A 70s house in the modern age

CLASSIC STYLE: Landscape architect Hamish Moorhead designed the simple, elegant courtyard.
MAARTEN HOLL/Dominion Post
CLASSIC STYLE: Landscape architect Hamish Moorhead designed the simple, elegant courtyard.

What's it like for a new- generation architect to make over a classic home designed by a 1970s practitioner? Isn't there a sense of tampering with heritage?

"Each owner has a different way of living," says Wellington architect Liz Wallace, who practises in partnership with Rochelle Tse as Tse:Wallace Architects. "There's a point at which you have to decide: do you want to breathe fresh air into a place, to carry on living in a new way." Tse:Wallace was asked by new owners Samantha Walker and Shane Dinnan to renovate a Khandallah home designed in April 1970 by local architect Maurice Patience. Several families had lived in the house - essentially a three-pyramid pavilion alongside a swimming pool, hidden behind triple garages at the road - since the original owners moved out.

Wallace says it was not hard to make the redesign work because the building's footprint - as shown on the original plans - suited Sam and Shane's lifestyle.

"The drawings are lovely - they're classic architectural drawings," says the 30-something Wallace, who gained experience in larger practices before setting up in partnership with fellow Victoria University graduate Tse in 2007. "The overall layout is thoughtfully considered and properly oriented. There's a rationale and logic to the detailing that gives integrity to the overall design concept. It's so 70s but still cool."

She says it helped that the couple, who have boys aged 8, 6 and 3, were very confident in their decisions. With the house rich in 70s clinker brick and natural timber, they knew they wanted to make it light and airy as a setting for artwork.

"The whole place was dark," says Sam, who with her husband remained on hand to make decisions while Wallace project-managed the job. "The doors were dark, there were dark-framed windows, dark ceilings. There was extra brown in the furnishings and one small French door to the pool." The couple dealt with the lack of outdoor space by buying the next door property and surveying off a back lawn for themselves.

During a year-long renovation, builder Steve King gutted the whole house, removing some walls and adding several others (including one that creates a separate front-entrance space). "He really went the extra mile," says Wallace, "and was crucial in maintaining the integrity and quality of the original build with the renovations."

Painting over woodwork and brick surfaces was a priority. "It helps clarify the house," she says. "It enables the texture to come through without being too busy. There's a lightness and a freshness as a result. It's the same building only refreshed."

One of the existing features retained was Beverly Shore Bennett's 1982 quartet of stained-glass panels featuring flax forms. It was from these that artist Sam - who has exhibited at the New Zealand Art Show for some years - took her cues for colour accents in zingy turquoise, rich cobalt and glowing gold.

The furniture, mostly new, avoids the monotony of many contemporary schemes. Kadima couches in mustard moquette are accompanied by retro armchairs refurbished in brick and jade tones by ES Design.

A retro mahogany cabinet that once adorned Shane's grandparents' bedroom - "I'd tried to get rid of it for years," Sam says - now serves as a dining room sideboard.

Colour is added to the walls through artwork - Sam's own plus treasured pieces by Sam Broad, who created a special biographical work for Shane's 40th birthday, and Island Bay artist Michael McCormack's landscape of his native Ireland, where the couple have travelled - while rugs like the vivid ming-blue wool shag-pile in the lounge soften wooden floors.

In the kitchen, colours are mostly neutral save for eye- popping pink Perspex light shades over the island and glass splashback behind the hob and mustard pantry doors. Bathrooms also are simply detailed, with Italian glass tiles providing zaps of colour.

One of the most inspired decorating choices is the David Trubridge pendant lightshade suspended from the centre of each pyramid - the dining room, lounge and family room - to make the most of Patience's signature feature.

Sam, who now paints in a garden studio - converted from one of the original carports and looking towards the house across a simple, elegant courtyard designed by landscape architect Hamish Moorhead - is amazed at how sound, well insulated and well flashed the original structure was. "Everything about this place was built really well," she says. "It was built to last."

The Dominion Post