Some deft tweaks and a new colour scheme saw this previously dingy mid-century home become a classic natural beauty
When Jane and Bryan Smith’s family of four began to outgrow their bungalow in the Auckland suburb of New Lynn, they set their sights on Titirangi, a bushclad suburb further west in the foothills of the Waitakere Ranges.
“Since moving to Auckland from the US in 2008, we’ve loved Titirangi,” says Jane. “The village, the bush, the views out to the Manukau Harbour, and its closeness to the Waitakeres. When we went looking for a bigger house, we zeroed in on Titirangi.”
A particular home caught Bryan’s eye online and he knew instinctively that the house would be theirs. “If this place is half as cool as it looks, I think we’re going to have to buy it,” he remembers saying at the time.
With a lifelong love of the mid-century aesthetic, Bryan needed little convincing that the home, with its round windows, sunken lounge and sea views, would be perfect for them. Jane, on the other hand, had her reservations. “On-screen the layout looked unconventional and I wasn’t sold on the 1970s style. But at the first open home, we walked through the house and the layout made sense. The views were spectacular and the space seemed made for the way our family live,” she says. A decision was quickly made and the property was soon theirs.
The home is a stone’s throw from Titirangi village, local schools and the beach yet is still secluded, tucked away down a long drive and surrounded by bush. “We love its proximity to the village with all it has to offer, but the privacy is amazing – the kids love to watch the kereru in the trees, look out to the beach, and spot airplanes taking off from the airport in the distance,” says Jane.
In true 1970s style, the home is split over several levels, with two living areas flanking the galley kitchen; the master bedroom is upstairs and the other bedrooms downstairs. With two living areas to play with, the flexibility of the space really suited the growing family.
“In terms of layout quirks, there are a few,” says Jane. “The two living areas are separated by the kitchen and not accessible one to the other. At first, we used the second living area as the kids’ playroom, and the other as our general living and dining room, then we turned the second living space into more of an informal family room, and made the main living area a more formal, adult space.”
The biggest job the couple tackled was altering the kitchen. The original space was dark and dated with a lack of storage that didn’t suit family life. Although only small changes were made to the layout, including removing a wall between the dining room and kitchen, these have transformed the way the family use this space, which now has a far better connection and flow to adjoining areas.
Aesthetically, the new kitchen has changed the whole look and feel of the home. The design brief was for a functional hub that maximised the views of the harbour and bush. The couple chose robust, wood-look tiles over laminate flooring and insisted on soft-close cupboards and drawers to minimise noise and protect small fingers. The result is a light, airy space which feels restful and links effortlessly to the treetop views.
True to form, the kitchen has become a central part of the family’s life, with homework spilling out over the breakfast bar, and Charlie, the newest addition to the family, learning to walk – and now dance – in the kitchen while the family swirl around him in the morning.
“We talk, we eat, we play, and we prepare for our days in the kitchen,” says Jane. “Plus, with the view out the window, doing dishes is hardly a chore! We’ve had several friends come over for dinner and ask if they can do the dishes just so they can look out the window.”
“The main feeling we got from the home when we first moved in was of a retreat,” remembers Jane. “We usually love a lot of colour, especially on the walls, but for this house we kept everything white, as it gives a sense of calm as well as letting all of the glorious scenery outside become the focal point. The finishes and furnishings are all chosen to echo the natural beauty that surrounds the house – the browns and greens of the bush, and the green and blue of the water.”
Once the kids are all in bed, Jane and Bryan settle into the formal lounge, complete with carpeted conversation pit and woodburner, perfect for an after-dinner glass of wine. “In winter, we spend a lot of time in there, firing up the wood burning stove,” says Jane. “It’s such a cosy spot, part of the main living space but almost like a secret hideaway.”
The family feel very lucky to have spent time in this unique part of Aotearoa. “The house is so different from anything we’ve ever lived in, and we feel like you wouldn’t find this anywhere but in Titirangi,” says Jane.
But after enjoying the home and the neighbourhood, and welcoming baby Charlie into the family, the Smiths decided it was time to sell and head back to the States. Despite their distance, they say the house will always “evoke for us the place we have come to call ‘home’, no matter where in the world we live”.
Words by: Tina Stephen. Photography by: Helen Bankers.