Hamilton couple's work on villa spans 33 years

Carl and Jill Dibble outside their restored villa.
Carl and Jill Dibble outside their restored villa.

It's taken 33 years of careful restoration for Carl and Jill Dibble to finally be satisfied with their home.

The turn of the century villa was in a dilapidated state when the Dibbles first encountered it. It was a farmhouse, on 110 hectares of land near Hamilton, that was tenanted by student friends of the couple. After graduation, and recently married, the Dibbles saw an opportunity. They bought it in 1978, and two years later renovations began.

"It was more of a rebuild than a renovation, " recalls Carl. "Its recent history had included storing hay, and it was reliant on its coal range for heating. It really was quite run down."

The potential was obvious though, particularly to Carl, who had always harboured an interest in early colonial architecture.

"We were fortunate that when we started the re-build, we were part of a wider renaissance of New Zealand villas."

The movement was being led by the Ponsonby area in the 1970s. As the cottages in that suburb were restored, it meant period pieces - such as butterfly glass - were suddenly on the market, and at an affordable price.

Frequent trips up to Auckland enabled them to get the pieces they needed to fit in with the era. Two semi-retired old-school craftsmen worked part-time for several years to do the rest. Eventually all that remained of the original house was the floor and ceiling.

Word of mouth from friends was also a good source of valuable building material. Part of the matai flooring upgrade was from the old Dutch embassy in Wellington. A pair of French doors originate from Waitangi. The bathroom's claw foot bath was spotted by Jill's mother in a Waihi backyard.

On a smaller scale, the couple also used their connections to decorate the interior. Artwork and furniture was sourced from as far away as Malacca, Malaysia. Dotted around the property are works by renowned New Zealand sculptor (and Carl's brother), Paul Dibble. Paul also helped design some of the villa's lattice work.

Although incremental improvements continued to take place over the years, it wasn't until their two children had grown older and moved out that they decided to make further changes.

"The place was starting to look a bit tired, so we decided the time was right to upgrade, " says Carl.

This included installing heat- pumps and fixing draughty windows. The deck was extended using durable kwila timber. The house features three bedrooms and a study, but the master bedroom's original function was as a lounge.

"We decided to give it a complete make-over. One problem with the colonial style is that rooms tend to be quite restricted and dark. We came up with a plan to add more space and light."

It was a task easier said than done. Glen Diffey Builders searched high and low to source rimu timber to extend the exterior wall, and add to the ceiling. An en-suite was added, as was a walk-in wardrobe. Vintage style carpentry work was required to make sure the additions were kept in character.

The Dibbles also wanted the en-suite to feel connected, although physically separate, so a leadlight interior window was crafted by a firm in Ohaupo.

The extension won Glen Diffey Builders the Waikato Renovation prize at this year's Registered Master Builders House of the Year Awards.

The other effect of the bedroom extension was to improve access to the wrap- around deck. Its elevated position with sweeping views means barbecues are popular with friends and family.

"On a clear day you can see Mount Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe, as well as local peaks like Maungatautari, " says Carl. "Sunsets are often spectacular here."

Carl reckons that over the past 35 years they have been tempted to move into Hamilton, but the lure of semi-rural living has kept them in the same spot. The 0.3 hectare property is surrounded by an idyllic hedge, and what was originally farm paddock has been nicely cultivated. The tranquil location, only 10 minutes' drive to the centre of Hamilton, and within walking distance of the Taitua Arboretum, continues to appeal.

As for future projects, for the meantime the couple are satisfied with what's been done. But there's always the chance when grandchildren appear on the scene, that more work may yet be required.