18 January 2017

A Touch Of Hollywood

For author Stacy Gregg, it was love at first sight when she came across this little Spanish Mission cottage in Westmere.


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Amongst the modern architecture adorning Westmere’s prestigious Rawene Ave sits number 27; at first glance, a demure, 1920’s throwback, but a house no less deserving of its place on one of Auckland’s most desirable streets, thanks to an immaculate re-invention by its passionate owners.

Award winning children’s book author, Stacy Gregg, freely admits she became fixated with this picture-perfect little bungalow, driving past it every day for a year. “I had this genuine perception that one day it would be mine,” she smiles.

What first attracted her was its street appeal, and the fact it was open to the road with no fence or gate. “It had an affability to it, a welcomeness,” she says.

“It reminded me of those little writer’s bungalows on studio lots; that romantic idea of old Hollywood"

"I love the LA Spanish, Chateau Marmont Hotel look. I just imagined myself being a writer on a film set, back in the 1940’s."

After three attempts, Stacy’s premonition became a reality, when she and her partner Michael Lamb finally bought the house. It was in original condition, having spent most of its life with the same owners, Ruby and Fred, so it needed completely renovating. It was also very small, with one of Stacy’s friends joking that it was ‘just like a façade in a film set’.

“When we first moved in, it was really dinky – around 95sqm for the whole house. It was like living in a caravan at the beach,” she remembers. “But we knew what we wanted to achieve."

The obvious move was to build an addition at the rear of the original cottage. With the help of their architect friend, Juan Molina, they came up with a design that seamlessly doubled the footprint of the house, adding a large, open-plan kitchen and lounge that opens up onto a paved courtyard, and a large guest bedroom with ensuite, connected to the house by a wide breezeway that could also be opened up to the courtyard. There’s also a decent sized third bedroom/office.

Such is the thought and care that has gone into re-imagining this home, that it is almost impossible to detect where the old ends and the new begins. There is no architectural erection on the rear; not one piece of zinc, concrete or bandsawn cedar in sight. The extension, instead, has been added gently and authentically, with artisans brought in to faithfully reproduce finishes from the period.

“Frosty the plasterer, whose other jobs were as a session musician and a cow inseminator, was literally the only person we could find who could do the old-school flick plastering. Also,” she says, pointing to the exterior light sconces, “these were all custom cast as replicas of the original light fitting that greets you by the front porch”.

Not everything in this home is of the original era. The bathrooms, for example, are clean and modern in appearance, with just a hint of Moroccan in the wooden screens that shade the windows, and in the coloured, geometric-patterned tiles on the walls. The kitchen, too, has a nod to the home’s heritage, with similarly themed tiles used to decorate the island bench.

A particularly clever and unusual detail in the kitchen is the use of a bank of three under-bench fridge drawers in the rear of the kitchen island; each independently controlled depending on its function, as either a fridge or a freezer. A matching suite of DishDrawers on the opposite wall, a six-burner gas cooktop, electric push drawers, hot/cold/sparkling water tap, and ultra-thin-profile stainless steel benchtops all add to the appeal and the functionality of this stylish kitchen.

“The thoughts behind the tiled freestanding unit is quite Spanish, too,” says, Stacy. “The idea was to try to mimic the tapas bar vibe; somewhere to keep all the crockery and glasses within the open space.” It also demarcates the living from the dining, without breaking up the whole room.

Every room in this house is subtly different, each with its own character. And with the help of their architect, the couple have thoughtfully introduced design details into the layout to give a sense of light and space, such as the small Juliette balcony off the dining room, which Stacy describes as a ‘little folly’, or the secret little garden between the master bathroom and the new addition that gives a wonderful leafy outlook from the lounge, thanks to a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.

Outside, too, Stacy has added her deft touch to the design. “The front garden is in the style of Nicole de Vesian, the French fashion designer, who became a garden designer, and the courtyard tree is a Carnea Briotti (horse Chesnutt) that has hot pink flowers – it’s a tree commonly used in Paris that you’ll nearly always sit under in one of the sidewalk cafés,” says Stacy.

At the back of the property, just beyond the courtyard, Stacy installed a large in-ground pool, shrouded by tropical plants, which adds to the LA vibe of house. Both the guest bedroom and the small studio (part of the garage) have French doors that open up to the pool.

Stacy says that there were also plans to convert the garage, to maybe take it up a level, but the couple’s circumstances have changed, and 27 Rawene Ave is now on the market, so that decision will be left to the home’s new owners.

This is a modest house, yet it’s full of character. It doesn’t shout at you from the doorstep, but once you walk in, it’s a different story. ‘Low key, but glamorous’ is how Stacy likes to describe it, and she hopes it will continue to be loved and cherished.

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