Written by John Williams
Not only is this a home exquisitely finished, its diverse layout and enviable location make it an absolute must-see for anyone in the market for city-centre sanctuary.
There is something magical about 33 England St, Freeman’s Bay; it’s playfully decorative gables and balustrades giving it a fairy-tale quality, as if it has jumped straight off the pages of a volume of the Brothers Grimm. And as you walk up the wooden steps and in through the front door, you would be forgiven for thinking you were about to enter a beautifully renovated period home. But you’d be wrong. It’s not until you step into the contemporary living area, where the space dramatically unfolds into a huge, double-height atrium that you realise that you’ve wandered into something quite special.
It was this sense of scale and the home’s clean, modern lines – along with the opportunity for the whole family to have their own personal spaces – that first attracted the current owners when they returned from overseas five years ago. However, for husband Craig – a first-time Aucklander and self-confessed Wellington boy, through and through – it is the home’s location that has become one of its biggest attributes.
“We didn’t know where we wanted to be when we first came back, but we knew it had to be somewhere central,” he says. “My wife, Michelle, is Scottish, so she didn’t know either, but we knew people who lived here.” Since moving into Freeman’s Bay, Craig says they have both absolutely loved the diverse mix of the people who live in the area, plus the fact it’s so close to the city.
“It’s a really down-to-earth suburb with lots of diversity – something the neighbouring suburbs don’t seem to offer… and I like that,” he says. “It’s also the access to great local schools. My boy goes to St Peter’s, and the girl goes to St Mary’s. She can walk to school, and he only has a short walk up onto Ponsonby Road and it’s a 10-minute bus journey from there. It’s also the little things, like driving back after a weekend away and coming off the motorway and thinking, thank god my house is only 20 seconds away,” he laughs.
Set over three floors, each of the home’s five bedrooms has its own ensuite, plus there is plenty of space in between for the couple and their two teenage children to fully take advantage of the almost 350sqm of floor space.
Unlike other examples of heritage-style homes that have been ‘modernised’, where the new and the old are often at odds with one another, here, the blend of a modern interior wrapped in a traditional skin works perfectly. Within the double-height living space, above the large, entertainer’s kitchen, hangs a box-room that Craig uses as his home office. This room is connected to the ground floor, via the master suite, by a folded-steel staircase that disappears into the lower ground floor, where the teenage hangout and double internal garaging are located.
Back on the top floor is the jewel in the crown of this unique home – the master bedroom suite – a magnificent open-plan area that occupies both gabled roof spaces, with magnificent views out over the city. “We spend a lot of time in the evenings, sitting up there on that balcony – sometimes with a GnT – talking about the day,” says Craig. “It’s a quiet place for Michelle and I to hang out, whilst the kids are doing their thing downstairs.”
“And that’s one of the greatest things about living here – the segregation,” he says. “Upstairs is the adult’s area, and the lower ground floor is the perfect kid’s area, with a pool table in the garage and the TV room and rumpus room.” He says his kids can have half-a-dozen or more friends over and they don’t hear a peep out of them.
The ground floor is the family’s communal area; the hub of the home, where they eat and share time together. “We still have a regular family movie night on a Sunday, where we choose a film and all sit on the couch together,” he smiles.
The abundance of natural light is another of the home’s drawcards. From the first rays of morning light that pour into the front three bedrooms, to watching the sun dip down over the private, west-facing garden, it enjoys full sun all day, every day. And every effort has been made to capture every drop of sun, especially in the living area, where two large, north- and west-facing skylights beam the light in from mid-morning
Talking of light, a beautiful design feature worth singling out is the pillarless, corner window seat that cantilevers out over the garden, which can be fully opened up thanks to a set of full-height bi-fold windows. Not only is this one of the best seats in the house, it also allows light to flood into the adjacent lounge.
From the inside looking out, the open-plan living space effortlessly spills out onto two generous decks and a grassed area, which are bordered by a landscaped garden with mature planting and hedges, providing both privacy and a great outlook from inside the home.
It’s clear that the previous owners put their heart and sole into transforming this home into something quite unique. And it is testament to their vision and attention to detail that Craig and Michelle have had to do very little to the place in the time they’ve been here.
“The only thing we’ve done is to convert one of the front rooms from a secondary lounge into a bedroom and used a space formerly occupied by a large walk-in butler’s pantry as an ensuite for that new bedroom,” he says. “We also added an industrial style barn door between the two front bedrooms and the living area, which has been great. It has made a huge difference, not just in terms of privacy and soundproofing, but also it’s amazing how much heat it keeps in during winter.”
Craig says he can’t help thinking that 33 England Street will be going to be another family like theirs, because of its central location for schools, the segregation it offers, and because of all the space and storage it has. “It’s great for a young family. It’s got everything you could want,” he says.
However, it would also be ideal for professionals looking for easy access to the city for work and great connection to the motorways to get in and out of town at weekends; and could also suit multi-generational living, where the lower ground floor could be segregated for an elderly relative, a live-in nanny, or even extra income from Airbnb. What you’ve got here is options, says Craig.
Asked why they are giving up such an ideal home in a perfect location, Craig comes back with a unique and thought-provoking answer. “Honestly, I don’t want to move,” he admits. “But this is something my wife is passionate about. We have always moved every three years, even when we were overseas in Singapore for six years, where we lived in two homes, and nine years in London, where we moved three times.
“By changing our environment and giving us somewhere new to live and something new to do, not only are we creating a different experience, we are giving our kids the opportunity to learn more – no matter what that is. It’s about adapting to a new environment,” he says.
It says something for this house that Craig and Michelle have gone two years beyond their usual three years before moving on, but he says the kids have got into a routine – and when kids get into a routine and nothing challenges them, everything becomes easy and they stop learning new things. “Michelle says, make it different, and that’s always been her driving force. That’s what new environments do – they make you alert and make you learn.”
There is so much more to discover - Only a visit will satisfy those looking for a special home like this.
Get in touch with Marty Hall or Heather Lanting today for your appointment to view.
Marty Hall: 0274 500 168
Heather Lanting: 0274 394 124
Click here for listing and more information
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