Ponsonby-Freemans Bay renovators Jess Britten and Warren Durling are on the move. The former Oddfellows hall they have made their home over the past seven years is on the market.
The couple bought the historic hall in Renall Street in 2016, inheriting fixtures and fittings once used by the Royal Antidiluvian Order of Buffaloes (motto: no man is at all times wise). They set about transforming the vast space into a beautiful three-bedroom home, and along the journey they have had two children – Stevie (3½) and Walter (6 months) – and they are also married.
Now, the couple say, with a growing family it’s time for a change. They announced their decision in an Instagram post the same day the hall was listed with Edward Pack of Bayleys Ponsonby.
“We’ve poured our heart and soul into making a hall a home, and it has been a safe haven for many of life’s seasons,” says Durling.
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“Now we are a growing family, and we’re keen to enter a new chapter in life,” Britten says. “It has been a very emotional decision for us, and we’re hoping to pass it on to someone who loves it just as much as we do.”
Britten, a freelance PR and marketing consultant and daughter of celebrated motorcycle designer the late John Britten, and Durling, a financial controller, don’t know yet where they will move. Britten says they will wait to sell before seriously looking for a new place.
“I would love to take on another project, but they’re as rare as hens’ teeth. If one cropped up we’d jump at the opportunity. After having to think of every detail with this project, we now have all this knowledge we would love to share. But spending time with the kids and family is a priority.”
The couple are eager to find the “right buyer”. “It feels like we are handing over our firstborn child,” Britten says. “This has been a very formal part of our lives, which makes it all the harder to leave.
“It’s heartbreaking. We were just dating when we bought it in 2016, and we’ve become engaged, married, had a baby and then another kid. It’s sad to say goodbye, but what can be sad can also be right.”
At the beginning of the project Britten said the neighbors were probably worried about what might happen to the hall, which sits in a street of cute little villas sitting cheek to jowl. But, as work progressed, they regularly popped their heads in the door to say hello and see how things were going.
And just two weeks ago a neighbor recently dropped a note into the couple’s letterbox. It reads: “Kia ora, Thank you. I walk regularly past your home; laughter, tears, shrieks & song all flow out. Adding to the joyous colorful chalk art and mihi. You add & enrich our community. Thank you.”
“That was amazing. It brought a tear to my eye,” Britten says. “The community here has definitely been the hero of our time here. It’s a great place to live.”
Clearly, there was no need for the neighbors to worry. Britten and Durling have retained the original character of the 1906 building – the old brickwork and match lining are exposed, and light floods in through high sash windows.
The restoration, which included significant structural work, provides two spacious bedrooms, with ensuites, either side of the entry, with the main suite on the upper level at the front of the building, complete with restored kauri timber ceiling. There is also a family bathroom.
The open-plan living area in the hall itself has been transformed into a cosy space, despite the spacious proportions. Separate rooms off to one side accommodate a scullery, storage room and study.
Upcycled materials feature prominently – the kitchen is more than 20 years old. Britten says her godparents sold her the solid wood cabinetry, dishwasher, and stainless steel benchtops for $2000. She gave the orange timber a fresh lease on life with some neutral green paint, which complements a splashback made from leftover bathroom.
Edward Pack describes the home as reminiscent of a Manhattan apartment, “combining heritage charm with exquisite contemporary architectural design”.
“It’s such a pleasure to sell for them; they are such lovely people,” he says. “It’s one of Ponsonby’s very special properties.”
New owners may like to continue the project – resource consent has been granted for a second stage of works, including a rooftop terrace.
The property has been listed with a deadline sale of June 2, 2022. It has an RV of $2.525 million.