At this house renovated by Pac Studio, connection is celebrated on several levels
When it comes to design, Deb Brown loves corners. “They drive sociability,” she says. “If you’re at a pub, people always gravitate to where two bench seats meet because that’s where the talking takes place.”She applied this theory on a larger scale to the revamped layout of her family’s 1930s bungalow in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. She knew that if she based its design on an ‘L’ shape, the angle would create a courtyard and social connection that a home of a different configuration might not.
Client service director Deb and her creative director husband Chris Schofield bought their Point Chevalier do-up in 2017, having lived elsewhere in the neighbourhood for a decade. The orientation of the long, thin site that faces the wrong way for the afternoon sun meant the L-shape worked, creating a courtyard in the centre for gatherings and allowing light to come in through the back of the home. “The house sits at the front of the section, giving us a blank canvas out the back,” says Deb.
From the start of the renovation, Deb knew just how she wanted the dwelling to look and feel. Whether the width of the door profiles or the proportions of the hallway, her vision was clear. “My passion is design — it’s my hobby” she says. “That helped me enormously.”
The couple upgraded the front of the “pretty rough old house with 1970s wallpaper and cracked windows but good bones” before they moved in, installing a $1000 kitchen they bought off Trade Me in what’s now the TV room and turning the smallest bedroom into a bathroom. This allowed them and their daughters Ava (15) and Pearl (12) to live in the front of the house while the renovation took place at the rear.
On paper, Deb sketched a detailed design that embraced openness but wasn’t open plan. “We had a good sense of how we wanted the spaces to work relative to each other,” she says. “We wanted connections between them, but not to always be in the same space. That was increasingly a requirement as the kids grew up. We needed a place where we could have people over and all the kids could congregate separately.”
Friend and architect Aaron Paterson of Pac Studio ran with Deb’s ideas, creating a concept plan that realised her love of mid-century design, with a focus on floor-to-ceiling glass facing the courtyard. They retained the two front bedrooms for the girls and extended another to form the main bedroom. This connects to the central TV room, which can be closed off with sliders. From here, the main living space, semi-detached from the kitchen and dining area, opens through more sliders to meet the cobbled courtyard, lawn and pool. The original hallway joining it all was maintained; “I love how when you open the front door, the length of the house is visible,” says Deb.
Colour and tactility bring everything together and welcome you in. Texture is important to Deb, and she introduced it through the architecture and fittings. “It removes the stress of buying extra stuff,” she says. “The richness lies in the materials and the connection between them and the spaces.”
This is most apparent in the kitchen, which is characterised by a 3.8m island and textured tiles. What adds the most drama, though, is its brick walls. “I didn’t want a series of white walls,” says Deb. “Brick is a key mid-century material, and I thought if I could pull that in, it’d add a whole lot of texture and warmth.”
Colour provides another layer of character. The hallway walls are a light blue-green and there’s a darker version of this in the TV room. The tiles on the walls and floor of the main bathroom are a smoky grey-green, and soft pink keeps the main bedroom sweet. Meanwhile, décor details steal the spotlight in the white-walled living space, particularly the freestanding fire and the large kauri slab Chris sanded to form a tabletop. Deb’s love of mid-century style is also evident in the schist crazy paving in the courtyard. “When I grew up with crazy paving, I thought it was old-fashioned and awful, but I’ve loved it ever since,” she says. “I knew it’d feel good underfoot.” It makes sense that these pavers resonate nostalgically with Deb, in a spot designed so perfectly for gathering with loved ones, in that magic corner.