Written by John Williams
Photography by Jamie Cobel
It’s a style of architecture that didn’t make an appearance on these shores until after the Great War, and most examples were built in the more affluent suburbs of our three main cites – think Remuera and Epsom in Auckland.
This particular house, perched high up on a prime section of Narrow Neck clifftop, with near perfect views of Cheltenham Beach and Rangitoto, is a stunning example of a modern, Arts and Craft style home. Designed by Auckland architect Peter Townsend, just 16 years ago, it was rebuilt and added to using the same exacting standards that typified the qualities of its predecessors.
When Townsend first saw the house, it was in a pretty sorry state. “The original circa 1920’s house was reasonably substantial, but it had been converted into two flats – and not particularly sensitively,” he adds.
“It was a matter of unpicking the additions and modifications and taking it back to where it might have started life.”
The only original parts of the house are staircase and some of the south-facing external wall. The rest was meticulously re-designed and built in the original style, but with a few sympathetic additions and modern conveniences, like the impressive chef’s kitchen.
The architect says the house is what it is today thanks to the very generous budget given to him by his clients. “There’s a huge amount of money, love and effort gone into this home – and a lot of that must go down to the builder Neil Herrington, who is an absolute craftsman,” he says.
The third member of the design team was interior designer Maggie Bryston, who lovingly borrowed and reproduced some authentic details from the likes of the great Frank Lloyd-Wright and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, to create all the internal joinery and some of the many pieces of built-in furniture in the home – particularly in the formal lounge and upstairs study.
American oak was specified for all the custom-designed internal doors and joinery. “The quote for the doors alone was $45,000,” remembers the architect. “And that was a lot of money back then.”
And the attention to detail doesn’t stop when you step outside. If you can manage to divert your attention from the stunning views of the Hauraki Gulf, filtered though the line of mature Pohutukawas, you’ll notice you’re standing in a perfectly designed and professionally maintained garden, complete with a cantilevered Australian Jarrah that takes you just a little bit closer to that incredible view.
Speaking to the current owner, he says it has been an amazing house to live in. “It’s a great family house – almost every Friday night since we’ve been living here, one or all five of our granddaughters have stayed over. They love it here,” he adds.
He tells me that no expense was spared during its construction. “I used to work in the [building] industry, so everything in the house is the very best you could get,” he says. “I gave the architect free reign to rebuild the house in an Arts and Craft style. The only thing my wife and I wanted was plenty of space to display our art – hence the hall is much wider that you’d normally find.”
One of his favourite parts of the house is the hexagonal ‘turret’ dining room that commands sensational views over the beach below. “At night the raised lantern ceiling glows like a lighthouse,” he says.
This is an incredibly authentic and well-detailed home that really has to be seen in person to appreciate the craftsmanship that’s gone into making it. It has a strong and mature presence from the street that gives way to a welcoming, generous and well laid out interior.
And then there’s the view…
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