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.

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