A glass extension built beside a tired Auckland villa has transformed this family’s living space and created a home for life
Meet and greet
Andrea Alston, co-owner of Two Smart Cookies, and Paul Alston, CEO of Cavalier Bremworth, Jack, 14, Charlie, 12, and Amelia, 10, plus Spike the dog and Maggie the cat.
Tim Dorrington of Dorrington Atcheson Architects.
A run down a villa uses a modern extension to become a forever home
Andrea Alston and her husband, Paul, didn’t purchase a house so much as buy a patch of land. They’d already seen and vetoed a tired Auckland villa in their search for a home but, six months later, the agent mentioned the adjoining empty section was also for sale and this turn of events sealed the deal for Andrea.
“I knew my boys needed more space,” says Andrea. “When the agent said they were selling the section next door too, I was like, ‘That’s the green space I want. My farm in the centre of Auckland!’” she laughs.
Andrea’s rural childhood in Bunnythorpe, just outside Palmerston North, has shaped how she likes to live today: with space and privacy. Friends thought the couple were crazy when they didn’t encroach on the adjoining section during their renovation. “People kept asking, ‘Why didn’t you put the pool there or go sideways?’ Because I like my massive piece of green space, thank you,” she says.
The renovation solution
Although delighted with her green space, Andrea wasn’t so enamoured with the villa. It needed modernising and was too small for the family. The solution? Extend it. So far, so standard – but that’s where Andrea and Paul departed from the script.
Rather than trying to build an extension sympathetic to the traditional villa, they decided to take a bold approach and construct a new building next to it (which they call “the glass box”) and join the two dwellings with a glass corridor. “I didn’t want to try to make something new look old,” explains Andrea. “The villa was to remain the villa, the new box would add rooms, and a glass corridor in between would break them up.”
It took almost a year to finalise the building plans but the Alstons’ unique design made resource consent a breeze, since they didn’t alter the dimensions of the villa and the extension isn’t visible from the street.
Once everything was signed off, they got to work reconfiguring the villa and building the new addition, composing a home that includes four bedrooms, a bathroom and ensuite, a kids’ lounge, a media room, a drying room, an office and gym, and an open-plan kitchen, living and dining area. Also on-site is a commercial kitchen where Andrea bakes for her business.
The build wasn’t without its issues. When digging for the pool, extremely hard volcanic rock was struck, and a cave was discovered under the garage, which had to be filled with concrete. When an errant cat walked through a wet cement floor, it meant more remedial work.
“There was no easy solution. We had to grind it down and fill it. It wasn’t funny at the time,” recounts Andrea with a laugh. On top of it all, the Alstons lived on-site in two cabins for the duration of the build, which was trying, but made answering house-related questions easier.
Design to suit your lifestyle
Andrea and Paul renovated this house with their family, and the specific way they live, in mind. For these reasons, they decided to create a kids-only lounge, where their children have the freedom to hang out and just be kids.
“I very rarely go up there – I’d hate to think what was up there right now!” says Andrea. “It is their space and it’s especially great when we have other people over – the kids can just head off and watch movies or chat, without being underfoot. We have three really good zones (the kids’ lounge, the media room and our kitchen, dining and living area) and that’s what makes this house really work. There’s a place for everyone at any time,” she says.
Andrea also took the unique step of adding a drying room. This space, complete with six warming bars, gives the family a designated area for their wet ski gear as well as allowing her to dry the piles of washing that are inevitably created by a family of five. This room negates the need for an external clothesline or clothes horses inside and guards against Auckland’s unpredictable weather.
Standout style features
Andrea says her style is very simple – clean, white and uncluttered – which is why she chose to add two key features, for interest’s sake. The floating staircase that leads to the master bedroom and kids’ lounge is one; the granite kitchen benchtop is the other.
Originally, Andrea wanted the kitchen bench to be longer, with a seating area at one end, but their supplier couldn’t find a piece of stone large enough without a join. Instead she went for extra width, making the bench a massive 1.6 metres across, rather than the usual 1.2 metres. This means family or guests can happily sit and drink coffee or read the paper without encroaching on her cooking space.
As well as being practical, the ‘Cosmic Black Leathered’ granite is also an eye-catcher. “When the sun hits it, the crystals really pop, giving it the interest of an ever-changing piece of art,” explains Andrea. It’s also very tactile and brings texture to the clean simplicity of the kitchen – Andrea says she’s always catching visitors running their hands along it, following the lines of the stone.
Andrea got the landscapers in early, knowing that creating effective outdoor areas would provide the x-factor for their home. “We have this separation between the villa and the new box and something had to happen with that separation so it didn’t look weird. We needed something to add wow factor,” Andrea says.
Landscaper Xanthe White understood the brief immediately, designing a bright yellow metal wall with sections of mesh that will eventually be covered with vines. The wall creates a bright shot of interest between the old and new, and the yellow of the wall reflects into the media room, bringing a warm glow to the otherwise sun-free space.
The new wall behind the pool was also given a statement paint job, this time in ice blue. Originally Xanthe suggested a hot pink, but Andrea couldn’t bring herself to go that bold – blue was a happy compromise.
Andrea enjoys seeing the ripples of the pool reflecting onto the wall, like a moving piece of art, and loves the patchy look it gets when the limewash is wet. The blue is also reflected in the pool, adding a punch of colour even when the Auckland weather is less than spectacular.
Happily ever after
Now that their renovation is done, the Alstons have no plans to move on. “We’re here to stay,” says Andrea. As well as giving Jack, Charlie and Amelia their own space, the separation of areas means they can also wake early without disturbing Andrea or Paul (the children’s bedrooms are in the villa; their parents’ room is in the box) – which bodes well for those teenage years when they creep in at midnight…
Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Helen Bankers.