Hid­den depths A worst-house-on­the-best-street be­comes a model of moder­nity in Welling­ton

Be­hind its tra­di­tional frontage, this Welling­ton villa pro­vides a model for con­tem­po­rary liv­ing

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - Text by Cather­ine Steel. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Rus­sell Kleyn.


From the street, the Baird fam­ily home in Is­land Bay, Welling­ton, is a grace­ful villa typ­i­cal of many colo­nial homes in the cap­i­tal. But step in­side and you’ll find a mod­ern abode com­plete with con­crete floors, a light-filled atrium and a sound-ab­sorb­ing ceil­ing.

Dun­can and Cather­ine Baird (par­ents to Gemma, Eva and Greta) found the house on­line while liv­ing in the Hokianga in 2011. But at the time it was run­down and on its last legs. “It was a ‘worst house on the best street’ sce­nario,” says Dun­can. After vis­it­ing the open home, he and Cather­ine came up with a plan for some­thing con­tem­po­rary that would work well for their grow­ing fam­ily.

Re­spect­ing the home’s his­tor­i­cal charm while bring­ing it into the 21st cen­tury was one of the aims of the ren­o­va­tion. With its beau­ti­ful south-fac­ing frontage and north-fac­ing rear, the house was ripe for an up­grade. Us­ing the guid­ance of Welling­ton ar­chi­tects Ate­lier­work­shop, the cou­ple brought it back to life – with a mod­ern twist.


The cou­ple took pos­ses­sion in late 2011, but then de­cided to rent out the house and head to

South Aus­tralia to save some money for the ren­o­va­tion. Be­fore de­part­ing, the Bairds met with their old friend ar­chi­tect Ce­cile Bon­ni­fait from Ate­lier­work­shop to kick off the de­sign process. They con­tin­ued the dia­logue by email while liv­ing in the Aus­tralian out­back.

“When we re­turned to New Zealand in late 2012, we bashed out a few walls and did a bit of paint­ing, then shiv­ered through a few Welling­ton sea­sons while we com­pleted the de­sign phase. We moved into a house-sit for the ma­jor works,” Dun­can says. Build­ing started in 2014 and the fam­ily moved into their com­pleted home in 2015.


The brief for Ate­lier­work­shop was to re­tain the home’s ex­ist­ing foot­print while max­imis­ing its out­door ar­eas. In re­sponse, the ar­chi­tects opted to ex­ca­vate the base­ment and cre­ate a down­stairs floor that was ac­ces­si­ble from the street. “The ob­vi­ous thing to do was cre­ate a good sun trap on the back north­ern wall and open it out onto the back lawn,” Dun­can says.

“The north-fac­ing part of the house was a dog’s break­fast of badly po­si­tioned rooms and scul­leries – we knew that was where we would do most of our work to im­prove the as­pect.”

The now up­per level fea­tures the home’s en­trance and a cen­tral hall­way that ser­vices the main bed­room, bath­room and a guest bed­room/of­fice. The hall opens onto a mod­ern kitchen, din­ing and liv­ing area which is di­vided by a stair­case down to the lower level. The down­stairs lounge has no ceil­ing and the re­sult is a light-filled, dou­ble-height atrium which links the lower liv­ing area with its up­stairs equiv­a­lent.

A bath­room and two bed­rooms can also be found down­stairs with both bed­rooms open­ing onto a ter­raced area and lawn com­plete with tram­po­line and vege gar­den. “Slid­ing doors in each bed­room open onto the ter­race, which turns the area into one big space,” says Wil­liam Giesen of Ate­lier­work­shop.

The hub of the home is its open-plan liv­ing and kitchen area, a great zone for busy fam­ily life and en­ter­tain­ing friends. “The lo­ca­tion of the stair­way was a real mas­ter­stroke as it adds to the airy, spa­cious feel with­out co-opt­ing that space,” says Dun­can. “It’s also nice to re­tain the tra­di­tional cen­tral hall and front bed­rooms for quiet and pri­vacy.”


The ar­range­ment of rooms worked out per­fectly for the cou­ple’s ex­ist­ing col­lec­tion of garage-sale mid-cen­tury fur­ni­ture. De­part­ing from this theme – and yet shar­ing the sim­ple lines of that de­sign era – are the vi­brant red ply­wood kitchen cup­boards and din­ing room stor­age. “After won­der­ing whether it might be too loud at the choos­ing stage, we love our bold bur­gundy kitchen ply­wood,” Dun­can says. Stor­age was a big con­sid­er­a­tion from the out­set. “We car­ried the kitchen cab­i­netry up to the three-me­tre stud and through into the din­ing room for all those oc­ca­sional cook­ing and din­ing items, pre­serves and cook­books.” Down­stairs a wall of cup­boards hides the laun­dry.


The ex­te­rior of the rear ad­di­tion to the house is in com­plete con­trast to the home’s tra­di­tional fa­cade – clad in ver­ti­cal cedar, the walls are bro­ken up by tall win­dows fit­ted with lou­vres for ven­ti­la­tion. “When build­ing into a base­ment, get­ting light in is al­ways a chal­lenge, which is why we gave those big ver­ti­cal spaces some large ar­eas of glass,” says ar­chi­tect Wil­liam. The down­stairs is floored with con­crete which cre­ates an ef­fec­tive so­lar-en­ergy sump that keeps the whole house warm well into the evening. “Con­crete floors hold the day’s heat which then dis­si­pates through­out the night,” ex­plains Wil­liam.


The fam­ily are rapt with their home and glad they in­vested time, money and en­ergy into build­ing some­thing they love.

“It’s great liv­ing in such a warm, sunny, airy house that we’ve been in­volved with cre­at­ing,” Dun­can says. “It would be a rare pro­fes­sional ren­o­va­tion where the ini­tial prop­erty price plus the ren­o­va­tion costs come in un­der the new val­u­a­tion but it only takes a few years for that to get ab­sorbed into the big pic­ture. So you just have to roll with the ups and downs of a big ren­o­va­tion.”

The Bairds’ in­vest­ment has pro­duced a her­itage home with a mod­ern soul that shows you can love old houses while still en­joy­ing the ben­e­fits of mod­ern build­ing meth­ods. It also proves some­thing we sus­pected: red is back on the menu.


yhg Find the things you love from this home on page 152.

EX­TE­RIOR Cather­ine and Dun­can re­tained their villa’s tra­di­tional frontage and painted the front door red to match the vi­brant red kitchen.

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