Waihi Beach’s polished villa bought on a whim
It only took Don and Karen Hollingsworth an hour to say yes to the real estate agent. It was not part of the plan to buy a home that was at least a century older than their existing home in Hamilton, but the couple were enthralled by what an innocent visit, “just for the fun of it,” revealed. in an open house on Waihī Beach.
It was January 2018 and both have fond memories of that day. “The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the surroundings were just beautiful,” recalls Karen. Don also adds, the established trees, tranquility and the old Massey Ferguson 135 tractor from the 1970s that accompanied the property.
* Uninterrupted views make this Otago home something special
* It was written in the stars for this Dunedin family’s house building dreams
* The Taranaki family is involved in the renovation of their villa
The Hollingsworths were not the only ones to be seduced by the old villa on its 1 hectare block a few minutes from the coast. They ended up in a multiple bidding situation, winning “about an inch,” Don recalls.
“We have never made an offer so quickly. But we both love old things and houses with character. It was a real emotional buy, ”he says. Totally out of character for the recently retired engineer, according to his wife, who is a former elementary school special needs coordinator.
As for Karen, she was delighted that they were successful in bidding, but there was some degree of concern. “I was a little terrified because I knew buying it meant living there and I had to tell Don that I didn’t live there in its current state. Don said he would do the right thing. He was as good as his word. They moved in almost two years later, after a lot had been achieved thanks to the skills of Aaron Guerin of LAD Architecture, and builder Adam Knight and his team.
The fact that Don is a handyman and an active relaxer also bodes well for this project. His assignments included building bedroom cabinets, creating a hallway arch, making a clothes dryer, and restoring furniture. Then it was outside to tackle the hard landscaping and, during the Covid lockdown, he reused building materials to create a chook shed.
Don says they didn’t buy “a dilapidated old lady” pretty much all that needed to be done. Built in the late 1880s in the nearby Athenaeum Gorge, their villa was moved to its current site about 25 years ago.
“It was really a mixture of things,” Don says. “There was an old school door here and a washing machine over there on the back deck where the birds roosted.
“The kitchen was pretty much a 1950s version and hung around the house as a lean-to. But it still had an appeal, and our mission in Aaron was to maintain the integrity of the original house.
This involved keeping the sash windows, the ceilings with their detailed villa trims, the mātai floorboards (now tinted black), the plinths, the filigree, and the veranda handrails. The old doors were reused after hours of scraping and sanding, and a main light window was reused to become a feature above the entrance to the laundry room.
“We didn’t want it to look like a grandma’s house. We wanted an old villa with character, charm and a touch of modernity, ”explains Karen. The sympathetic transformation took place in stages. The front of the house was first modified, embellishing the two spacious, high-ceilinged bedrooms, which are located in what is now the guest wing. The original living room was also given a facelift, which involved the restructuring of some walls.
In early 2019, the couple took the next step, which included reconfiguring existing spaces, expanding the house, and adding terraces. The lean-to kitchen has been farewell and a laundry room has been added.
The house remains a three-bedroom home, but appears much larger, Karen says, due to the open plan living room and the new master bedroom wing. What was the third bedroom of the original house – an interior space – is now an office. A second living area was added and taken down from the kitchen / diner, so that the high raked ceiling could be maintained. Deep windows overlook the garden and the Athens Gorge beyond.
The two new verandas are widely used. One opens onto the kitchen and is located between the new master bedroom and the living room. The other – which opens to the original dining and living room – was large enough to dance to when Don recently celebrated his 60th birthday. A slatted roof ensures that the open fire with pizza oven is used all year round. Their grandchildren (they have four, with another due any day) think the pizzas and toasted marshmallows are pretty neat, Karen says.
“The grandchildren love coming here. They ride around on the lawn mower trailer and feed neighbors’ goats and creek eels. They get up very early, put on their rubber boots and go out with Grandpa to collect the eggs – Grandpa sometimes takes an egg from his pocket to squeeze in just in case there aren’t any eggs to find .
“I love that we can provide our grandchildren with this kind of lifestyle,” says Karen. As for Don, there may be a new project to occupy him. Karen believes the property’s former barn should be converted into Airbnb accommodation. Plans are underway.
Q&A with Don and Karen Hollingsworth
Renovation tips: Many would say, don’t buy an old villa – you’d have to be crazy. But, we are glad we did. See it as an enjoyable challenge and a way to move the story forward. Use the right builder. Ours was very sensitive to the finesse required of this project. (Put on)
Follow your intuition: The color I chose for the kitchen splashback, for example, could have been a costly mistake, but I just felt it would work and it does. (Karen)
Favorite place to sit: In bed in the morning with a cup of tea, enjoying the beautiful view. (Karen)
Up front on the seats by the front door, early on a sunny morning – it’s nice out there in the sun listening to the birds. (Put on)
Any paint color advice: I felt Resene Double Alabaster was the right color for the main living room, despite people saying it was very white, very stark. But that’s not the case when you add your furniture. Also, have fun. I chose to paint the chook shed door in a lilac color because it will match the wisteria growing there. (Karen)
Did the project involve anything strange or wonderful: Legal requirements for structural engineering dictated that the old beams in our villa had to be replaced with new ones to support the roof. The elders have been doing an admirable job for 130 years! (Put on)