5 October 2017

Quiet Achiever

This immaculately finished family home, set high on the northern slopes of the Great North Rd ridgeline, delivers the best of both worlds – a very high spec in a cool location.


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From the road, 18 Sussex Street presents like many of the other villas and bungalows that enjoy an elevated position on this sought-after part of Grey Lynn.

Only the access controlled security gate and modern double fronted garage, both flanked by a series of solid planters, give a hint of a recent makeover – but it’s what lies behind the front door that really begins to tell the story of this remarkable house.

It’s not until you’ve entered the house that you begin to get an understanding for the workmanship that’s gone into its revival. Masterfully reimagined by Jones Architects, it has an elegant, sophisticated feel to it – one that exudes quality.

“Around here, it costs an absolute bomb to do what we’ve done with this house.”

It’s an observation that doesn’t surprise homeowners, Jenni & Robin. “This was going to be our ‘forever’ house, so the spec we built it to is more Herne Bay than Grey Lynn,” she says, with a hint of sadness in her voice. 

“We could have bought a spec house – and that was one of our options – but we couldn’t find anything in the area that had the quality we were looking for. We wanted something that was going to last us a life time. At that point, we didn’t have any children, but we wanted a house that would see us all the way through until the kids left home – and be able to adapt to all those changes that inevitably happen,” she says.

The house was completely dilapidated when the couple bought it six years ago – “Holes all over it and overgrown at the back,” she remembers. “However, it was perfect, because the house was at the front of the section, leaving heaps of room at the back for a new extension.”

The extension out the back, made possible by the house being at the front of the section.

The extension out the back, made possible by the house being at the front of the section.

It was also wide, too – not like the long and narrow sections found in the cramped streets feeding off Ponsonby Road. At a generous 480sqm, it’s a space that allowed the architect to design a logical layout that hasn’t restricted the flow of the house, or the use of any of the rooms.

Jones Architects were involved from the outset. The façade had to be kept original, but needed completely re-building. At the back, a new extension sympathetic to the existing house was planned housing a contemporary open-plan kitchen and living area, plus a formal living-dining room that could be shut off – both of which have easy access to a large decked area and a level, grassed in artificial TigerTurf. The architects also drew up double-height cathedral ceilings in both rooms, which Jenni and her husband Robin both love, because they feel so generous and luxurious.

The kitchen, as it should be, is the centrepiece of the home.

Designed by award-winning designer Kira Gray from Fyfe Kitchens, no expense has been spared in this area – a white Corian island, with a built-in breakfast table, stainless-steel workbenches along the back walls, a full suite of top-of-the-range Miele appliances, plus a huge, fully functioning scullery.

“Without putting to fine a point on it, if we’d known that we were going to move, we wouldn’t have spec’d it nearly to the high standard that we have done,” says Jenni, running her hand across the white Corian kitchen island. “I’m big on a minimalist look, so I didn’t want a lot of clutter. We’re also big on storage, so there’s a huge amount of built-in cupboards and shelving both upstairs and downstairs.”

“We’re big on security, so we wanted our children’s rooms to be close to us whilst they were young,” says Jenni.

Unlike many renovations you see these days, where the master bedroom has been separated from the rest of the house, Jenni and Robin chose to be on the main floor. 

In keeping with the older part of the house, all three of the ground-floor bedrooms have a traditional feel to them, mainly thanks to the delicate LaHood window treatments and the wainscoting on the walls, wallpapered on the lower half with beautiful patterns from The Paper Room. Top-of-the-line Cavalier Bremworth carpet adorns the floor.

The bathrooms, too, have been finished to the highest level. Again, 2 of the 3 were designed by Kira Gray, and feature Corian vanities and underfloor heating. The family bathroom has a wonderful, sculptural, stand-alone bathtub.

Downstairs, next to the generous double internal garage (with a dedicated workshop area) and the laundry room, there are two separate bedrooms, serviced by another bathroom. This area has been ideal for Robin’s older teenager daughters, giving both parties just the right amount of separation and privacy. The couple had had plans to move one of their elderly parents into the space once the teenagers left to go to college, so it’s a very versatile space that can be adapted for multigenerational living, without disrupting the rest of the house.

It’s not just what you see and touch that impresses in this house, it’s also the ‘hidden stuff’ – the fully integrated security and entertainment systems, both installed by Automation Associates. Access to the home, via the front door or through the internal garage, is controlled by code, and all the bedrooms have panic buttons.

It’s hard to convey the quality of this home in words alone. However, it is safe to say that a house that’s been professionally renovated and updated by a homeowner as a ‘forever’ home, is going to have been built with more love and attention to detail, using more quality fittings and finishes than a developer-led project that, on the surface, may look to offer cool looks and great value, but has been designed, built and specified to make money.

If you’re looking for a quality, modernised family home that has all the bells and whistles, then this is really quite hard to beat. The design has been done, the time has been taken, and the money has been spent.

Click here to view the listing

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