This remodeled Grey Lynn villa is an exercise in restraint. We find out how its minimalist aesthetic seeks to prove that less is often more
This Grey Lynn villa’s facade hides a modern, monochrome secret
When media executive Jackie Campbell opens the front door of her renovated 1910 villa in Grey Lynn, Auckland, a vacuum cleaner drowns out her invitation to enter. “That’s my husband, Craig,” she shouts, motioning towards a pleasingly muscular man dressed in a black t-shirt and matching shorts. “He’s not the cleaner.”
Craig, as it turns out, is also not a member of the All Blacks but rather a fire fighter, who spends too much of his down time vacuuming the charcoal carpet in the bedroom. “I don’t think we would do a dark carpet again,” says Jackie. “ They’re sophisticated, but every speck of dust shows. They’re probably more suited to executive living.”
Jackie and Craig bought their do-up six years ago and lived in it for four years before embarking on their renovation. Due to the home’s heritage status, it took nine months to get their code signed off. Then, the couple and their daughter, Molly, now eight, moved out for a further nine months, leaving Evelyn McNamara from EMA Architects to transform the space.
And transform it she did. The original lounge was converted back into a bedroom for Molly, a walk-in closet was added to the master bedroom and the guest room was contracted slightly to make way for a double wardrobe with storage space above. The rest of the place was essentially gutted and extended out to create a large, open plan living space with soaring ceilings.
“We had height to boundary issues,” says Jackie. “So Evelyn came up with the idea for the cathedral roof. You have that real wow factor with the full height.” The tongue and groove ceiling is a nod to a traditional villa, but while the Campbells wanted something classic they weren’t overly concerned about staying true to a villa aesthetic. “The beauty of these redos is that you never know what you’re going to find behind the front door,” says Jackie.
One of those surprises is the black kitchen. “Oak, blacks and greys are timeless,” says Jackie. “I think you can get sick of brights quite quickly.” Even so, the kitchen presented its own set of challenges. “When it comes to black kitchen products, you touch them and leave hand marks and streaks,” explains Jackie. McNamara suggested Dekton for the kitchen counter as it didn’t scratch as easily as other materials and used stained plywood for the cabinetry.
“The scullery is just melamine and it’s a nightmare to keep streak- and handprint-free. I don’t think we’d do a black kitchen again.” On the other hand, the kitchen proportions have not disappointed. Craig, who also likes to cook, had a hand in the design. “The long bench is amazing. You can cook from the barbecue and set it up as a buffet. We’ve got a lot of space,” says Jackie.
Original kauri floorboards seamlessly join the passageway from the original villa to the kitchen and living area. “They were quite tricky to track down. There’s apparently only one person in Auckland who does it,” says Jackie. “But I’m glad we went with kauri instead of laminate flooring. It was worth it to keep the flow.”
Forgoing an interior decorator, Jackie allowed the kitchen to set the colour palette throughout. “My fashion sense is very neutral,” she says. “And as I mostly styled the house, I don’t think I was brave enough to do colour on my own. Black, white and grey is safe, but it’s also sleek and clean. It’s what we like and it’s what I knew I could pull off.”
The bathrooms are an exercise in restraint too. “For fire safety, that side of the house was not allowed windows. I worried that floor-to-ceiling concrete tiles would make it look like a bunker,” she says. “But I’m so pleased with the result.”
Along with their neutral palette, Jackie and Craig chose to furnish the house with a high-low look. “We invested our budget in the architect and on the materials, and spent less on styling the house.” Though you would never guess, most of the furniture is from Città, Freedom or Kmart. The art, much of it pop art-inspired, injects colour from the walls.
The family moved back in once the interior was finished but before the steep, upward sloping yard had been landscaped. “I spent many sleepless nights worrying about what we were going to do with it,” says Jackie. “We had a few landscapers come around, but it was just too difficult for them.”
Then they met Dan Mackay from Ministry of Ground, who had the inspired idea to put in the barbecue, cutting it out and making a seated area as well as retaining the land in two levels with macrocarpa stained black and adding a black spiral staircase to reflect the dark interiors. “Now when you walk through the house the garden is a real focal point. I think it’s made the house,” says Jackie. “We just love to pull back the doors and have people over.”
Words by: Nadine Rubin Nathan. Photography by: Helen Bankers.