Beachside 1950s Home Renovation

An eco-friendly renovation of a double story 1950s home has taken full advantage or its prime position opposite Dunedin's St Clair beach.

rimu house overlooking beach
ARTICLE Jason Burgess PHOTOGRAPHY Ewen Livingstone Photography 

When Sydney-based couple Lyndon and Kirsty Fairbairn felt the time was right to have a family, they decided to raise their kids as Kiwis. Bucking migration trends, they headed back across the ditch to resettle in their hometown of Dunedin. 
For Lyndon that meant St Clair beach, where he grew up and learned to surf. “We had been living in Manly,” says Lyndon, “when we came home we needed to be close the beach, with a village vibe.”
He already knew the house he wanted, a monolithic looking, two-story 1950’s stucco home, on the corner of Cliff Road and Beach Street. Its lack of street appeal was easily compensated for by its unimpeded beach views, a sunny north-facing backyard and position right at the heart of the boardwalk action.
1950s Dunedin house

A dream come true 

It took Lyndon 18 months of negotiations with the owner before finally winning his dream location. The couple then spent a year living in the house to observe it in all seasons before shopping around for an architect who would understand their eco friendly-vision for the house. “We spoke to three architects before Simon Parker,” says Lyndon. “He got us, and was immediately able to put our thoughts to drawings.” 
After several concept meetings, Simon’s plans were ready and passed through the council within six months of the couple first putting the call out for an architect. Re-building within the existing building envelope avoided lengthy waits for resource consents.
The original structure had barely been modernised since construction in 1951. Unbelievably small windows limited its beach views. All the living was downstairs with three bedrooms, one bathroom and a darkroom upstairs. “We basically turned it upside down and rebuilt the top.”
rimu deck with a view

When it comes to renovations, quality is key

Lyndon reckons finding builder Richard Geeves was a real boon. “He insisted that with this location we should not compromise on quality. He did so much groundwork and planning even before we accepted his quote and he was continually thinking in advance. The project ran like clockwork.” While renovations can often be unpredictable, Richard reckons this was the most plumb building he had ever worked on. Every stud was level and the footings had not moved an inch. There were no ‘unforeseens,’ which resulted in a total build time of just four months.
Once the demo began, the builders worked hard to carefully remove and recycle the rimu. “We could have gotten a hardwood floor cheaper but we wanted rimu floors,” says Lyndon. Rimu framing was also reused as bookshelves, in a table and as a sink splashback on the kitchen island. The window frames were stripped back to natural, and existing downstairs bi-folds were left to create an airy master bedroom. The open cantilevered wooden staircase has also been left in situ, referencing the mid century modernist design that influenced the original interior.
sunny living room

Capture the sun

The home has been opened to catch the sun. While the roof height has remained the same, the original concrete-tiled, hipped roof made way for a dramatic Coloursteel Max butterfly roofline. New high-pitched ceilings rise to three metres, creating airflow while accommodating Fisher picture windows beachside and Eurostacker doors to the north. 
The top-floor is bathed in light with views from every corner. All window glass is a ‘blue-green’ to conjure Sydney’s skies, and is double glazed throughout. Argon gas filled glazing, which provides up to 15% extra warmth, was used on the south side. The high level windows maximize the low winter sunlight. A Toshiba 6KW heat pump and heat transfer system offers quick heating in the morning, while an inbuilt Masport wood burner casts a warm glow in the evenings.

A slice of privacy

A Window Treatments motorised pleated blinds system provides basal-up privacy on all street side windows. External vertical louvres on each of the sun decks ensure wind protection and complete seclusion from the street. Says Lyndon, “In such a prominent position no one can tell when we are home, which is funny because I’m often working from here.”
At the heart of the open plan upper story is a bespoke galley kitchen designed by Parker and the Fairbairns. A four-metre long acrylic Hafele ‘Infinity’ breakfast bar with waterfall edge is the perfect place to commune with the chef while enjoying the panorama from all aspects. 
Feature lighting from Lighting Plus includes three pendant-drops above the island and an Azalia four light pendant over the dining table. Recessed halogens carry the bulk of the illumination duties throughout. 
a light and airy kitchen with a beachy vibe

Sand, sea & skies

A mosaic tile splash back with hints of paua, ocean and blue skies provides a visual centerpiece behind the Fisher & Paykel 90cm freestanding stove and five-burner cooktop. A quiet Ariston extractor is hidden above, and a Westinghouse dishwasher is out of sight under the bench opposite. The Australian sandstone fire surround and chimney from Tile Direct alludes to the Fairbairn’s time abroad while also complementing the sandy walls and brown tone Smart Strand carpet. 

Eco-friendly renovations

Methven Kiri tapware is a feature of both the kitchen and bathrooms, chosen for its minimal looks and water saving mains pressure flow. Simplicity and function are the hallmarks of the downstairs bathroom and ensuite. Each features Kiri Slide rail showerheads over Athena baths and Athena Cara wall hung vanities, plus heated towel rails and anti-fog mirrors. There are three bedrooms downstairs with the infrastructure in place to create an extra room upstairs in the future.
rimu deck with a view

A sustainable decking solution

Hardwearing cedar weatherboards and insulated plaster clad walls provide the exterior cladding. Sustainably sourced Australian Jarra covers the extended sun decks. A new perimeter fence designed by Simon has been garnering a lot of attention. The kiln dried A-grade pine palings have an almost palisade look. Planting inside the fence line will eventually soften the vertical lines and add privacy to the lawn area.
Impressed by the new look, a previous owner turned up one day bearing an amazing gift – a photo album tracing the home through all its previous incarnations, including the original build in the 1950s.  
You might be interested in reading how much it costs to extend a house.
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This article by Jason Burgess featured on page 52 of Issue 008 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.


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