After a long stint overseas, a pair of clever renovators landed in Herne Bay and transformed an historic villa into a home fit for the modern family
This freshly renovated Herne Bay villa is an oasis in the city
Fraser Wallace, builder, Anna Reinstein, freelance event manager, Frankie, 6, and Jude, 2.
- The house was cold and draughty. The central heating system was expensive to run and didn’t do a great job. In winter, the owners still had to put electric heaters in the kids’ bedrooms.
- There was one huge bathroom with a dated corner spa bath but no ensuite for the main bedroom.
- Condensation formed on windows on really cold mornings.
- Underfloor heating was installed in the back extension. It emits a lovely, constant heat and the winter heating bills have been halved.
- The old bathroom was turned into a kid’s bedroom, and the bedroom opposite was converted into two bathrooms – an ensuite and a main bathroom.
- The installation of a ventilation system (HEX390 by Smooth-Air), with a ceiling vent in each room, fixed the condensation issue.
For Anna Reinstein and Fraser Wallace, returning home from an extended OE in the UK and finding themselves in Auckland’s central suburb of Herne Bay was like walking into a dream. Tucked behind the bustling strip of Jervois Road, in a quiet, tree-lined street of classic bay villas, the couple felt like they had well and truly landed.
“The location was definitely a drawcard for us,” says Anna. “Ponsonby seemed like something out of a movie set. Villas just have so much character, and the area is so pretty and full of families.”
When the couple visited their future home with their son Frankie in tow, they had a vision for its future: although in serious need of a renovation, the home was close to local schools and parks, and its good bones and history were there to be built upon.
“The house needed a bit of work. It had been a family home for years and you could see the memories that had been created inside it,” says Anna. “Scribbled on the inside of a door frame was a height chart of all the kids that had grown up here. That was difficult to paint over! We had to take a photo of it and send it to the previous owner before we did.”
With council heritage restrictions in place in the historic neighbourhood, Anna and Fraser were faced with the challenge of preserving the villa’s frontage while reconfiguring the dated interior to suit their growing family. Second son Jude was born while the renovation was under way, in the late summer of 2015.
Fraser, a builder by trade, led the charge, with his company, Wallace Building, engaged to complete the first stage. The rooms at the front of the villa were reconfigured to include a new ensuite and bathroom, and a modern kitchen was installed at the back. The tired villa also required a new roof and an exterior paint job, plus internal re-plastering and painting throughout.
Fraser, Anna and Frankie stayed in the house during this first stage, which was mercifully short thanks to Fraser’s team, who completed the work in record time. The next stage was planned for 2016.
“It was actually good to live in it before it was fully renovated, as we changed our extension plans to better suit our needs as a family,” says Anna. “It became really important to us to have easy flow to the garden, and to have the kitchen on the same level as the main living and dining area. We also allowed for transitional spaces, a utility room for laundry and storage, and a flexible room, which is currently Jude’s bedroom.”
With council approval in hand, the second round of renovations started in October 2016. This time the changes were extensive, with the addition of a large, sunken living area that was designed to flow seamlessly out into the established tropical garden.
While Fraser’s expertise was focused on the build, Anna concentrated on the design aspects. She sought out key elements to finish the space and investigated ways to fuse the new, modern extension with the original features of the heritage home.
Although the extension was built with the goal of re-selling the house in mind, Anna and Fraser felt it was important to add personality to the space. “Keeping things simple, natural, warm and comfortable is generally our thing, and we don’t subscribe to one style,” Anna says.
Reconfiguration of the back end of the original villa included adding another bedroom (which cleverly converts to a media room via sliding doors) and creating a functional utility room – an item at the top of Anna’s list of renovation priorities.
“Having become used to London living, with the washing machine stuck somewhere in the kitchen, and laptops and paperwork cluttering the dining table, it’s so refreshing to finally have a proper laundry and a little out-of-the-way office nook to potter in.”
At the end of the villa hallway you step down into the large, open-plan living area, where light and space have influenced the materials and colours used. Concrete floors add a rustic, robust element, while floor-to-ceiling linen curtains filter the afternoon light and add a strong textural quality. Avid travellers Anna and Fraser have treasures from trips to Bali on display, including an oversized copper pendant light and teak dining room set.
Throughout the home a soft glow illuminates each room as the sun moves around the house. Light filters through plantation-style shutters, which add privacy to the street-facing rooms.
A palette of warm grey and bone white was chosen to help the heritage home and its new extension merge seamlessly, with a charcoal feature colour making a statement on the front door and in the living room. The simple, calming scheme highlights the vibrant green of the lush tropical garden.
A sense of harmony imbues the completed home; the renovation has resulted in a warm and modern family haven unhindered by the often arbitrary layouts of turn-of-the-century dwellings. A flexible room arrangement means the home can evolve as the family grows: for instance, the fourth bedroom can be opened to the hall and converted into a second lounge or playroom, or closed off for privacy.
Anna and Fraser have invested time, imagination and their own sense of style into a home that has welcomed their young family. But plans are afoot for a move to Waiheke Island, where a new-build and a slower pace of life beckon. “We love our home,” says Anna. “We could easily stay here for another 10 years and be very happy – but we’re not great at sitting still!”
- Live in it for a while before you make any plans. Your ideas change the more time you spend in a place.
- Shop around if you can find the time. There’s always a bargain to be had somewhere.
- Pinterest, scrapbook and take photos of anything you see that you like. It’s much easier to brief a supplier when you’ve got something to show them.
- If you can avoid it, don’t even attempt to live in the house while doing a major renovation with little ones around.
- Enjoying a wine while making all those renovation decisions definitely helps.
Words by: Tina Stephen. Photography by: Vanessa Lewis.