Renovating a central Auckland cottage and transforming its concrete backyard into a mid-century oasis proved to be a six-year labour of love for one family
A concrete cottage in Auckland is softened with mid-century vibes
Who lives here?
Andre Van Wonderen, 34 (project manager), Jolene Van Wonderen, 35 (part-time teacher aide and graphic designer), Willem, 7, and Emily, 5, plus Poppy the cat.
Where is the home?
When did you start the renovation?
Jolene: We bought the house in 2010 and started renovating about a year after we moved in.
What did you change?
We created a new kitchen and dining area in what was an enclosed sunroom and added a new concrete floor, insulation, lining and doors. A temporary wall enabled us to work in this area while the rest of the house remained relatively unaffected.
We reconfigured the kitchen and laundry into a third bedroom, laundry, linen cupboard and office nook. We also installed underfloor and ceiling insulation and had our internal trim and doors painted white (they were varnished timber). This brightened the interior considerably. In the master bedroom we demolished a too-small wardrobe, stripped painted-over wallpaper and replastered walls.
In the living room we replaced the original fireplace with a fireplace insert and put in a heat transfer system, which we love. The lounge and front bedroom were stripped of wallpaper, then skim-coated and painted. Lastly (six years after we started renovating) the bathroom was completed – one corner at a time, so we didn’t have to move out.
What aspects of the house did you retain?
We kept the house largely as it was in terms of character fittings. The only element we changed on the exterior was replacing a ranchslider with French doors. We kept all the original timber frame windows. We didn’t have to upgrade any of the plumbing, electricals or wall linings. The roof has had some waterproofing work but didn’t need replacing.
What’s your favourite feature of the new space?
I love the kids’ room – it has seen lots of different configurations as the kids have grown up, from cots to toddler beds to the current loft bed set-up. Through all these configurations it has always felt cosy and homely.
Best makeover moment?
The highlight might have been completing the backyard – it had been such an ugly space for so long and we love how it has turned out.
Tell us about the exterior work you completed
Strangely, the backyard is paved in concrete. The previous owners had put ‘ready lawn’ over it so we dug this up and removed raised garden beds. We laid a honeycomb grid mat and filled it with stones to cover the concrete. We also removed the old deck and built a new one with a brick stair rail and mid-century-style screen.
Getting the exterior painted was a huge step – it was an awful apricot colour! This was one of the few things we paid someone to do as it would have taken months to do ourselves. We also built and installed a new full-height front fence and gate which is great for privacy and security. We removed a turning bay on the driveway to increase the lawn area, and created a new front patio.
What was your budget?
We didn’t set a budget, we just created what we wanted as cost-effectively as we could. We don’t feel we overspent for what we achieved.
What did you save on?
Builder’s labour (the reno was mostly DIY with the help of a family builder). We got a trade discount on the kitchen from Bunnings, bought secondhand furnishings and upcycled or made things when we couldn’t find what we wanted.
What did you splurge on?
The brick wall in the backyard. We went to extremes to create rather than purchase what we wanted.
Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography: Wendy Fenwick.