Faced with a rebuild in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes, these homeowners opted for something bold, modern and new, while paying homage to the past. WORDS Luci Morris
With a river boundary, stately garden and picturesque setting for the grandchildren to play in, Heather and Brian Guthrie knew that they wanted to continue to call their magical property home – despite their house left broken and damaged in the wake of the earthquakes.
Having worked with Colin Gregg and Craig Wilson of Gregg Builders on another project they were delighted to have them on site within days of the February earthquake waterproofing their home and making it safe for occupation. “The house was essentially wrapped in polystyrene sheets and we then lived in it like that for five years!” shares Heather. “We knew when the time came, Gregg Builders would be who we called on.” Unlike others in their street the Guthries were unable to simply knock down and rebuild, as their hundred-year-old-plus home was a registered heritage building. Highly regarded for his work with heritage structures, William Fulton of Fulton Ross Team Architects was introduced to the Guthries by the Christchurch City Council Heritage Team, and worked with them to try and find a solution. “The Heritage Team really wanted to save the home,” explains Heather, “but unfortunately it just wasn’t feasible. After many long discussions around our options, William asked if he could do a quick sketch for a new home and we loved it. Brian wanted lots of glass and sunshine and that’s what we got.” The modern, two-storey, glass-filled design is a far cry from the original Hurst Seager dark wooden structure that stood before, but is one that subtly and beautifully pays homage to what stood before. Tall, bevellededge skirtings, window seats and a coved ceiling in the kitchen/living/dining all bring character to the home, while a sense of ‘old world’ is effortlessly achieved through the addition of American walnut floors and a simple colour palette.
With century-old camellias and rhododendrons in the surrounding garden it was important these were retained throughout the demolition and rebuild process. “It was a challenge, at times, to work around the restraints of the site,” shares Craig Wilson of Gregg Builders, “but we relish a challenge and it was a great thing to have done. It really enhances the end product.”
Shifting the house slightly on the section to capture the sun and create privacy from neighbours, the home is 68sqm larger than what stood before and offers a more efficient floor plan, perfectly suited to modern living. What is most evident is that despite the modern fittings and finishings there is a sense of cosiness, often left wanting in a new home. An achievement most evident in the library and piano room, which both play on the intimacy and elegance of the previous home. Gregg Builders recognise that building canbe an overwhelming experience and strive to make it as straightforward as possible.
Craig puts the success of their builds down to having short achievable steps that enable clients to keep on top of the numerous decision they need to make, without feeling overwhelmed. For Heather and Brian it was this process that set Gregg Builders apart. “They kept us on our toes,” laughs Heather. “Every site
meeting I would leave with a to-do list as they sent me off to make decisions around things like light fittings, fabrics, flooring and so forth. There was lots of communication right throughout, it was amazing.”
Sticking to the construction programme was also something that the Guthries appreciated. As well as the fortnightly site meetings, Gregg Builders implemented a
scheduling system ensuring full inspections were regularly carried out by independent schedulers to ensure the project timeframe was being adhered to. “It is something we do with every build,” explains Craig.
Coupled with a quantity surveyor engaged prior to construction to ensure that everyone is aware of the financial implications from the outset, no stone is left unturned in Gregg Builders’ quest for homeowner satisfaction. “We don’t hand over the keys until we are 100% happy with the finished product,” shares Craig, “and we always aim for this to be on time, or ahead of schedule.” As a self-described collector, Heather is enjoying the freedom of a new home, with plenty of wall space on which to display her eclectic array of art, rugs and furnishings. “I’m not sure we would go back to an older house,” she concludes. “What we have is pretty perfect and I am still working on cluttering up this house with all my bits.”