House of the week: Thorndon

Last updated 05:00 16/04/2014

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Renovating a 100-year-old home in Wellington's historic suburb of Thorndon is bound to come with challenges.

The owners of this stately home wanted to ensure all alterations were in keeping with the original character of the house, but when the team from Planit Construction went in, they discovered the house had been tampered with over the years, and contained old building materials like lath and plaster, which had to be removed in some places.

The builders then had to match the areas that were being altered with the existing areas, in some cases using recycled materials from the original house to maintain the old look.

"It's all modernised, but the owners wanted to keep the old, rustic look," builder Rowan Hannah says.

"It's pretty unique in Wellington - the size of the house and the section."

Located on 4000 square metres of grounds and gardens - including a tennis court - attention has been paid to maximise the indoor-outdoor flow.

A special feature is a courtyard with an open fire and heated concrete slabs, which is perfect for entertaining, Hannah says.

"You can be outside and have warm feet."

To balance the proportions of the house, a terrace, big bifold doors and sliders were also put in.

Architect Gerald Parsonson says the home was likely built in the early-1900s, and added to in the 1920s in a semi Arts and Crafts style.

"It's a very collaborative process," he says.

"You have a house that is built in a certain era and might not be laid out that well. You put a slightly more modern plan inside it and there's often conflicts between how you need it to function and what it's going to look like.

"A lot of alterations are done quite badly, where people just do it fully on practicality and they annihilate the character of the house."

When renovating historic houses, it's about developing an understanding of the style and figuring out how to balance that with modern living, he says.

"It works practically and hopefully looks good too."

This home was a Gold Reserve Award winner in the Registered Master Builders 2013 House of the Year for Future-Proof Building Renovation Award over $500,000.


Renovation cost: Over $500,000

Size: 650sqm

Architect: Gerald Parsonson of Parsonson Architects

Builder: Rowan Hannah of Planit Construction 

Materials: Recycled materials from the existing house, copper, zinc, matai timber, marble.

Energy efficiency: "Everything we did was upgraded and insulated," builder Rowan Hannah says. "It's got a modern central heating system, and it's all double glazed, mixed in with the old timber joinery." 

Done Right: "Maintaining the character and the look of the old place."

Done Wrong:  "It was a tricky job because it had been so bashed around previously. From that point of view, it was a bit difficult to manage, but it all went well in the end."

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Unexpected: "We didn't know the old lath and plaster walls were there. It was an example of really old construction and something we weren't aware of." 

Recommend: "Get a good architect and a good builder. You need that team to work and function really well." 

- Stuff


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