House of the week: Architect James Chapman-Taylor's last home gallery

Bernadette first saw the 1952 Chapman-Taylor house at twilight.
ELIZABETH GOODALL/NZHOUSE&GARDEN

Bernadette first saw the 1952 Chapman-Taylor house at twilight.

One of Bernadette Poczwa's favourite treasures is a tiny, two-storey porcelain cottage. It belonged to Bernadette's mother, and Bernadette has loved it from childhood. "I always said I'm going to live in a house just like that," she says, cupping it in her hand. 

And she does. Admired from the right angle, the Silverstream, Upper Hutt, house Bernadette has lived in with her husband Henryk for 21 years, the house their four girls have grown up in, looks remarkably like her treasured ornament.

Designed by noted architect and builder James Chapman-Taylor, it reminds her of the stories with which her father entertained her and her sisters. 

Bernadette and Henryk Poczwa with granddaughters Freya and baby Esmé.
ELIZABETH GOODALL/NZHOUSE&GARDEN

Bernadette and Henryk Poczwa with granddaughters Freya and baby Esmé.

"When I first saw the house – I had crept down the drive to look at it – in the evening light, it looked so magical. I came home and said to Henryk, 'I've just found my fairy tale house!'"

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The couple covered in a verandah to create more living space when their girls were young.
ELIZABETH GOODALL

The couple covered in a verandah to create more living space when their girls were young.

It was on the same street the Poczwas had lived on for 10 years (in another Chapman-Taylor house) and when the home came on the market, it was the first time it had been offered for sale outside the original family, the Bradshaws. Built in 1952, it was James Chapman-Taylor's last house.

With his son Rex and then his grandson, Jack, he built 80 or so houses around New Zealand, mostly in the arts and crafts style. 

Bernadette wanted it for her own family. "With only three bedrooms plus a study I knew it was too small for us, but I talked myself around as I wanted it so much.

I rationalised that the huge garden meant the girls had plenty of room outside. They always complained about the lack of house space, but we managed!" 

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Later additions helped ease the pressure, including converting an outside porch into a sunroom (thereby extending the lounge), adding a self-contained two-bedroom annex to the garage, reorganising two bathrooms and creating a much bigger, more workable kitchen. 

Although the additions mean the house isn't in its original state, you'd be pushed to pick the difference. "Luckily because it's not listed we can change things, but you don't buy a house like this then make changes that aren't in keeping," says Bernadette.

Another Burne-Jones reproduction tapestry warms up the main living room; the timber doors were probably made by James ...
ELIZABETH GOODALL/NZHOUSE&GARDEN

Another Burne-Jones reproduction tapestry warms up the main living room; the timber doors were probably made by James Chapman-Taylor’s son Rex.

Nor do you plan changes on a whim.

"It's built out of thick, thick concrete embedded with river stones picked out of the Hutt River. Chapman-Taylor wanted to build houses that will be here for hundreds of years. But electricians want to die when they come here because it's so hard to do anything. We have to run wires everywhere because there's no way to put anything through the walls."

The low, dark, hand-adzed jarrah timber beams – another Chapman-Taylor statement – help hide wires that are a necessity of modern life.

The kitchen/dining area is now much bigger than the Chapman-Taylor original.
ELIZABETH GOODALL

The kitchen/dining area is now much bigger than the Chapman-Taylor original.

They also lend the house the aura of a long-past era. "Even though the house isn't that old, you live with a sense of history," says Bernadette. "As long as you overlook the mod cons, I feel like I'm living in medieval times here, which I love. And my husband is into hunting – that's one of his passions – and this house so suits stag antlers and weaponry."

The tapestries lining the concrete walls certainly add to the sense of being in the Middle Ages. As well as warming the room and improving the acoustics, they're a little easier to hang than paintings. "To do anything here you have to get out a concrete drill and your ear muffs," says Bernadette. 

Heating is an issue. The pair eventually installed a single heat pump but other than that, warmth comes from open fires and Bernadette's "absolutely favourite thing", the always-glowing Aga range. 

The sitting room is Bernadette Poczwa’s favourite space..
ELIZABETH GOODALL/NZHOUSE&GARDEN

The sitting room is Bernadette Poczwa’s favourite space..

It weighs half a tonne, had to be imported from England and took days of specialist work to install, but Bernadette says she would never be without it.

"They are the best thing to have in your house if you want to keep it cosy. It's just the most wonderful welcoming machine. It radiates a beautiful heat – outside it might be bitter, but you get up in the middle of the night and it's always so warm."  

Yet another feature is the built-in furniture, mostly made by Chapman-Taylor's son Rex who turned to furniture-making when the family stopped building houses.

A 17th century chest from England sits in the sunroom.
ELIZABETH GOODALL/NZHOUSE&GARDEN

A 17th century chest from England sits in the sunroom.

More recently, grandson Jack built the TV unit with timber from the original kitchen cabinets. He's passed away now, but in his early 80s he created the mantelpiece that surrounds the Aga.

"We always kept in touch with Jack. He can remember working on the house when he was young. He was such a sweet man. The last thing done to this house was Jack installing the mantelpiece, so I love that he finished this house off.

"We've got an old book that James Chapman-Taylor made, recording his journey constructing this unique home, including black and white photos – he was also a renowned photographer. I love knowing the house has such a story. That book can never leave this house."  

Bernadette sits beneath a serigraph by Russian artist Sergey Smirnov, in what was once a poky dining nook.
ELIZABETH GOODALL

Bernadette sits beneath a serigraph by Russian artist Sergey Smirnov, in what was once a poky dining nook.

Have you got a fantastic or interesting house you'd like to show others? Let us know about it. Send your story, photos or video homed@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

 

Q&A:

Bernadette at her Aga with five-year-old granddaughter Freya; James Chapman-Taylor’s grandson Jack created the ...
ELIZABETH GOODALL

Bernadette at her Aga with five-year-old granddaughter Freya; James Chapman-Taylor’s grandson Jack created the mantelpiece when in his 80s.

Best thing about living in Silverstream: When the girls were young I thought I wanted to live in Wellington, near their Irish dancing classes and our practice the Vein and Skin Clinic. But now I adore being out here because it's so private, so pleasant and with all the surrounding rimu and beech trees, it's a sheltered dell. 

The best thing about living in a Chapman-Taylor house: It's living with that sense of history.  

The worst thing about living in a Chapman-Taylor house: If you decide, "I think I'll change the pictures," forget it, unless you're prepared to get out your drill. And then if you get it wrong, you've got to get out the putty to fill in the concrete. But it's fabulous to have such a feeling of solidity, knowing this will withstand the ravages of time and the elements.

he painting opposite the kitchen table is by Nelson artist Sally Burton.
ELIZABETH GOODALL

he painting opposite the kitchen table is by Nelson artist Sally Burton.

Bernadette Poczwa 

Bernadette and Henryk’s bedroom.
ELIZABETH GOODALL/NZHOUSE&GARDEN

Bernadette and Henryk’s bedroom.

The upstairs bathroom has been reconfigured from Chapman-Taylor’s original design.
ELIZABETH GOODALL

The upstairs bathroom has been reconfigured from Chapman-Taylor’s original design.

The entranceway is testament to Henryk and youngest daughter Brenna’s hunting skills: “Hunting is Henryk’s total love, ...
ELIZABETH GOODALL

The entranceway is testament to Henryk and youngest daughter Brenna’s hunting skills: “Hunting is Henryk’s total love, but somehow in this house that works too,” says Bernadette.

Henryk commissioned the four sculptures in the garden from Bernadette’s cousin, Waiheke artist Anton Forde; they ...
ELIZABETH GOODALL/NZHOUSE&GARDEN

Henryk commissioned the four sculptures in the garden from Bernadette’s cousin, Waiheke artist Anton Forde; they represent the couple’s four daughters.

A two-room annex has been added to the garage for extra accommodation.
ELIZABETH GOODALL

A two-room annex has been added to the garage for extra accommodation.

 - NZ House & Garden

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