Building to Perfection

Words Gill South | Photographs Rosa Woods   | Homed, www.stuff.co.nz

The story behind the Wellington house that's only getting better with age.

The open plan kitchen/sitting area opens directly out to the backyard through bi-fold French doors.

When a real estate agent and an experienced builder create their own home, they almost know too much. Or they come pretty close to perfection. 

Tania O'Connor and Murray Moore's home, nestled in Wellington's Brooklyn village, has attracted a number of envious glances since they built it 10 years ago. 

The couple were inspired by the Black Barn Riverside Cottages designed by Andy Coltart.  

"We liked the space, the light and the beautiful detail," says O'Connor.  

 "But, at the end of the day, the section will design your house and what you build," adds Moore.  

Tania O'Connor and Murray Moore are justifiably proud of their Brooklyn home.

Building in character 

The biggest concern for the couple was ensuring that their home was a similar style to the street, which is largely turn-of-the-century cottages.

"It's such a beautiful, sought-after street, we didn't want to build anything out of character," says O'Connor.

"With a 560 sq m site, we could have put four units here, but we didn't want to do that," says Moore.  The house is next to the old Post Office, Brooklyn's only heritage building, so they felt a certain sense of responsibility.

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The pair lived in this apartment over their garage while building the main house.

People commend Moore for having done a great renovation when they come to the house, because it looks like a traditional large bungalow. And he's been asked to work on three other houses in the street.

O'Connor and Moore did the build gradually, living for three years in the apartment above the garage that Moore built first at the back of the site, a 50 sq m replica of the main house to come. They moved into the real thing when their son, William, was six months old.

They rent the apartment out these days and use the garage below to store Moore's Harley-Davidsons. In time, O'Connor sees William (now 11) living there during uni, while Moore, an accomplished artist, envisages it as an art studio. 

The downstairs guest bedroom.

Ticking all the boxes

 

O'Connor, a busy agent with Just Paterson, made sure the house had the details people like. The open plan kitchen/ sitting area opens directly out to the backyard through bi-fold French doors. 

This is a home kids want to hang out in – a trampoline is much used in the back garden sitting on artificial turf, O'Connor's pride and joy – and there are huge jars of Jetplanes and fresh baking in the kitchen.

Storage was non-negotiable – from the separate kitchen pantry to "every nook and cranny" under the stairs and giant floor-to-ceiling built-In wardrobes.  

It's easy to see why this is a home kids want to hang out in.

The kitchen sitting room area could have felt a bit cavernous, with the ceiling height above at 4m, so Moore dropped the ceiling line over the kitchen, incorporating a bulkhead to better define the space.

 

They also knew how important light is in Wellington. Three skylights built into the 3.5m sloping roof expose the kitchen to great doses of it.

At the top of the stairs, leading to the three spacious bedrooms built into the roof of the home, Moore made a roof lantern to allow more light in, a pretty feature seen from the street.

The kitchen sitting room area could have felt a bit cavernous, with the ceiling height above at 4m, so Moore dropped the ceiling line over the kitchen, incorporating a bulkhead to better define the space.

Travel reminders 

There is evidence of the couple's travels everywhere in this home –  a 1986 London bus blind featuring beloved place names like Camden Town and Chalk Farm, is a fond reminder of their seven years in London in the '90s.

They like to visit O'Connor's brother in Johannesburg –  a cowhide rug from there adorns the elegant mataī floor which came from a church in Whanganui. 

The upstairs family bathroom.

Asia is another favourite destination for the family – they have plans to travel to Vietnam this year – and they found their house number, 43, at a market in Ubud, Bali.

The couple, who grew up in Palmerston North, are also fans of New Zealand art.

"My Lynne Sandri painting came from her and I talking and coming up with a field of white roses," says O'Connor.

Their master bedroom.

Landscaping top of mind

Landscaping was prioritised from day one by Moore, his topiary of olive trees and buxus defining the front and back gardens. 

In the back garden, a Flare fireplace, craned in over the house, is a focal point.

"The fireplace is an oven as well – it has hanging baskets inside, so you can turn it into a smoker," says Moore with enthusiasm. 

 In the back garden, a Flare fireplace is a focal point

This Wellington home is unusually sheltered from the city's winds, snug behind its high gates. 

The wind goes up and down the street on the road, but leaves the house alone, says Moore. 

"It's like it has got its own microclimate," adds O'Connor. They have two feijoa trees with fruit so large that Will sells them every year outside the Salty Pidgin restaurant. 

Tania and Murray O'Connor's Brooklyn home is the envy of many.

Keeping up the good work

O'Connor and Moore are making improvements to their home all the time, recently changing the interior colour scheme to a soft grey, Resene's Silver Chalice.

Moore gets quite exasperated with people who build beautiful homes and then don't look after them afterwards.

"They will garage their $200,000 car and yet not do a thing to keep up their $1 million plus house," he says. 

That will not happen here.  "He's always tinkering," says O'Connor. 

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