Nelson labour of love
By Gareth Lawes
We were driving around Victory Square, in Nelson, one day in 2008 and commenting on how the houses were all in original condition and the fact that any house that is next to green space would be really valuable in the 21st century. A few months later we were driving by again and saw it was for sale, with an open home. We walked in, walked around and made an offer the next day. We owned it by the end of the week.
The house was built in 1935. It was one of the better houses in the street when it was first built because it was directly opposite Victory Square park.
I don’t know who built it but the building specification for the entire house was written in handwriting on three A4 pages (about one page if it was typed). Our renovation specification was around 120 typed pages!
The renovations were extensive. It was the character of the house that really appealed to us so we tried to keep original look and feel.
We made minor floor plan changes, which really increased the usability and indoor/outdoor flow but we kept all the walls in exactly the same position.
All the native timber skirtings, architraves and covings were carefully removed by hand and completely stripped of paint. Each piece of timber was sanded five times then oiled before being replaced. All the wall linings and sarkings were removed so the only thing left was the horizontal wall timber.
Then any exterior timber that had rot in it was replaced - amounting to about 20% of the exterior. The entire house was lined with building paper, insulated with 100% wool batts and covered with Gib board. The master suite was created as a double-thickness wall with sound-reducing batts and two layers of gib to soundproof between the living spaces.
New openings were created for the outside/inside flow and all of the walls were rebuilt. Two bathrooms were added, with a beautiful nickel claw-foot bath in the master suite. A brand new kitchen was created in keeping with the way it might have looked in 1935. In fact much of the timber used in the kitchen was harvested from the house during the deconstruction phase.
All the windows were removed and the glass removed from the sashes. Then they too were stripped of paint and sanded five times to bring them back to original timber. They were oiled, double glazed and fitted back in with the original hardware and new brass hinges and screws.
A new roof was added and the outside completely fenced in using natural timber. We added a concrete wall at the front, sealed the driveway and landscaped the entire property. In July last year we planted 500 native plants and 40 mature trees and shrubs.
Nelson and contemporary artwork feature on the walls, curated by a well-known Nelson artist.
We hope our changes have increased its liveability. We’ve added security and privacy and modern appliances – an icemaker, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, heated towel rails and TVs in the lounge and kitchen so the cook can watch TV at the same time as everyone else - to make the house as comfortable as possible for short-stay accommodation.
We don’t live in the house; we renovated it with short-term stays in mind so you won’t find family photos and dodgy doilies!
The restoration period
Retaining the character of the old house was expensive and time consuming – it’s a 105-square-metre house and we spent $250,000 renovating it, my wife Joanne and I doing the entire restoration and landscaping ourselves (with the rebuilding done by a builder).
Since our renovations, we’ve had many people approach us and thank us for investing so much money into making the Victory Square area look better. Many houses on the Square are currently under some form of renovation so we think we have been a catalyst for getting people to invest in the beauty of the community.
All the wall linings and sarkings were removed so the only thing left was the horizontal wall timber
The windows and doors were all dismantled, stripped of lead paint…
...sanded five times and oiled…
...before being rehung