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12 August 2021

Once In A Lifetime

A true time capsule, this house is not only an extremely rare and fascinating find, but it also offers its new owners an incredible opportunity to do something quite special.


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Built in the very late 1800s, 23 Millais St was sold into the current owner's family in the mid-1920s, shortly after they first arrived in New Zealand from England. Just think about that for a second — that’s coming up to one-hundred, uninterrupted years of ownership, which is incredibly unusual, says agent Scott Wither, who’s clearly excited at the prospect of marketing this old dame.

“It’s rare, very rare. We’ve never seen anything like this. It just doesn’t happen,” he says. “The house is almost completely untouched and in original condition, having been in the same family for almost one hundred years. During this tenure, very little has been done to the house structurally. A lean-to has been added to the back at one point, but other than that, almost nothing — and that’s important," adds Scott.

Why is it so important that it’s in near-original condition? Because it hasn’t been messed with or chopped and changed, meaning the scope and the potential is enormous, says Chloe Wither.

“With so many renovations these days, you usually have to start by undoing what someone else has done — and that takes time and can be expensive. Here, you have a complete, unaltered, perfectly proportioned villa. "I really do think that someone will have the opportunity to do something quite spectacular here.”

Another important factor to take into account with 23 Millais Street is its size. It’s bigger than your average single-bay villa, having a wider hallway, plus the luxury of an extra double bedroom, which will be very important for the next owners when it comes to drawing up new concepts and plans. And staying with size, the house sits on a 481sqm section — bigger than most of what you will find in Ponsonby for example — plus, it's perfectly level and in an elevated position on the street. It also faces the right direction, east to west, says Scott, with the expansive garden enjoying the last of the day's light.

To use a well-worn and often overused real estate term, this house ticks all the boxes.

Stepping into 23 Millais Street gives you goosebumps. It's quite emotional. There is a genuine sense of history as you walk into each of the rooms, with the original wall linings and the coloured lino on the floor — and that's before you step into the kitchen with its unique style of built-in cabinetry and old ‘meat locker’. It's extraordinary. The agents say they found a calendar from the 1950s when they were prepping the house for sale, which is not at all surprising.

The potential with this home is limited only by your imagination — and of course, your bank account. With a large, flat backyard and easy access down one side of the house, a modern extension would be the first and obvious thought — and there would be plenty of room for a pool out back, too. A quick look next door, where they have popped the roof, shows you could certainly build an incredible master suite upstairs, too — think of the magnificent views out west to the Waitakeres… and those sunsets.

For years, this part of Grey Lynn was relatively untouched and, up until fairly recently, the homes in Millais Street were tightly held. There is a great sense of community in the street — effectively, they are all friends, says Scott. Over the past few years, however, a few of the houses have started to come onto the market, as some of the long-time residents have moved out, to be nearer children and grandchildren, and this has had a domino effect on the rest of the neighbours.

“The old guard is slowly starting to be replaced by a new generation of young families, ready to start their own community on Millais Street,” says Scott. “Interestingly, so far, they are all a similar demographic – young couples in their 30s, with one, maybe two children. It's great to see that as one generation leaves, another is coming in and revitalising the street."

And it really is a lovely wide street to live in, with generous berms and broad street frontages, which give all the homes a more stately aspect — not packed in, like some of their Ponsonby neighbours.

When asked who she thought would buy this unique house, Chloe said that developers are certainly back in the market for this type of property but wasn’t sure if that’s who it will end up going to. “I really hope it goes to a young family, who will make it their home for the next 20 years, creating a new community in the street, attending the local schools, playing footie in nearby Grey Lynn Park, and enjoying all the things Grey Lynn and Ponsonby have to offer. It’s exciting.”

And it’s a sentiment echoed by the current family… “Our family settled here in the 1920s, and we sincerely hope that the next family will enjoy the house for even half as long as we have.” Hear hear.

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