Written by John Williams
Photography by Mitch Bocking
Over the six years that Karen and Dave Brady have lived at their Green Bay property, they have gradually but completely transformed this cute-as-a-button, circa 1950’s house into what they affectionately describe as their ‘bach in the city’.
In particular, it’s the sprawling 1100sqm (approx) section that has gone through the greatest transformation. Previously overgrown with noxious plants and weeds, and littered with broken up concrete blocks, the couple have painstakingly created their own private reserve, complete with native planting, groomed pathways, two bridges, and a secluded seating area. Basically, it’s a small lifestyle block in the middle of suburbia, says Karen.
“It’s been hard, back-breaking work to get it looking like it is today. A lot of sweat and tears… and trips to the osteopath,” laughs Karen. “It’s fairly low maintenance, now that they [the plants] are all standing up and holding hands. It still takes a bit of spraying and weeding now and again, but all the hard work’s been done.”
As we cross the bridge over a bubbling stream, Karen explains the name that she’s given the house, Wai-Iti… “Wai, meaning water and Iti, meaning small,” she says. “The Wai Tahurangi Stream that runs through the property, comes down through Crum Park and onto La Rosa Park and Olympic Park, before flowing out into the Waitemata Harbour.”
“I believe the house was built back when it was a long drive out to here from the city, when they’d just put in the concrete road from New Lynn to Titirangi.” Karen says.
Karen goes onto explain that they got help to clean up the creek from EcoMatters Environment Trust – a community-based initiative that works with residents and communities to restore the streams in local neighbourhoods by clearing banks of rubbish and noxious weeds and replanting them with native trees and shrubs.
As we cross back over the stream and head up towards the house, Karen says she thinks it is an original Titirangi bach. The design is classically 1950s – a simple low-slung structure with deep eaves and large windows that allow plenty of light to penetrate its rooms. “It was brown with red joinery when we bought it, but we changed that to black and white,” she says, as we step up onto the north-facing deck and look back out over the garden.
Although elevated, this part of Green Bay is surprisingly sheltered and sunny – not as windy as Blockhouse Bay, and not as many trees as Titirangi, says Karen. Also you also don’t get caught up in the Titirangi traffic, she adds.
“Green Bay is a great little community – still a bit hidden and unknown, but that’s changing,” says Karen.
“It also has one of Auckland’s up-and-coming high schools, Green Bay High, and our house backs right onto it, plus there’s the primary school right next door to the high school.”
“It’s like being permanently on holiday. It’s a wee piece of paradise,” says Karen.
Looking back over the property from the deck, you can imagine this would be an absolute wonderland for young children to grow up in – the fun they’d have running around the property, playing, making up all sorts of stories and adventures.
Inside, the layout is mostly original. The odd wall has gone in the kitchen-living area, but the rest of the house is authentically laid out in a series of light-filled rooms. At the centre of the house the couple have created a snug/library, complete with wood burner that radiates its heat to the adjacent living spaces and the bedrooms.As with the outdoor areas, the Bradys have used their individual skills, with help from professionals when needed, to slowly update and put their individual mark on the house; all done with care and attention to detail.There are built-in wardrobes in all the bedrooms, fronted by hand-made curtains and matching sets shading the windows. Each room has a different pattern. And in the master ensuite, there’s an unexpected surprise – an outdoor area with a plumbed-in claw foot bathtub.
"If you want character and charm, then this is the place for you,” she laughs.
“Many of the pieces we’ve put in here have been carefully researched, found and re-purposed – the bathtub came from Kumeu, these lights are from an old maternity hospital in the Manawatu,” says Karen, pointing to the sconces on the bathroom wall. “And we bought a whole lot of cross-arms from old power poles that Dave’s turned into shelving.
Although much of the house has been updated, there are still opportunities for the new owners to put their own mark on the place. The family bathroom is tidy and perfectly usable, but could benefit from a re-think to suit individual needs. The kitchen, too, is getting on, and could do with modernising, but as Karen points out, it doesn’t actually need to be replaced, as it works perfectly well.
Down a narrow stairway, there’s a light and airy home studio or office, plus a large laundry and utility room that has direct access, through a large under-house storage area, back out into the garden.
As we walk back around to the front of the house, Karen says that after six glorious years at 40 Stottholm Rd, they are following their hearts and moving south. “I’m originally a Ranfurly girl, and we’ve bought a 145-year-old villa in Naseby, so that’s our next project.”
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