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See how The Block’s Alice and Caleb transform a dilapidated 1960s house

Renovating a rundown home can take far longer than you think – even for The Block NZ veterans Alice and Caleb

Alice and Caleb renovation

Problem

  • The rooms felt dark and closed-in.
  • The decks were unusable and therefore no indoor-outdoor flow.
  • The foundations were found to be structurally unsound.

Solution

  • Large stacker doors were fitted to make the most of the north-facing aspect. The living area gained a cathedral ceiling to provide light and a sense of spaciousness.
  • New decks were built on two sides of the home, creating a connection to the outdoors and giving access to the garden.
  • The house was lifted and levelled and new foundations laid.

Alice and Caleb renovation

Location & views

When Alice and Caleb Pearson were approached to transform a dilapidated 1960s house for a television show called The Ultimate Reno on Three, they jumped at the opportunity. The Glendowie property assigned to them enjoyed unfettered views of parkland and out to the Hauraki Gulf, as well as a level of privacy that can be hard to find close to Auckland’s inner city. These attributes, plus its large, north-facing section, were enough for the pair to commit their creative talents to restoring the house, which was largely in its original state.

Alice and Caleb renovation

Planning

With a new home to renovate and a camera crew on hand to capture the experience, Alice and Caleb set to work selecting a team that could bring their vision to life. They commissioned the services of Stuart Huggett of Architects Pacific. Alice was a fan of his previous work on resorts in Fiji, which fitted with her plans to create a home with a relaxed, ‘holiday’ feel. With the architect secured, the couple then enlisted the services of QBS Builders, whose positive testimonials and reputation for good attention to detail were a huge drawcard for Caleb.

The brief

Alice and Caleb’s main goal was to capitalise on the home’s spectacular views. The house itself was dark and cavernous with two non-compliant decks which were unusable. To change this, huge windows and doors that opened onto full-size decks were to be added. The basement area, which was a jumble of utility areas including a laundry, was to be reconfigured into usable living spaces. The kitchen and bathrooms were to be totally replaced and an entire third-storey loft with a spacious master bedroom was planned.

Alice and Caleb renovation

A major setback

With any renovation, there is always an element of surprise, and this untouched 1960s home proved to be no exception to the rule. As work began on the house, the couple quickly realised its problems went deeper than poor layout and a lack of decking.

Asbestos was found on the site, and the home was damp and generally in a state of disrepair. Then the engineering report revealed that the basement floor was subsiding, making the home structurally unsound. In short, the entire house was slowly sinking. “In parts, the windows and doors couldn’t even be opened,” says Alice. “The house had had so many corners cut in the build, it was a wonder it was still standing.”

Alice and Caleb renovation

Levelling up

“The design process was a stressful one,” says Alice. “What was originally a renovation essentially became a rebuild in order to strengthen the house and bring everything up to code. Stuart and his team at Architects Pacific had to work very closely with engineer Lucy Edwards and her team at Chester Engineering.”

In order to continue with any sort of renovation, the house needed to be made level. The company House Lifters was called in to perform this small miracle, and the building was raised, then levelled and a new foundation laid, making the home structurally sound and ready for renovation.

Alice and Caleb renovation

A new vision

The couple’s renovation had rolled into the realms of a rebuild and thousands had been spent on unexpected foundation problems, so in order to complete the project within budget, the initial architectural plans had to be abandoned.

To claw back money, the third-storey loft was completely scrapped. Stuart instead focused on working within the original framework of the home and giving it a new lease of life. “He added elements that make a huge impact,” says Alice. Huge glass stacker doors do justice to those views and decking areas create wonderful indoor-outdoor flow.

Downstairs, an extra bedroom and bathroom were added, along with a spacious family room and study. Upstairs, two bedrooms were converted into one large master suite. An open-plan living and kitchen area with a cathedral ceiling creates the “open living and big spaces” that Alice and Caleb envisioned. The new design was much more affordable than the original plans but was still an elegant, stylish and practical solution for family living.

Alice and Caleb renovation

Colour code

Alice wanted to introduce some bold colour accents to her neutral palette. “Picking a palette isn’t just about wall colours, but all the colours you want to bring into the house. Everything is part of a colour scheme, from the lights to the cabinetry and even a cushion.”

Her vision was for a warm, earthy and organic feel. The yellow splash of Resene ‘Gold Coast’ on a wall in the family room is offset by sage green and orange cushions. The dusty blue (Resene Karen Walker ‘Periglacial Blue’) in the master bedroom is married with warm greys and soft pink bedding. Graphic rugs and art also add to the overall palette.

Alice chose a sandy Cavalier Bremworth loop-pile carpet, reminiscent of the beach, which contrasts nicely with the black window joinery and kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Hints of black in the soft furnishings and picture frames reinforce the colour scheme.

Interior inspirations

To add depth throughout the home, the couple focused on introducing texture via wooden shutters and blinds in the bedrooms and warm timber accents in the exposed ceiling beams and internal batten screens. Alice selected elegant and simple Rylock doors to be fitted throughout the house. “The idea was for the doors to blend seamlessly into the walls,” she says.

Despite its many problems, the one thing the home did deliver was beautiful native timber floors. “South Pacific Timber sourced sustainable rimu for us, and the building team nailed it down by hand to patch up areas that needed replacing,” says Alice.

A palette of tactile finishes – including concrete, timber and stone – is echoed in decor such as the rattan and timber bar stools from Harvey Norman, the woven lightshades over the kitchen island, chunky patterned planters and the large wood-and-basketwork pots in the entryway. Plenty of lush green plants are peppered throughout the home, cementing its strong connection to nature.

Alice and Caleb renovation

A fitting finish

The renovation of this home was a long and, at times, demoralising ride. What started as a 10-week plan turned into a year-long project with more than its fair share of disasters. “Some of us wondered if the house was haunted, as some of the problems we faced seemed too ridiculous or cruel to be true!” laughs Alice.

The reality of home renovation is that good things take time, and what Alice, Caleb and their team eventually achieved is a blend of mindful restoration and good design. The home is now not only a beautiful, light-filled space, but also an extremely liveable one.

Alice and Caleb renovation

Words by: Esther Gordon. Photography by: Helen Bankers.

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