Homes

You got that right

The owners of this house didn’t leave much of it as it was, but they made everything as it should be.

The flat lawn occupied by soccer nets provides a clue as to why Ry and Mike Imre didn’t take the usual path when turning this bungalow in Auckland’s Mt Eden into a family home fit for the future. With two children who are super-keen footballers, stealing land from the garden to extend was not the preferred option. Instead, they gained 140m2 and a whole lot of living by using the wasted space in the basement and under the roof.
When the couple, who own a building company, saw the red-brick bungalow with its clay-tile top — a typical specimen of its era — they were interested but not enamoured. But they wanted to move into the area for the school zone and, as serial renovators, knew what they were doing.
Built in the late 1940s, the home’s interior had some art deco-period detailing: decorative architraves, leadlight windows and a kitchen with curved walls and pastel-blue cabinetry. The backyard was big but unlovely, basically a bed of volcanic rock with a rotary clothesline drilled into the middle of it.

ABOVE “For a while, we lived in a house in Titirangi where the garden had lots of beautiful kauri trees but was damp with no sun, so now we’re obsessed with light,” says Ry. Making the most of it in the dining area is a Soul dining table by Nonn from Simon James Design and chairs from Dawson & Co. The American oak underfoot is from Goodwood Timber Flooring.

The Imres gave themselves a punishing deadline for part one of the renovation — the first-floor level that was set to be the main living zone. “We took possession on Friday and by Saturday morning had two 9m skips being replaced daily as we stripped the house,” says Mike. In just six weeks, he and his team demolished all the internal walls, insulated, rewired and re-plumbed, then built the reconfigured walls back up and installed a temporary kitchen. They relocated the front door from the side of the home to its rightful spot — at the front — then squeezed into the 110m2 while they regrouped, with the kids, Carlo and Hollie, sharing a bedroom.

KITCHEN The overall interior design of the home was influenced by Ry’s good friend, designer Fiona McLeod. In the kitchen, solid oak cabintery by Henderson company Kitchenmaker is teamed with Carrara marble from Italian Stone and a well-edited blend of retro and modern homeware. ABOVE “We love the imperfections where the joists have been de-nailed,” says Ry of the staircase made from recycled materials. The artwork here is by John Reynolds.

A year later, it was time to tackle the basement. Out came the kango hammers as more volcanic bedrock was chipped away. Long story short, they carved out two bedrooms, a bathroom, a laundry and a teen den complete with arcade games on the level that once housed a garage.
With that work done, the elders of the Imre tribe sat back satisfied, until tinges of jealousy at the kids’ retreat started to creep in and some finishing touches were needed, including a master suite and a new kitchen. They began to plot their own escape beneath the rafters. Popping up and out part of the roof enabled them to create a hotel-like suite with a bedroom, bathroom and walk-in wardrobe. A glass roof above the shower turns an everyday experience into something special.

TOP Furniture from Design Warehouse makes the deck at the rear of the home a lovely place to relax beneath the clever roof that provides both shade and sun. ABOVE This wonderful lamp in the dining area was found at The Vintage Shop.

Five years on from that first day of tearing down walls, the house may have the same structural footprint but in every other way it’s an ugly duckling transformed. The couple painted the brickwork in off-white Resene Triple White Pointer. “We thought of rendering the bricks but decided against it because we love the texture,” says Ry.
The dining and kitchen area, which looks out over leafy suburbia, is tied together with American oak flooring and the kitchen expertly bridges the gap between the ’40s and today. It’s light with a leathered Brazilian Carrara stone top and oak cabinetry with graphic negative detailing.

TOP In the living room, a Gordon Walters original print from Starkwhite gallery forms a vignette with a vintage gramophone, a sideboard from Republic Home and trailing indoor greenery. ABOVE This cabinet by Bang & Olufsen with a built-in record player was kindly sourced and imported for the couple by The Vintage Shop. The artwork is by Emma Bass.

Keeping the spirit of the original home alive was important to the couple, who retained the brick fireplace and original light shades, detailed the new architraves art deco-style and reused products where they could. The open-tread stairs that float up to the upper level are made from kauri joists pulled out of the house and stained dark, resting on recycled steel beams.

TOP Timothy Oulton’s Cabana Yeti chair creates a conversation nook with a Mason sofa by Forma. ABOVE The warm colours and reach-out-and-touch texture of the original fireplace surround influenced the other elements in this space, including the soft furnishings. The wave-look curtains were crafted by Karen Parkinson of Curtain Concepts using fabric from Textilia, while the cushions were custom-made by Fiona McLeod.

While reticent to label the interior style, if pushed, Ry will settle on ‘muted retro’. It’s an eclectic mix, with many pieces inherited from Mike’s Hungarian grandparents. A wooden-armed chair designed by Timothy Oulton that’s covered in shaggy sheepskin references Scandi style, a velveteen sofa is vintage-chic, and a fringed table lamp is from the Victorian period. Mid-century art by Gordon Walters hangs alongside striking modern photographic works by friend Fiona Pardington. All set against a crisp palette of white walls and well-planned spaces, it hits the right balance of character and contemporary.

TOP & ABOVE With its walk-in wardrobe and ensuite, the home’s upper storey is a true haven. Nice finds in the bedroom include a daybed from Dawson & Co repurposed as a headboard, bedding from Harrowset Hall and a rug from House of Haghi. Mike cleverly designed the couple’s bathroom, really maximising the use of space and even adding a skylight above the double shower. The bronze-finish tapware here is by Astra Walker from The Kitchen Hub, and the mosaic marble tiles and contrasting benchtop are from Italian Stone.

Since meeting at 22, Ry and Mike have been ankle deep in renovations — four times in a row, through pregnancies, sleepless nights and two toddlers — so when they moved here, they never dreamed they’d stay long. But now there’s the perfect teenage hangout downstairs, an adults-only retreat upstairs and a fabulous meet-in-the-middle space in which to commune, they’ve changed their minds.

MIDDLE Carlo, Mike and Hollie kickaround a ball on their pitch by TigerTurf in the garden maintained by the team at Colossal. ABOVE Marina chairs from Dawson & Co create another quiet zone in which to soak up the sun, surrounded by flourishing
plant life.

Ry says she quite likes that home life is now relatively chilled, without dust from renovations constantly settling. “The truth is, she won’t let me do another house anytime soon,” says Mike. Instead, these days, when he has energy to burn, there’s that expanse of lawn and the goalposts waiting for action.

Words Claire McCall
Photography Emma Bass