We love our homes. They’re an extension of who we are and a gathering of the elements we cherish most from the world that surrounds us. With so many stunning residences within our community, sometimes it’s not just four walls that are worthy of honour but how we adapt them to suit our ever-changing lives. To help paint that story are two lovely families who have generously opened up their doors and stories to us.
Sarah-Jane Attias and Tanah Dowdle
Tanah: When we first met we played ‘happy campers’, living together at a fabulous little cedar house I built 18 years ago on Douglas Street in Ponsonby. It was gorgeous, just very small for us both.
Then three years ago we started looking around for a bigger home. I wanted to run my new business Gourmet Joy (www.gourmetjoy.co.nz) from home, which would include cooking classes in a purpose-built kitchen. That and we’ve both always wanted a pool.
After looking at incredibly expensive, run down old villas, we turned to a little townhouse Sarah-Jane already owned in Grey Lynn – a pretty compact 1990s, three bedroom, two bathroom townhouse with a cute studio to the rear where she operated her Living Osteopathy practice. We thought: “Why not – let’s whoosh this up, open up all the downstairs and pop in the pool.” Ha! It all sounds so easy now. Three years later we have almost completed the dream home we moved into eight months ago.
As we rebuilt the house from the inside out, we got to use a lot of different types of natural stone around the pool, kitchen and the bathrooms. It was so much fun choosing them and it’s given all the spaces a very timeless feel.
We also laid a new floor throughout the entire house – a ‘smoky blonde’ oak – and it has transformed the feel to being much more relaxed and beachy! That was the overall brief from the start – a kind of bach feel with aged wood floors, white walls, exposed beams in the vaulted entry and similar open ceilings upstairs that would all let in natural sun to heat. We also included double glazing windows and new insulation that works like a charm. Even on these cold winter days only have one heat bar on for the whole house!
The highlight has really been the pool – that was quite an effort to build and brought a digger right through our house! It’s not hidden down the back of the garden like a lot of pools. We just get out of bed and walk twelve steps into the water… it’s become a part of our daily lives, swimming right through the winter months. We simply love it!
Not to mention the new floor-to-ceiling glass doors everywhere and the amazing skyscapes because we’re on a ridge. But the kitchen is really the epicentre of our universe as we’re both huge foodies. It’s how we show our love – through many dinner parties and gatherings with our friends and family – not to mention ground zero for my business. Sure we’re a lot busier paying out all the building contractors, but we couldn’t be happier with how the home we envisioned has turned out.
Anna Birkenhead and Diana Rands
Diana: We live in Point Chevalier, down the end near the beach – some would call it ‘lesbian heaven’ – in a single story, three bedroom home with a separate sleep-out bedroom outside.
We were both looking for a house to buy together when one day I saw this advertised. I took the ad home and said to Anna “this looks like our perfect house.” Her response was: “OMG that is ‘my’ house!” Anna had loved this house since her parents owned it as an investment and sold it after about five years. Unfortunately she could not afford it when then sold it and so to have a second chance to own it was wonderful!
The location is incredible because it is so close to the beach and we can see a peek of the sea. It also has great indoor/outdoor spaces and our [three] children can walk to school and catch the bus easily.
We really wanted the kids to each have a space, so our first thing was to create a fourth bedroom by partitioning off part of the big front lounge. We also created a bar outside the kitchen window – now I can sit outside and chat whilst Anna cooks the dinner! It’s ideal for entertaining.
To create a sense of space and increase light, we added sliding doors to both the second lounge and our new (smaller) bedroom. Anna put in a vegetable garden; we have painted throughout and recently added a fireplace in our kitchen. We have tried to maximise the outdoor spaces and have lots of different seating areas and a chiminea for colder evenings. Anna is always moving everything around!
Each of us has our own favourite spots, though. Our 13-year-old Rosie says her favourite room is her bedroom where pink is everywhere while Flynn (15) loves hanging out in the second lounge and watching telly, but also his tiny bedroom with his quirky art everywhere. And Tom (also 15) loves having the outside studio to hang out in with his friends after they have emptied the cupboards of all the food!
The fire in the kitchen has become popular since it’s got colder and in summer we love sitting on the sofas on the front deck. But beyond all the changes we’ve made, what really makes this home for us is food smells wafting through the house, hearing the kids playing their various instruments and having lots of friends around – somewhere you feel you can escape to and relax in. Dogs, chickens and cats… there’s lots going on most of time, but definitely some quiet time too. We have a welcoming place for all our friends and whanau.
Article | Leif Wauters. Photos | Yvonne Shearer. Special thanks to Verity George for pairing express up with these lovely ladies.