ARTICLE Joanna Mathers IMAGE Scott Espie
Before and after photos are funny things. While they are an effective means of illustrating dramatic makeovers, they can also make a renovation process appear simpler than it was; the immediacy of the images hiding months (or years) of backbreaking slog.
Nick and Amy Williams’ extreme home makeover is a case in point. ‘Before’ pictures show a small, basic, ex-state house; ‘after’ pictures reveal a spacious, clean-lined, well-designed home.
But go behind the images and you discover the three years of blood, sweat, and all-nighters spent forging a dream home from the remnants of an old house that was past its prime.
When Nick (a production designer for television) and Amy (an accountant) purchased the home in 2011, the three-bedroom dwelling with small living and kitchen area wasn’t in the best shape.
“The foundations were on their way out,” says Amy. “And the interiors weren’t great. The carpet was very worn, the ceilings showed signs of water damage, wallpaper was hanging off the walls and some of the exterior weatherboards were rotten.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however. The interior framing was crafted from solid rimu. The rimu floorboards were also in excellent shape; there was a new roof, and the home was situated on a large section in one of Auckland’s most prestigious suburbs.
The Williams’ engaged the services of architectural firm Archoffice (based in Ponsonby) to draw up plans. Architect John Ingham’s plans transformed the existing downstairs space (an empty shell filled with dirt, pilings and old block work) into an airy living, dining and entertaining area.
The existing home would maintain much of the original interior layout, but the old kitchen/dining area would be altered to form two new bedrooms and a spacious entranceway; and the back garden-facing wall pushed out to create more space overall. A garage would also be added, a loft area created on top of the garage, and new kitchen, bathroom, dining, living and laundry area added underneath the original home.
As the project was extensive, it was undertaken in three stages. Stage one began at the end of 2011. This involved retaining the sloping back garden to level it, building a driveway and parking pad, and bringing the existing house structurally up to current building code. It also meant pushing out the walls, adding a deck overlooking the garden, and tidying up the interiors of the house, including a temporary kitchen and lounge space.
Excavation under the house and the laying of the concrete pad was also done to prepare the lower level for its eventual transformation.
Nick and Amy (plus then newborn Eva, now 4) stayed at Amy’s parents house during this stage, but this didn’t mean they weren’t thoroughly hands on.
Prior to starting works, evenings were spent stripping wallpaper, sanding and painting the existing rimu doors, and removing door and window furniture (which would later be stripped, sealed, and returned to the new house).
Also on the to-do list was removing the old kitchen and rear porch, bringing down the old fireplace, and sanding and removing non-structural walls.
Amy was on-site everyday answering questions and helping where she could. “We also had some good mates who came and gave us a hand to fit the structural steel under the house,” says Nick.
Adding to the workload was the fact that the summer of 2012 was one of the wettest on record. The exposed clay on the hill site would slip down the sloping section at night, covering an area prepared for concreting in sticky sludge.
Every night Nick would shovel the clay away from the area, so that work would resume every morning. And then the next day’s rain would send the clay straight back down the hill again.
“This happened for about two weeks,” says Nick. “I would be shoveling clay through the night then doing a full day’s work.”
Stage one of the renovation was completed in late 2012. The existing home was now liveable, and the family moved in while the second stage was being undertaken. The home still had its existing layout, and the new bedrooms hadn’t been created, but it was a vast improvement on what had been before.
Amy and Nick say that having a project manager on-site during stage one was incredibly helpful.
“The foreman on-site and David Coyte were both amazing – they’d problem solve incredibly quickly and come up with great solutions.”
The second stage of the project involved the creation of a two-car garage and loft space. The loft has internal access, as well as a separate entrance with a dining space, bathroom, and bedroom.
It was invaluable when the kitchen/dining space in the existing house was being transformed into two children’s bedrooms. (By now Jack (2) had also joined the family).
The final stage of the renovation was the development of the downstairs living area. In the early plans, this was to be accessed via a standard staircase from a new entranceway created when the children’s bedrooms were developed.
A benefit to completing a new build in stages is that it allows for plans to develop and change over time.
The original plans were drawn up in 2011, however now the Williams’ requirements had changed.
Having overseen two stages of the development, they both had more of an idea of what they wanted from the overall space.
To open the downstairs as much as possible, they decided to incorporate a ”floating staircase”; plus a proposed walled-off entertainment room no longer appealed.“We really didn’t want the children to be shut away from us,” says Nick. “We wanted a family area that we could all enjoy.”
John Ingham had since temporarily relocated to Spain (although he stayed in touch via email throughout the time), so Nick started developing concept drawings for the space and the kitchen, which he would then send to John for comment.
They eventually decided on a space that would be open and modern, but eminently functional.
This space features a wall that separates the kitchen/dining area from the entertainment area – this wall contains wiring for media throughout the entire house.
The kitchen is perfect for entertaining – an island bench differentiates the space and it’s packed full of high-spec appliances. A large scullery sits behind the main kitchen space with open shelving for pantry items.
The floating staircase plays a starring role in the space – crafted from steel enclosed in pale American oak, it perfectly offsets the naturalistic concrete floor that features throughout this level.
The entertainment area is backed by a feature wall with colourful geometric wallpaper. Nick created “floating” wooden shelving, and the adjoining wall features treasured photographs, including the before-and-after photos of their home.
Amy says the living level is the perfect reflection of the couple’s shared aesthetic. “We wanted the space to be fun and family focused,” she says.
It’s taken over three years, but the Williams family is now happily settled into their completed home. They love how it’s turned out, and sing the praises of all those who have been involved.
“We’ve been really lucky to have so many great craftspeople involved,” says Amy. “Creating the space downstairs has changed how we live. The children can run inside and out when they please; we can all cook, eat and entertain together.”
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This article by Joanna Mathers featured on page 60 in Issue 015 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page. This is not a Refresh case study.
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