26 October 2017

A Foot in the Door

For many families and retirees alike Herne Bay is Auckland’s Holy Grail suburb – and for good reason. If this popular city-fringe community is on your radar and price is paramount, then this gem of a home is a must see.


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Sarah Meakin and Richard Unsworth remember the first time they walked down Hector Street, stopping outside number fourteen and thinking it was picture-book perfect.

Sitting in the middle of a neat row of half-a-dozen identical square-fronted villas, this house was exactly what they’d been looking for.

“It’s such a tranquil, out of the way street that taxi drivers often have to use their sat nav to get here – yet it’s right in the centre of a bustling community, and only a few minute’s drive into the city,” says Richard. “It really is a perfect location for us. At the end of the street, there’s a set of steps that lead down to Cox’s Bay Reserve, our kids go to Bayfield, which is a five-minute walk, I work up on Jervois Road, and Sarah’s a 10-minute bus ride to the city, where she works.”

Although school zoning is a major draw card for Sarah and Richard now, it wasn’t when they first moved into the area. “We didn’t have kids back then. It was all about being in a central location, because coming from London we didn’t want to be doing a big commute. And there was the social advantages of being in the thick of things, too,” he adds.

Location was a major drawcard.

Location was a major drawcard.

That said, the couple were planning to start a family in the near future, so the extra space and two spare bedrooms were definitely an attraction to them.

“I could see that it needed some work, but the space was there and there was huge potential, especially out the back of the house,” says Richard.

“It was a steep site, with big drop-offs and mostly overgrown – unattractive and very unfriendly for children.” Richard goes on to say that the inside was a mixture of lots of different styles from different decades, all within the shell of a 1906 villa.

“Before doing anything, we simply lived in the house,” says Sarah. “We wanted to get to know it, to see when and where the sun came in, and how we reacted with and experienced all the spaces.”

Ten years have now passed and the couple have totally transformed this cute, square-fronted villa, unifying the look of the interior and at the same time preserving some of the original character, turning it into a lovely family home with scope for further development.

Visitors are now welcomed by a new picket fence, backed by a line of mature topiary and a pretty bougainvillea crawling around the veranda – this really sets the scene and matches the other villas on that side of the street.

14 Hector Street, a picture perfect square-front villa.

14 Hector Street, a picture perfect square-front villa.

The three-metre-plus ceilings have been revealed and restored; the walls have been re-gibbed and insulated – as has the roof and floor. And, whilst all the walls were being updated, the couple took the opportunity to create as many built-in cupboards and wardrobes as they could. For its size, this house has a lot of storage.

Both bathrooms were fully renovated and the kitchen updated. Sarah says that the rooms have been renovated sympathetically to the style of the original house. For instance, the kitchen is still modern, but has character details, like the round wooden drawer and cupboard pulls and the small wooden island. 

Sarah says it’s been a very versatile space.

Downstairs is the generous parent’s retreat, comprising a huge bedroom with French doors that open out onto a 70sqm deck. There’s also a large modern bathroom.  

“It’s obviously our bedroom now, but when we first moved in, and didn’t have kids, we used it as a second living space; then Richard used it as his office, before moving up to Jervois Rd.” Richard adds that when his parents came across from the UK, they used it, as it gave them a private space to stay in.

The generous parents retreat downstairs

The generous parents retreat downstairs

The steep, unfriendly back garden has been totally transformed thanks to a visionary design from Richard. Using the original contours of the land and the retaining walls, he has created a huge entertaining deck, complete with sailcloth and covered sandpit, that leads down, via a set of steps, to a secluded grassed area below.

“When we came from the UK, it was from a small flat in London that had no outside space, so we really wanted that outside lifestyle, to enjoy the change of climate and create another living space for us to enjoy with family and friends,” says Richard.

Richard’s design in the back garden is pretty special – so good in fact, that Trends Magazine published it. If you want to read the full article and see the pictures click here – it’s well worth a look.

The steps leading down to the backyard

The steps leading down to the backyard

This well-sized family home is ready to move into as is, but there is also plenty of scope for expansion if more space is needed – whether it be enclosing the upstairs deck to create a bigger living area, or going the whole way and adding a new extension – potentially doubling the current floor area.

“The site is 364sqm, but because the house is located so far forward and set over two levels at the back, there is a lot of space still available to develop – it’s kind of Tardis like, once you start looking at it,” he says.

All those decisions will be up to the new owners of 14 Hector Street. For Sarah and Richard, it’s time to move on, as they building a new home in a nearby suburb. “We’ve also been here 10 years, so it’s a good time to change, to experience a new area and a new kind of architecture,” says Sarah. “We’ve never lived in a brand new house, so that will be different.”

To view the listing and for more information, click here.

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