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An out-of-the-ordinary mid-century home on the hills of Auckland’s Titirangi

The owners of this mid-century home wanted to restore it to its original condition while at the same time introducing some contemporary elements

How do you find the right balance between restoration and renovation with older houses? This was a question foremost in the minds of Iain Archer and Nate Garven three years ago when they bought their 1960s-built, split-level home in west Auckland. Perched on a steep bush-clad Titirangi hillside, the five-bedroom house had been “crucified” by some of its previous owners, remembers Iain. “We removed wallpaper, wood panelling, even a massive Playboy-style spa. There was crazy stuff all over the place. A DIY fanatic had obviously been at work.”

We removed wallpaper, wood panelling

even a massive Playboy-style spa

There’s no sign of such craziness when you enter the house today, although its bright orange door does indicate that its owners might have out-of-the-ordinary taste. “There were horrible Balinese doors here when we came,” says Iain. “We spent a long time trying to find something better. Our builder eventually found some large standard doors that we painted orange and he matched the window drops with those on the rest of the house.”

This attention to detail is typical throughout the house, its beautiful 1960s windows, ceilings and other architectural features lovingly restored while the bathrooms and laundry have been upgraded to complement the original style without compromising on comfort. Other spaces have also been reconfigured to make them more usable.

“It was a restoration process as well as a renovation, bringing back original features and at the same time introducing contemporary elements. It was a matter of finding what was correct for the property and the era yet allowing for contemporary living. It’s about letting the house speak for itself, really. You end up as more of a caretaker than an owner,” says Iain.
He and Nate bought the house “by accident” after they’d been renting in Titirangi for six months. “We have real passion for mid-century property and the real-estate agent knew that,” says Iain. “She showed us this house in the afternoon and we made an offer that night.”

We have real passion for mid-century property

Although they could not find out the name of the original architect, they did discover that the house had been the home of the Maddren family (a well-known building company) and built in 1967. “The house is made of 150-year-old Canadian maple,” says Iain. “It hadn’t been painted and was very filthy. The wood had turned a grey colour so we cleaned it all up. The house has an amazingly massive concrete and brick basement that gives it real stability and solidity.”

The house is made of 150-year-old Canadian maple

As soon as they moved in, the couple started working on the house, their renovation virtually complete in six months. Iain is quick to credit the “amazing” builder Hamish from Transcend Homes for both the fast work rate and his meticulous care in sourcing many of the original 1960s features used in the restoration. Builders and clients scoured demo yards and online auction sites for materials and fittings while Iain and Nate bought a lot of the furniture, artwork, interior furnishings and light fixtures overseas.

So they’ve got the renovation bug, then? “Yes, this is the first one we have done here; it’s given us the taste for it.”

Style secrets

– Learn to edit and filter. Don’t put too many pieces on display, Iain advises. Let the things you really love speak. Allow space around individual items so they have their own energy. If things don’t work, put them in another room or put them away until you feel like changing the room.
– Choose things you love; don’t just buy things to fill a space.
– Get to know what you are looking at, research the designers of the period and look at other pieces from the same era. Start to build up a bit of a story.

Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photos by: Elizabeth Goodall.

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