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Standing proud – Studio John Irving Architects' renovated villa

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Studio John Irving Architects' renovated villa

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For many people, the allure of an old home, with inherent historical character, is self-evident. But age alone is not always an indicator of standing.

In the case of the villa featured on these pages, the years had been less than kind, says John Irving, principal of Studio John Irving Architects.

"The property was in an appalling condition when the developer approached us to create a family home – it was little more than bare bones.

"Never a large home, the house had been chopped up into two flats at some point and a lean-to structure added. A sleep-out and a motley collection of sheds and garages rounded out the premises. Aside from a small area of grass, the remainder of the site was concreted."

For developer Tyrone Le Roux of Urban Space, the property presented the opportunity to reinstate a presence within the neighbourhood.


"Knowing which elements to build on and which to pare back to add soul to a property takes a certain degree of skill."

"In order to make good architecture sing you have to have a vision of the end result that you aim to achieve. And that is what happened with this property."

Irving's design called for the single level dwelling to be raised and the site, which is naturally sloping, to be excavated to create a lower level.

"The space under the house was a no man's land. Tyrone had a strong desire to maximise this under-utilised area, and to create a cohesive relationship between the house and the yard.

"Working with the natural contour of the land meant we were able to create a spacious living area with a seamless flow to the now-level rear yard," says Irving.

In addition, the design called for the reinstatement of the veranda at the front of the house, which had been enclosed when the property was converted to flats.

"The neighbourhood is one of the city's oldest, consisting of similarly styled houses, and there is a definite motivation amongst owners to maintain the character of the street," says Le Roux.

"Reinstating original features goes a long way to preserving the fabric of the community."

It's a sentiment that is shared by the architect. "As far as keeping the character of the original house intact, this project has succeeded beyond expectation. The new build section, including a separate yet attached addition, is completely hidden from the street.

"We've created a private realm that is accessible only to those inside, a secret world that lies beneath the surface."

Integral to Irving's design and Le Roux's vision, was for the new spaces to interact with the back yard in much the same way as a courtyard.

"In that regard, John and I have much the same perspective. A big part of the design was establishing the sense of the living area as open space, and that there was no barrier to the outdoors."

Full-height sliding doors accentuate that feeling, as does the skylight above the stairs, which serves to bring morning light down into the lower level.

"Walking down the stairs, it feels like the whole back of the house is floating," says Le Roux. "We've achieved a really great outcome by paying close attention to areas such as proportion and volume. So often you find a disconnect between the traditional and contemporary elements of a renovated period home, and more often than not it's because not enough attention was paid to spatial planning."

A neutral colour palette complements the impression of openness, contributing to the overall atmosphere.

"Both inside and out, the palette has been pared back to white and grey," says Irving. "I'm happy to let nature provide colour – the green of the lawn, the blue of the sky. But also, the scheme lends itself to displaying art and can imbue furniture pieces with a sculptural quality that could otherwise be lost in a more fussy interior.

"And then there is the personality of the inhabitants themselves, which is an ever-changing palette adding its own character and sense of dynamism to the architecture."

Credit List

Architect John Irving NZIA, Studio John Irving Architects (Auckland)
Interior designer Tyrone Le Roux, Urban Space
Builder Urban Space
Landscape designer Trish Bartleet
Cladding Timber weatherboard
Roofing Zincalume from Roofing Industries
Doors and windows Timber joinery
Wall and floor tiles SpazioCasa
Paints and varnishes Resene Alabaster
Lighting Simon James Design
Heating Warmup underfloor heating
Televisions Panasonic
Fireplace Escea
Benchtops Caesarstone
Splashback Marble
Oven and cooktop Miele
Dishwasher and refrigeration Fisher & Paykel

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