the turned wood details on the staircase and this entry to the reception room of their Freemans Bay villa; it had all been boxed in when the home was a boarding house. OPPOSITE Original features were painstakingly revived and enhanced by modern fixtures, such as the Tom Dixon Melt lights.
THESE PAGES (clockwise from top left) The Leicht kitchen was installed by Avantegarde; the exposed steel beams are one of Doug’s favourite features and metal highlights are carried through into the kitchen as shelving and door pulls; the modern, timber-slatted ceiling demarcates the space. The family living area looks out to the pool; an Invisible pendant from Lighthouse contrasts with the ornate ceiling; the double-sided gas fireplace is from Escea. Blue Adelaide chairs from BoConcept in the formal dining room are illuminated by a Mira pendant from Lighting Plus. Doug and Sandra with their long-haired griffon, Bella, in their new, industrial-inspired kitchen.
THIS PAGE (clockwise from top left) Sandra admires the work of Australian interior designer Greg Natale and thinks this black and white hall runner channels his style.
OPPOSITE Shutters from Brightshine have been used on most windows; the master bedroom features a pair of Mango chairs from Dawson & Co.
Marble-patterned porcelain tiles from The Tile People give the master en suite a luxurious look; the Hatria Abito basins are from Bath Co. Dream Bike by Paul Hartigan in one of the guest bedrooms.
OPPOSITE The new rooftop garden is planted with corokia, native grasses and irises to give privacy from the street and preserve the views.
THIS PAGE (from top) Sandra and Doug in the secluded courtyard off the main dining room; three Fornasetti plates adorn the wall. Polished and perfect once again, and ready for the next hundred years.