A savvy renovation turned this inner-city Auckland house into a tranquil hideaway

It sounds pretty much impossible in the heart of the concrete jungle, but not at Zavedo founder Joana Azevedo’s place.

Sandwiched between a hospital and Spaghetti Junction sounds like an uncomfortable location for a home; however, this Auckland house not only offers the ease of living close to amenities and a transport network but is also stylish and tranquil. Step inside and feel the serenity.
When interior designer Joana Azevedo and her husband Jason Yeoman, who owns a building company, wanted to move closer to the city and their clients, Grafton wasn’t the first location that sprang to mind. Fortunately, their real estate agent had other ideas, and insisted they take a look.

TOP Vertical cedar louvres were added to the townhouse’s façade to offset its concrete structure and provide privacy. ABOVE The 4.5m green wall features a self-irrigation system and includes a mix of native plants that bring texture and a soothing shot of nature to the void beyond the garage.

Surrounded by office buildings, the property, constructed in the 2000s, was a bald concrete rectangle arranged over three levels. “It didn’t look like much from the outside,” says Jo. “And it was a little tired.”
Yet the couple couldn’t believe how private it felt inside. They loved its robust structure and the outlook over greenery borrowed from the Domain.

TOP & ABOVE The tawny glow of the oak cabinetry makes the kitchen an inviting place to hang out in, and space-saving pocket doors keep the appliances fully integrated. A Frankie pendant by Designtree is a focal point in this minimally decorated space, a plinth by Lapitec supports the solid oak tabletop that extends from the island bench, and the AAS32 bar stools by Hay are available through Zavedo. The artwork on the right-hand wall is by Carsten Nielsen Beck of ByCDesign Studio.

Jo and Jason met in Switzerland while he was on his OE. They may have struggled to speak on their first date (Jo didn’t know much English; Jason had very little French or Portuguese), but there was an instant and lasting connection. Some 16 years later, they have a four-year-old son, Liam, and a second baby due. And they’re not their only mutual achievements: since Jason convinced Jo to decamp Downunder, they’ve renovated several properties together. Jo can’t quite remember if it’s six or seven.
For this particular project on a tight site, the pair agreed on two major moves: recladding some of the exterior to soften the industrial rawness and converting what was a rooftop space above the carport into a living room. The work took nine months to finish — a significant gestation period. But in that time, they also stripped out the kitchen and bathrooms, added a third bedroom and ensuite, re-plumbed, replaced the balustrades with glass, updated the joinery and put in new flooring.

ABOVE Jo has a curator’s eye and enjoys arranging objects, including her beloved books on the bespoke KIN shelving system by Zavedo in the living area. “The shelves don’t have any exposed screw fixings and I love how sleek and refined they are,” she says. The modular Felix sofa from King Living is generous and comfortable, and its neutral tone slots in nicely with the couple’s chosen palette.

The result is sublime — an oasis of calm. Although the concrete blade walls on either side of the dwelling were left as is, slimline cedar cladding now brings warmth to the palette. The zen mood is enhanced by a vertical garden that fills a void between the carport and the bulk of the home. “It’s a pocket system with built-in irrigation but still needs some maintenance,” says Jo, who hops onto a ladder when the odd plant needs replacing.

TOP In the stairwell is a large artwork by photographer Robert Hart, a long-time friend of the couple. ABOVE Natural light seeps softly through all parts of the home and onto the oiled oak flooring. The living room, which can be seen at the end of this walkway, was an addition that Jo and Jason converted from a rooftop space above the garage.

On the lower level is a garden and spare bedroom, while the mid-floor has the entrance alongside the garage and contains the couple’s suite, just across from Liam’s bedroom. Jo and Jason were restricted by the outer limits of the townhouse, yet still able to insert an opening in a wall in their bedroom to create a walk-in wardrobe. Their room also connects through glass sliders to a tiny patch of paradise, where nīkau palms, floating steps, a wooden platform and a water feature nestle in.

TOP In the powder room, a tinted Lunar mirror by Zavedo is attached to the wall by a brass disc and leather strap. It hangs above a Mono basin and pedestal by Omvivo from Artedomus. ABOVE The ensuites are all cool, contemporary elegance encased in large-format Marvel Statuario Matt 60 tiles from Tile Space, which are based on the look of Statuario marble but made from hardier porcelain. The matte black Buddy bathroomware is by Progetto from Plumbline.

Upstairs, light floods in through a skylight and the central void that separates the kitchen and dining zones from the newly created living room. It’s filtered by the foliage and a band of cedar louvres on the windows overlooking the street.
In the kitchen, a monolithic bank of oak veneer cabinetry stretches along one wall. With no appliances on show and no handles, the island bench and its built-in breakfast bar set at right angles is highlighted. The family loves to eat breakfast here with a view of the trees. “It feels very lush — we could be in Titirangi,” says Jo.

ABOVE A wall was opened up on one side of the main bedroom to create a walk-in wardrobe. Above the bed, an alcove is used to display a framed woodblock print and Maquette sculpture by Gidon Bing, over which sits a recessed 3W Reading Spot light from Halcyon.

The couple had sold most of their furniture with their former property, so here was the chance to start afresh. It wasn’t a hardship for Jo, who owns online furniture and homeware store Zavedo and describes her aesthetic as “refined, warm and minimal”. She knows how to stick to a theme. Pieces like the oversized modular sofa and sleek black Scandinavian dining table are carefully chosen to speak the same design language. “I like natural materials and to layer these with texture and shapes,” she says.
Hers is an organised eye. Every corner of this home is just so, from the decorative vignette (art and branches in a vase) at the top of the stairs to the quietly coordinated elements (framed photo, oak storage box and dark tumbler) on the bedside table. But where she really gets to express her passion for curation is on the custom-designed modular shelving that stretches along one wall of the living room. Art, objects, plants and books are all arranged with care. “I collect books — I love flicking through them for inspiration,” says Jo, although Jason has pointed out that the shelves are now replete with their fair share.

TOP & ABOVE Liam’s sleep space centres around his Hideout bed from Freedom. His oversized octopus toy from France’s BigStuffed is a favourite nighttime companion. The newly added adjoining bathroom is a luxury that has proved practical for the bedtime routine.

When Jo’s sister arrived from Switzerland and saw the thoroughly urban home they were creating, she was dubious. “She said, ‘This isn’t a house for a young boy — too many stairs,’” says Jo. Once a new baby enters the picture, Jo may well get tired of wiping fingerprints off the glass balustrades. Who knows? But it wouldn’t be a surprise if project number eight or nine (who’s counting?) soon gets off the ground.   

Words Claire McCall
Photography David Straight

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