Wendy Hart’s sensitive renovation of her classic 1960s family home gave it a modern edge, while retaining its retro glam appeal
Hidden from the street in Auckland’s Remuera stands a striking 1960s home, which has been a haven for just two families in its 50-year lifespan.
Owners Wendy and Richard Hart, their son Thomas, 14, and daughter Billy, 13, arrived four years ago with the desire to stay forever. “I used to stare at this house from my kitchen window across the valley and think how much I wanted it, but we couldn’t afford it at the time,” says Hart. “Then, one day Richard contacted the lady who owned the house, she had decided to sell but had an offer on the table. We were devastated.”
A few weeks later Hart’s husband, a real estate agent, contacted the new owners, who had yet to move in. Fortunately for the couple, their plans had changed and they were keen to sell. A month later the Harts moved in and their dream finally became a reality.
The two-storey house was built in 1967 by architect John Austin of JASMaD architects, known today as Jasmax, and his wife. The original glass front door and exposed brick atrium open onto a family room and office. Upstairs, the main dining and kitchen are central with living areas, an outdoor garden deck and bedrooms off to each side.
The Harts loved the overall feel and flow of the home, so they only made small structural changes to upgrade the clever 1960s design.
The simple bones of the house make the perfect backdrop for Hart’s eclectic interior style and canny colour choices. The home’s multiple living spaces mean the kids and adults each have their own entertaining spaces. “I tell the kids the upstairs living room is for looking not touching,” Hart laughs.
“But to be honest they rarely even come in here, there are so many rooms in the house for them to be with friends that the upstairs lounge has naturally become a great adult space.”
Hosting dinner parties is central to the Harts’ lifestyle; they like nothing more than opening their home to friends. “This house was known in the neighbourhood as the party house and we could see why after just few months of being here,” says Hart, “it really is a great home for entertaining.”
A florist by profession, Hart owns Flowers After Hours in Parnell, and the petite brunette blends motherhood, a busy career and travel with apparent ease. She heads to Dubai several times a year to help a close friend create spectacular weddings for Arabic royalty.
“My friend’s kind of floral style is really sought-after in places like Dubai and Saudi, and helping to create that scale of floral design, where flowers are flown in from all over the world, really feeds my creative side,” says Hart.
Colour plays a big part in Hart’s professional life but in her home she has resisted the urge to stray too far from the ’60s palette. She has cleverly used different tones and textures, including marble, wood and leather, and complemented them with neutral soft furnishings in cream and sage green.
There are pops of on-trend colour, such as the stunning Tom Dixon copper pendent lights, and accent tones of purple and orange, which come alive in cushions, throws and flowers.
The Harts painted the walls in Resene White Pointer and were never in any doubt that they would keep the wood panelling, which is a dominant feature throughout the home. They also sanded and stained the original pine floorboards.
“I remember the day we moved in, there were boxes everywhere and an old neighbour called in and said: ‘This is going to be great when you settle in and paint out all that dark wood.’ I was horrified. We love the original wood and the warmth it brings to the home, and how it works so well being surrounded by green.”
That green outdoor space, complete with retro cane hanging chairs and a wisteria vine which comes alive with violet flowers in summer, is accessible from the kitchen and dining area.
Hart’s collection of glassware and vintage furniture dates back to the ’70s and fits perfectly into her home. “I’m not into things looking the same or too formal,” she says.
“I have eclectic style and love to pick up pieces when I travel. I did have a copper obsession for a while, until I saw a copper Lamborghini in Dubai, and thought, OK, I could be over that obsession now! I really enjoy changing things up from season to season to give each room a fresh look.”
Hart also admits to being nostalgic and has had some pieces for years which she would never part with. “My husband made the dining room table years ago from kauri wood gathered from a demolition site, and the floral artwork above the table and in the entrance stairwell were a gift from a friend. I would never part with them,” she says.
The floral theme and colourful vibe is present in every room but Hart says the house is still a work in progress. The office, downstairs bathroom and outdoor area around the pool are the couple’s next project. The garden is lush green with ivy and tropical banana and bangalow palms. “I don’t have green fingers,” says Hart, laughing at the irony given her profession.
“I stick with easy-to-grow indoor plants, baby tears, African violets, maidenhair ferns and flowering orchids, which stay looking great for months at a time.”
Hart’s talent as a florist is evident in the corner of every room. “I refresh the vases on Wednesday, so they’re looking their best for the weekend when friends are over,” she says. “I love having flowers in my home, they are so much a part of who I am and the perfect way to inject a shot of colour anywhere.”
Writer: Trudi Brewer
Photographer: Helen Bankers