Written by John Williams
Winn Road is one of those streets you walk past, unnoticed. It’s an intimate cul-de-sac of ten houses, just a stone’s throw from the throng of Ponsonby Road. Number one, an elegant two-storey weatherboard villa, sits proudly on the preferred, high side of the street, commanding magnificent city views, particularly from its lounge and master bedroom on the upper level.
I’m met at the front door by Pete, who immediately ushers me back into the street – keen to show me around his immediate neighbourhood before we go into the house. As we walk, he chats about Winn Road’s part in Freeman’s Bay’s colourful and notorious past. Such was its reputation that a row of small villas was built here to house the local constabulary and bring order into the area. And, more recently, Pete points out the ‘hippy house’ – now a substantial and beautifully renovated family home – that back in the 70’s apparently witnessed stuff of legends… for those who can remember.
“Isn’t it wonderful? We live out here in the summer," Sal smiles
Back at number one, I’m led up the side of the house, past an extensive vege patch, containing chillies, capsicums, courgettes and all manner of herbs, and up a freshly cast concrete path into the back garden. I’m greeted by silence… apart from the cicadas. It’s like someone switched off the background noise. The garden’s unique position, being surrounded by four other gardens, has a feeling of being out in the country, not in the middle of one of Auckland’s busiest suburbs.
Sal breaks the calm as she steps off the large covered deck and introduces herself. “There are so many birds – Fantails flying around, Tuis in the trees, Wood Pigeons and Kingfishers. It’s really lovely and, of course, it gets all the afternoon and evening sun.”
Pete goes onto to say that the garden and outdoor entertaining area is the single biggest area of their home they’ve focussed on improving since they’ve been living here. “It was important for us, with young kids, that we a had a safe, flat back yard you could walk straight out onto.”
“And food is a big part of our lives,” adds Sal. “We’re both good cooks and we love entertaining. There’s been lots of wining and dining, especially out here on the deck.”
During their 20-plus year tenure of number one Winn Road, it’s fair to say that the couple haven’t spent their time and money on modernising their home, but that wasn’t without intention.
“Funnily enough we were going to put in a new kitchen when we first moved in, and we’ve still got the brand new hob and oven sitting downstairs, but we never got around to it,” laughs Pete. “We were too busy working hard and doing things we loved, like travelling and having a good time with the kids.”
“What we should have done as a young couple was buy and sell properties and move up the chain, but we didn’t because we simply love living here – we couldn’t bring ourselves to do that,” adds Sal
The top floor of this grand old house is dedicated to the living, kitchen and dining areas on one side of the staircase and a huge master bedroom suite that occupies the other. Comprising a string of three rooms, the master is bookended by a covered verandah with magnificent city views at the front of the house and the entertaining deck at the back, both accessed by sets of French doors.
Downstairs are four additional bedrooms – two of which have direct access to the front garden via French doors – and one bathroom that sports a splendid claw-foot bathtub.
Admittedly, the fixtures and fittings in the bathrooms and kitchen could do with updating, but other than that this is a perfectly comfortable and liveable family home. A new radiator-fed, central heating system has been installed, and Pete tells me that at least one of the five – yes, five – fireplaces is fully functional.
Sal and Pete have certainly put their mark on this house, establishing a tranquil back garden and connecting it to the dining room and kitchen via a large, covered entertaining deck. They’ve also added personal touches, like the antique chandelier hanging in the kitchen, they bought from Clignancourt market, during their visit to Paris for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and the huge antique Kimono chest Sal fell in love with, that now serves as their pantry. And these are the things that distinguish home from simply a house.
“This is a family home,” says Pete. “And now that there’s just the two of us, it’s too big. It really needs a new family to come in and put their mark on it, like we did 22 years ago, when we were starting out with our family.”
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