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It wasn’t love at first sight with this 1970s Christchurch home

Not every home purchase is based on a mutual, love-at-first-sight reaction – sometimes it takes a change in circumstances to clinch the deal

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Who lives here?

Steve Galbraith (owner and director of Galbraith Engineering), Shelly Galbraith (homemaker and casual ANZ customer-service representative), Millie, 17, and Gus, 15, plus Archie their ancient dog and Suki the cat.

First impressions of the house

Finding your dream home is often all about good timing. For Christchurch couple Shelly and Steve Galbraith it was more about biding their time. In 2008, when the couple were looking for a new family home, they considered buying a quirky, architecturally designed Port Hills home built around 1970.

I was not so taken

with the funky and outdated architecture

The angles, pitched rooflines, high ceilings, wooden interior linings, unusually shaped windows and multiple levels appealed to Steve but not so much to Shelly. “I loved the private setting, the views and the all-day sun, but I was not so taken with the funky and outdated architecture,” she says. Instead, they chose to buy a lifestyle property and set about taming the land and renovating the site’s 100-year-old cottage. But along came a very large spanner in the works…

The Christchurch earthquake

After the 2011 earthquake, their fully renovated cottage was so damaged it became one of the first in the region to be demolished. The pair rented for the next 18 months and began working on plans to build a new home on the site. But, in a surprising twist, just two weeks before their land was deemed unsuitable for a rebuild, the hill home Steve had always fancied came back on the market. “Steve wanted me to revisit it,” Shelly says. “I was reluctant at first; I’m not a believer in going back. But Steve has vision and could see us there.” They ended up making an offer and the home was soon theirs.

I was reluctant at first;

I’m not a believer in going back

They moved in at the end of 2013 and over the following two years worked tirelessly to turn Steve’s vision into a reality, modernising and modifying the stylish 1970s house into their ideal family home.

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When old meets new

The distinctive, circular steel staircase, oversized round windows, angles galore, steep roof pitches and rimu-lined ceilings have all been retained. The kidney-shaped pool, kitchen and floor coverings are new. The laundry has been remodelled to double as a scullery and a variety of new claddings now overlay the block walls in order to accentuate and define the many nooks, seating zones and chill-out spaces within the three-level home.

The kitchen was the first area scheduled for a makeover. “I had already bought a Falcon double oven and fridge in anticipation of the refit,” Shelly says. Those glossy black appliances were the starting point for kitchen designer Jude Porter, who suggested offsetting the ebony finish with white lacquer cabinets. A wooden benchtop bridges the gap between living room and kitchen and a composite-stone bench lines the back wall. The small, square, burnt-orange-coloured floor tiles have been retained. “Lots of people said we should change them but we really like them,” Shelly laughs. Some features and furnishings did have to go, though, including a wooden farmhouse table from their former cottage; it has now been replaced with a generous dining suite better suited to the double-height, glass-enclosed dining area.

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How to style a 1970s home

Steve and Shelly both agree that the architectural style has presented opportunities and challenges. “Pictures don’t look great on block walls; things and installations look better,” Shelly says. The ‘things’ that have earned their spot on the white blockwork include a moose head, custom-designed mirrors, indigenous art and a large wooden surfboard purchased on a recent trip to Hawaii. “Occasionally Steve takes it off the wall and out on the waves,” Shelly smiles.

Bold embossed wallpaper enhances the curved and angled walls, and practical uses have been found for the unusually shaped spaces – the cavity under the stairwell is ideal for storing wine, which is handy to the cabinet and bar Steve has built on the opposite wall. On a platform slightly elevated from the television zone, a tapestry-covered couch sits under a glass canopy where the afternoon sun spills in. Down two steps and there’s the fireplace, framed by soft couches and glass walls – the perfect spot, Shelly says, for curling up with a good book all year round.

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Outdoor living

The outdoor area at the front of the house was in need of a major makeover. A deck was the first thing built and this provided a walkway to the front door. “We had always wanted a pool, and we thought that as this area had all-day sun and was sheltered and private, we’d go for it,” says Shelly. Unfortunately, it became a massive budget blow-out as the pair underestimated how much it would cost to clear the area, but they agree the end result has been totally worth it. “We use the pool so much over the summer and it has made the entrance to our home so welcoming,” Shelly says.

Sliding doors open to a generous deck and pool area where a table, chairs, loungers and an outdoor fire invite alfresco dining year round. During winter, the family love to gather in the lower pit around the fire, sitting on couches covered in a wide corduroy. The view from the front deck looks out over the estuary and towards the Kaikoura Ranges.

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The end

“It was a strange time in our lives when we bought this house,” Shelly remembers. “We had just been red zoned, thereby losing our home and a lifestyle that we loved.” While hesitant at first, she admits the whole makeover process has been a lot of fun – especially designing the kitchen, choosing wallpaper, buying testpots, painting, staining and selecting furniture. “It did need a lot of work and was clearly going to be a big project, but Steve had a vision and was excited about changing the house that nobody was a fan of, into a home that we’d be proud of. I knew that he would achieve this, and he has.”

Words by: Ady Shannon. Photography by: Kate Claridge.

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