The renovation of this villa gave its three inhabitants exactly what they needed.
Jackie Rainey has her exquisite new ensuite all to herself. The witty, whip-smart lawyer probably shouldn’t be surprised she’s succeeded in achieving this enviable state of affairs, yet she’s still not 100% sure how she swung it. Long may it last, though, and she deserves it — she lived with a freakin’ bike workshop in her lounge for several long years.
It was her and her teacher husband Peter Radonich’s son Oscar and his many sets of wheels that were the catalyst for the next-stage renovation of their 100-year-old Grey Lynn villa. They’d updated the odd thing in their decade-and-a-half here, but with Oscar’s obsession with bikes growing by the day, he needed somewhere (anywhere but the spare bedroom or living room, really) to store and work on them. Doubting any architect would sign up just to build a shed in their garden, the couple got to thinking about what else they’d like to upgrade. Then, engaging architect Rebecca Walker of WalkerMitchell, they set about building a workshop and ensuite, and overhauling their kitchen.
Formerly a storeroom, the ensuite at the front of the house is now an absolute masterpiece. Compellingly simple with a masculine slant, every detail is a triumph, but the shower is the true highlight, clad in green Italian tiles and with a view of the tall plane trees that line the street outside. For this, the collaboration between the couple, Rebecca and Tauranga-based colour and design consultant Peta Tearle was supported by Jackie’s dear dad, Peter Rainey, a professional tiler who did a meticulous job on those tiny glass gems, devoting himself to his daughter’s cause by working every day for two weeks straight to get it finished just so.
“People can’t believe I’m the only one who uses it!” laughs Jackie. “I mean, of course, if someone’s using the main bathroom, Pete and Oscar are ‘allowed’ to use the ensuite, but the other day Pete said, “Oscar’s in the bathroom — can I use your shower?’ And I said, ‘Can’t you just wait for Oscar to get out?’ Pete is not someone who seeks any form of permission, but he just seems to have accepted it!”
Cheaply redone in the early ’90s, the more communal kitchen at the rear of the house was due for a fix-up. Now as you walk down the hallway towards the open-plan living area, the island reveals itself like an elegant piece of furniture. Walnut-veneer cabinetry gives the space a mid-century feel, but combined with the grey-veined granite of the benchtops and splashback, the mood is undeniably modern. “It’s small but works really well,” says Jackie. “The functionality is fantastic.”
New bi-fold doors connect the kitchen and dining area to the shed, which is accessible from the deck not via your usual pavers but by long concrete slabs — because that’s how Oscar approaches, on the diagonal. That and other clever details in the garden are the handiwork of landscape architect Richard Neville of Xanthe White Design. “He was brilliant — really sensitive and thoughtful,” says Jackie. “There was even one plant we couldn’t get from the nurseries, so he dug one out of his sister’s garden. That was next level for me.”
A floor-to-ceiling window in the kitchen frames a glossy bed of tractor-seat ligularia, forming a virtual living artwork, while a skylight overhead lets in still more sun. Jackie says Rebecca (aka ‘the oracle’, as Jackie and builder Mike Lambert came to know her) was dead right about every element of the renovation, lighting included. “Pete works a lot of extra hours at the table and was sick of working in the dark,” says Jackie. “Now he says that’s the thing he’s most happy with. As far as he’s concerned, we could have skipped the whole renovation and just spent a few hundred bucks on lights.”
These are the best of times: Pete loves his new set-up, Jackie’s living the dream with her ensuite and Oscar’s “bloody lucky” they renovated the house for the sake of his hobby. “At the beginning of the renovation, Rebecca said, ‘Once you’ve done one, you’ll want to do more’,” says Jackie. “Partway through I thought, ‘There’s no way I’d ever do this again’, but at the end of it, I could see how I could.
“Within reason and your budget, you do get what you want that reflects you. I like every single thing in here. The kitchen is much better for entertaining and has heaps more storage. Having two bathrooms when you’ve got a teenager is brilliant, and the shed has changed our lives, not having all those bikes inside. It’s fantastic.”