Native Architecture’s Seven Gables redesign returned this Parnell home to its heritage roots

Its history has been honoured while securing it a sophisticated new future courtesy of a few well-resolved bells and whistles.

Sometimes in order to move forward, we must first go back. That’s certainly true of this home in Parnell, Auckland, which began life circa 1875 as five barracks used to house soldiers in nearby Albert Park. A decade or so later, the buildings were moved and arranged for one Captain Pirie and his family to form a large multi-gabled house, and that was just fine for a time — but now an artistic upgrade has seen it reconnected with its roots while facing an elegant new future. 

ABOVE The reinvented carport is a prime example of new meeting old halfway. “We referenced the form and scale of the existing roof and complemented the detailing by keeping the new roof simple and clean,” says Fraser.

Having changed hands several times over the years, in 2017 the home found itself back on the market. Sheridan and Andrew Harmos were the first to view it —and snapped it up the same day. They initially engaged director of Native Architecture Fraser McNaught, builders Ninety45 and interior designer Karin Montgomery to renovate the kitchen and bathroom only; however, it quickly became apparent that there was a lot more to do, so before Fraser knew it, the project had snowballed into a complete interior overhaul. 

ABOVE Thinking this was just going to be a minor project, Sheridan and Andrew lived in the sleepout (which was built in the ’80s) for about 10 months while the renovation evolved. “We didn’t realise what we were letting ourselves in for,” she says. With all the essential appliances and an ensuite, this former barrack now provides a self-contained space for guests to stay in.

Apart from the addition of a regrettable new kitchen, plus some timber panelling and cabinetry, not much had been done to the dwelling since the five barracks became one. From the word go, the team wanted the fresh fit-out to celebrate the original spirit of the buildings, reopening the house to emphasise that it had once been separate structures while making it a little more comfortable. They had their work cut out for them.

TOP A Zettel’z 5 pendant by Ingo Maurer from ECC looks incredible over the dining table custom-made by Designers’ Collection, with Utility U chairs by Stellar Works from Backhouse. MIDDLE Sheridan can happily report that marks don’t show on the sleek black steel of this modular KNX kitchen by IMO, which features an inventive recessed channel for herbs and the like. Parts of the modules required customising to fit the space that Fraser says was so old it “didn’t have a straight line anywhere”. ABOVE Sheridan likes to fully focus on the food when preparing meals, so she wanted to keep kitchen and dining separate — a first for her after years of prioritising open-plan layouts with young children on the scene. The steel-framed internal glazed panel Fraser designed for the job was made by Southern Steel and powdercoated to match the cabinetry. Strong extraction and the home’s original French doors ensure the glass never gets steamed up, and cooking smells and noise don’t travel.

“The condition of the house was unbelievable,” says Fraser. “When we started pulling it apart, we couldn’t understand how it was even standing. It had to be gutted and certain parts rebuilt, like the roof in the kitchen and dining room, where most of the rafters weren’t touching the walls because the walls had bowed so much. We didn’t want to make everything perfectly square, though — we wanted it to still have the wonkiness and character of an old home when we put it back together.”

TOP In the corridor between ensuite (left) and main suite, the external kauri cladding has been brought inside. ABOVE With walls in Resene Inside Back, the library is a restful retreat. This space and the living room next to it were once accessed from the hallway via their respective doors. Now, these doors are gone and they’re joined by the thoroughfare Fraser formed with lightweight steel openings. Behind a Rio sofa from Designers’ Collection hangs Frederick B Butler Collection by Ann Shelton.

Sheridan and Andrew’s astounding art collection was also key during the design phase. The couple, who have four adult children, were downsizing from a larger family home, so they specified maximum wall space to showcase as many of their pieces as possible. In response, Fraser removed much of the built-in furniture and kept any new cabinetry to a minimum.
The home’s layout was relatively formal, with one barrack for kitchen and dining, which Fraser partitioned with a tall screen; two barracks for bedrooms and bathrooms, which were reconfigured to allow for guest rooms, an ensuite and main bathroom, where there’s a secret door to the laundry; another barrack for living; and another that previously housed a living area and office, but was turned into the couple’s suite. Eschewing the contemporary call for open-plan, Fraser retained this footprint, along with the hallways that linked the original buildings — apart from the “horrible little connection with poky windows” that led to the couple’s suite, which was demolished to make way for a rebuild that cleverly included wrapping the exterior kauri cladding inside. 

TOP The larger artworks seen here include an untitled painting by Heather Straka in the library, and Kotuku Puketotara by Don Binney (top) and High Dive II by Jan Nigro in the entryway. ABOVE Ostensibly nothing has been changed in this room, but actually, “everything has been taken off and put back again,” says Sheridan. “It was back to bare boards — nothing remained when the builders had finished.” As in many of the other spaces, here the walls and vaulted ceiling in neutral Resene Half Black White let the artwork and soft furnishings introduce the colour and life.

Doing away with the tight doorways into each of the living rooms, Fraser widened the zone between the kitchen and the adjacent library to form an entry foyer. He then created a secondary ‘hallway’ of glazed steel openings that allows access from this foyer to the living spaces beyond without the need to travel out of one room, into the original hallway now tucked behind the wall, then into the next. Inspired by the steel kitchen, the black doors are among many dashing details devised to link and distinguish between past and present. 

TOP This painting in the living room is Peter Wells’ Garden by Karl Maughan. The dark internal joinery that forms the new ‘hallway’ can be seen here on the right. Sheridan insisted on lifting the carpet to reinstate the ancient floorboards, so apart from one patch of ply, the existing kauri tongue and groove features throughout the house. “You can tell where some of the original barracks were because the floorboards are different and you can see where the cuts are,” says Sheridan. ABOVE Above the living room fireplace is a typographic work by Wayne Youle, while on the mantelpiece and the wall beside it are sculptural pieces and a painting, Untitled (Dudley Benson), by Peter Stitchbury.

“The language of the new elements is very clean,” says Fraser. “We wanted to complement the ornate detailing of the existing home, rather than copy it, because it never looks the same if you do, so we kept our detailing nice and fine.” 

TOP A Vieques bath by Patricia Urquiola for Agape from Matisse is aesthetically era-appropriate in the main bathroom. After deciding on this tub, Fraser curved the wall around it and placed a skylight at the top, so the light washes down the wall. An Ambitec plaster system was used here and in the ensuite to allow crisp junctions between wall and floor materials in the wet spaces. ABOVE This recycled kauri vanity has a custom-powdercoated black steel top. As in the main bathroom, the tapware is by Vola from Metrix, the shower curtain is in Zing FR Optic fabric from Lahood and the Grey Wave tiles are from SCE Stone & Design.

For Fraser, a highlight of the renovation was the twin-gabled carport, which along with the perforated exterior brick wall was the brainchild of the team at Xanthe White Design, who were charged with the landscaping. “It doesn’t have the same building code requirements as a house, which allowed me to detail it in a way that I wouldn’t usually be able to while keeping it slender and light,” he says. “It’s a nice reference to the other five gables and the interior of the home, and a striking feature on the street, plus its openness allows Sheridan and Andrew to better connect with their neighbours as well.”

TOP One of the major interior alterations was the transformation of this space from two rooms to one that now contains the couple’s bedroom and walk-in wardrobe. For these walls, Sheridan and interior designer Karen Montgomery chose Resene Soothe; the artworks that have found a home on them are Painted Jug on a Windowsill by Melanie Mills (left) and Figures in Light No 12 by Pat Hanly. ABOVE The walls in Resene Dusted Blue in this guest bedroom are a tranquil backdrop to artworks House Boat (left) and Alpine Village by Frank Gross. The wardrobe cabinetry is Ambitec plaster in Resene Half Black White, with aged-bronze powder-coated trim and hardware by Buster & Punch, while the lighting includes bedside Milan lights from Lightplan.

A few steps back for a giant leap ahead, the refit of this remarkable home honours its heritage and a trove of incredible artwork by keeping the updates sophisticated yet simple. “We just tried to work with nice materials and play with light,” says Fraser. “These subtle things are what I like most. I think the house has more character now than it did before.”   

Words Philippa Prentice
Photography Simon Wilson

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