Wallace Architects’ Hill to Harbour House

In association with First Windows & Doors.

Whereas some renovations start with carefully plotted-out plans for a long-awaited dream home, Eastbourne’s Niki Pennington and Andrew Cathie were launched into the process by necessity, after discovering a small but pressing problem.

TOP Paired with awning windows that open electronically, Metro Series fixed windows make a magic moment of this built-in nook in the living area. “The underlying motivation for this project was a desire to really create connection,” says Liz. “That became the brief — connection between the spaces and connection to the location.” ABOVE With an aim to retain whatever possible from the existing house, the renovation constructed by A Sparks Builders saw the layout of the dining area (which sits below one of the home’s multiple skylights) kept as is. Where colours and materials were introduced throughout the house, they were chosen for their relaxed vibe, appropriate to the seaside setting.

“When Niki and Andrew first came to me, the conversation started simply with: ‘We’ve got a leak in the deck upstairs and think we want to resolve it by turning it into an ensuite,’” recalls architect Liz Wallace of Wallace Architects. “That was their brief — but it certainly expanded from there.”

TOP Sam, Andrew and Lily in the new kitchen, where a fixed window from First Windows & Doors (in the Black Frost Ultra anodised finish seen throughout the house, which also incorporates Urbo hardware) welcomes in more natural light.

Through site meetings and plenty of robust discussions, Liz managed to tease out that there were bigger issues at play in their family of five’s home, namely a general discontent with the lack of interior flow. “It was quite an interactive process to begin with,” she says. “The design phase was, like, four years.” During that time, she learned that artist Niki and financial adviser Andrew actually had quite a clear vision for the sort of dwelling they and their children Amelia (15), Sam (12) and Lily (11) would thrive in, and her job was to define it.

TOP & ABOVE Accessed via the central corridor (which is expertly aligned to frame the view of Mākaro Island pictured below), the living area opens up to the 180-degree view through joinery from First Windows & Doors’ Metro Series. Says Liz: “The wind meant the family couldn’t always use the existing doors and standard casement windows for ventilation, so we created a transom that runs around the new doors and allows for motorised awning windows above them. Doing this emphasised that incredible horizontal aspect of the outlook, and at the same time kept the door height in line with the scale of the existing house.”

“We purchased the house about 10 years ago, after falling in love with the view,” says Niki. “It has a captivating panoramic outlook, but the front of the house was quite closed in. It had a lean-to sunroom with sliding windows, and wooden doors leading onto a small corner deck, but I thought we could make that work when the opportunity arose.”
The couple were happy to play a long game, taking their time to consider how each room would work for them in different stages of life. “If we were going to renovate, we wanted the result to suit us while we were bringing up our kids and when we retired,” says Niki.

TOP & ABOVE Niki’s limited-edition print, Tondo: Seascape 1, catches your eye on the way upstairs (top). Her approach uses paint, graphic distillation and photographs to deal with how we record, reflect and create memories. Of the living space, she says: “It’s quite light and bright, so not very practical for watching TV. The darker, cosy media room [above] is better for that, and it’s always nice and cool in there too.”
Key to the new layout was creating a connection between the expansive beachfront and the hills that hug this coastal community. The renovations were mostly contained within the original footprint of the ’90s build, but the interior spaces were rationalised and reorganised around a widened central corridor that generously links the kitchen and dining area on the hill side and the new pavilion-style living area facing seaward.
With the main entry at the side of the house, the corridor marks your point of arrival. As well as being a connecting device, it functions as a gallery-like space for Niki and Andrew’s art collection, which includes pieces inherited from family members, collected during overseas travels and acquired from local outlets. More recent additions have been works Niki has created herself, since setting up her own studio and gallery, Twin Island, and returning to her art practice full time.
“I’m in my happy place when I’m near water, and this view offers endless inspiration for my work,” she says.

To capture the vista in all its glory, joinery from First Windows & Doors surrounds the living space, visually and physically opening it up on several sides. “We wanted to create a feeling of lightness by bringing the doors and windows right up to the ceiling,” says Liz. “The previous lean-to sunroom blocked out the sky and much of the foreground beach, and was made even worse by a verandah structure that further obstructed the view and light. The result was a space that had a very awkward relationship to the living room and the beachfront. By lifting the roofline and removing the wing walls, we were able to extend the living room to make it feel like one space. We also replaced and raised the head height of the adjacent windows to achieve that full wrap-around view.”
Further improving the functionality of the home, utility spaces lead off the corridor. A media room, powder room, office and laundry are all located within cooee of the main social zones, so “we often don’t necessarily know everyone’s here”, says Niki. That’s a real testament to the practicality and flow that Liz has integrated into the dwelling to cater to their family life.

TOP Metro Series fixed windows also surround the bath in the ensuite, a still-private sanctuary far from prying eyes. “What I really like about this house is the variety of spaces — the very public versus the retreat-like areas, and the sense of connection between them,” says Liz. “That’s a big tick.”

Completing the update of the living environment, the ability to spend time outside is of equal significance on this site. Through working with landscaper Mark Newdick of Local Landscape Architecture Collective, the direct access to the beach has been stepped down at the front of the section via a deck, hard landscaping and resilient planting that all provide privacy from the promenade below. The garden on the other side of the house is a sheltered getaway where entertaining centres around a covered pergola with an outdoor fire and barbecue, in a native garden that links the property to the bush-clad hills behind it.

ABOVE The house is positioned and the deck has been extended so they’re above the eyeline of passersby. The timber for the deck and hard landscaping was recycled from nearby Days Bay wharf. “One of my main things was not to put a balustrade at the end of the 999mm deck, which is controversial!” says Liz. “When you’re out there, it feels like you’re on a wharf.”

“Materials were selected for their durability — aluminum roofing, plus a membrane roof for the pavilion, and cedar weatherboards,” says Liz. “That’s also why we like to specify First Windows & Doors’ Metro Suite, as it’s stronger than the standard residential profile.”
And about that leak… it has well and truly been remedied with the renovation that has improved this house for now and the future, whatever weather is delivered across Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington Harbour. On that subject, the ideal spot in which to watch a storm roll through is the bath in the new ensuite upstairs. They couldn’t have planned it better.

Words Alice Lines
Photography Simon Wilson

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