Bureaux’s Sandringham House renovation has it all figured out

It’s a familiar equation. Take one villa, add 100 years (give or take a few) and inevitably X = not fit for purpose. But the owners of this property in Sandringham, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland could project beyond the mathematical to the magical, and even though they bid on it sight unseen, they weren’t flying blind. They knew it had the location. They knew it had the elevation. They knew it had a back garden that faced the right way. When architects Jessica Walker and Maggie Carroll of Bureaux came on board, the brief was clear: make this a forever home for the couple and their two young children.
“The villa was dilapidated, with a small lean-to on the back, and practically the entire site was paved,” remembers Jess. Typical of this city-fringe area, it was also cheek by jowl with its neighbours, so issues of privacy needed to be addressed in a scheme that altered and extended the home for modern-day living. Originally, the plan was to lift the entire structure to slot a garage into the basement. When that became prohibitive, the idea was ditched in favour of a single garage — in hindsight, a prescient future-perfect result.

TOP New Euro Modus bricks in Nieve by Midland Bricks clad the modern extension, but its two gabled peaks echo the architectural language of the original Victorian villa. The lawn wraps around the north and west elevations, and is where the owners have located a trampoline out of view. ABOVE The Warmington fireplace (seen on the left of this image) is double-sided, which means outdoor living on the patio beneath the soffit can be enjoyed in summer and also right through into the cooler months, on squidgy beanbags from Coast that make the set-up feel relaxed. The owners are nurturing a bougainvillea they’ve housed in a metal planter, so it’ll one day clamber over the brickwork.

The team set about the spatial jugglery these jobs always involve. Inside the house, they reconfigured rooms in the existing part (you know, the one with the central hallway), being careful to conserve the best bits (the kauri floors and decorative details) while incorporating practical aspects such as a wet room with a bath and shower, and an ensuite and walk-in wardrobe for the main bedroom in the former parlour with its characteristic bays.
In designing the extension that projects towards the north, outside parameters came into play. It wasn’t just the interior spatial volumes that the architects needed to crack, but also the way the roofline interacts with the streetscape. “In terms of mass, we broke it down to allow it to feel contextual,” says Jess. Two gables now join the original hip roof — a mini village of peaks within a village of peaks — and the exterior cladding in cream brick, although not traditional, speaks a dialect that converses with the neighbourhood.

TOP & ABOVE Vintage barstools from Babelogue team with American oak cabinetry in the kitchen, located on the eastern corner so it catches the morning sun. Natural slate from Artedomus was used for the benchtops, in a colour that’s picked up in the cabinetry carcasses, and above the island is a Constellation pendant light by Nightworks Studio. Pale timber, translucent lighting, floaty curtains, curated minimal objects… There’s something quite Zen about the way the spaces and furnishings work together in this home, which makes sense, because the couple lived in Japan for seven years before they moved home.

Inside, Jess and Maggie made the deliberate move to delineate between eras. A linking space with a flat roof is a pause between old and new. This axis, where the den and a powder room are located, runs across the linear villa plan, with slender windows on each side to bring in carefully captured light and greenery.
Then there’s a change in levels: the wide, time-worn floorboards of the hall stepping down to the dining zone, where the recycled kauri floors are painted a soft white, then down once again to the kitchen and lounge. A custom-made timber console, accessible from both sides for storage and display, further defines the dining area from the living spaces.
It’s a gentle separation that’s barely noticeable because the spirit is captured by the vertical drama of the open-plan volume. “We wanted to respond with a sense of height,” says Jess. The apex stretches up to 4.5m, and because the pitch is expressed internally, it brings a delicious feeling of volume.
Stretching up to the ceiling and wrapped in the same cream brick as the cladding, the double-sided fireplace is the first focal point. “The indoor/outdoor living pinwheels around it,” says Jess. One spoke is the kitchen, all contemporary elegance with American oak cabinetry, slate benchtops and a hidden scullery. Another is the main living room, where a low-set, low-key sofa is roomy enough for the entire family to spread out on.

ABOVE The fireplace in all its glory in the open-plan extension, where the Japanese aesthetic is grounded by concrete flooring and cemented by a Akari light sculpture by Noguchi positioned beside a Clerici chair by Mattiazzi from Simon James. On top of the timber console that divides dining from living, a curated vignette displays treasures including an incense stand by Fiona Mackay from Public Record, a pair of Flare candleholders from Città and a black Elements Earth candle by Tom Dixon — a gift to the owners from the architects.

It’s taken all of four years for the occupants of this four-bedroom home to settle into the nuances of being here. In the kitchen, while making her morning coffee, one of them likes to survey the garden, to see what has sprung up overnight. The backdrop is part Kiwi backyard, part tropical resort.
Here there was a lot of extra living — including a pool — to massage onto the 569m2 section. The genius idea Bureaux came up with was to wrap the lawn around the north and west elevations. This preserves the linearity of the relationship between the pool and back of the house, yet allows a patch of grass big enough for a trampoline that’s out of sight of the main living areas.
Add a patio tucked in under the eaves beside the fireplace, and that’s evening entertaining sorted. Sliding cedar doors allow easy access for the cocktail waiter to deliver the goods, and views borrowed from the neighbours make it feel green and serene.
It’s no surprise to hear the owners say this special spot delivers everything they could possibly have hoped for. Expressed as a mathematical total, 120m2 has been added. Expressed as an epithet: life-changing.

TOP A throw by Mungo from South Africa cosies up one corner of the Arcade sofa by Simon James, a modular and low-slung design that’s also wide enough to lounge around on. Sitting on one corner looking out at the garden is one of the owners’ favourite places to be, and a stool and a side table at either end mean books and coffee can be kept close to hand. On the left, the Four-Leg stool by Arno Declercq from Simon James is both furniture and a work of art; it’s handcrafted from iroko timber treated with the traditional Japanese yakisugi technique that sees wood burned to maintain its durability and create a unique patina. The Bit side table on the right is by Massproductions from Simon James, and above the dining table is a Vertigo pendant light by Petite Friture from ECC. The pencil drawing by Gillian Buckley you can see on the back wall depicts one of the owner’s grandfathers, who was a naval officer. It’s uplit by a Fulcrum lamp by Cheshire Architects from Simon James. MIDDLE Linen curtains are used throughout the home to filter the light, including in the main bedroom pictured here, where they’re teamed with bedlinen from Father Rabbit. On the bedside table is a red box that’s part of a Japanese wooden bento box set bought from a market in Osaka. It’s arranged with a walnut and silver trinket bowl and a silver perfume bottle. ABOVE Along with louvres that ensure privacy from the neighbours, the powder room features a custom-made, glass-reinforced concrete basin, and brass Buddy tapware by Progetto.

Words Claire McCall
Photography Sam Hartnett

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