Character Houses

Character Houses

Owning a character home is a real labour of love. It is only because owners of these houses cherish them that post-earthquake Christchurch is still able to boast a proud collection of outstanding heritage homes that are such a defining feature of many established neighbourhoods.

Older Christchurch suburbs such as Beckenham, Somerfield, St Albans, Opawa, St Martins and Sumner have a wealth of heritage houses including early 1900s villas and 1920s bungalows. There are many houses in areas such as Cashmere and Fendalton built in similar styles but often on a grander scale. Christchurch also has a unique collection of mid-century and modernist architect-designed houses and townhouses in a distinctive Christchurch style in numerous locations around the city and hills.

Stephen Crooks and Greg Miller have both spent time living in and restoring their own mid-century and character homes. They can understand how special your home is to you, and also appreciate the challenges that living in an older home can present.

What to consider when you’re undertaking alterations to character homes

If you need to add space to your home there are two main approaches:

  • Undertaking an addition which is in keeping with the original style, using authentic materials, details and fittings. This is a particularly good option when your house alterations will be visible from the street or if the existing house is particularly ornate.
  • A contemporary addition, which can provide a fresh approach, and works particularly well if you’re adding on to the back of the house and it won’t be visible from the street. This can be a great option when adding on to bungalows, as their relatively simple roofline and detailing can work well alongside a modern addition.

Here are some smart ways to upgrade the performance of existing parts of your home.

  • Upgrade insulation using a combination of wall and ceiling batts and underfloor insulation. Foil insulation is no longer able to be installed under floors.
  • Retro-fitted double glazing will reduce heat loss – your old timber window frames can actually perform very well as long as they are double glazed and well-sealed to prevent drafts.
  • Replacing old plumbing and wiring and installing modern LED lights and mains-pressure hot water systems and tapware can make a huge difference – imagine finally getting rid of that dribbling shower!
  • Installing new heating systems – fireplaces are often a key design feature of these homes, so by installing gas inserts in existing fireplaces you can retain the use of the original fireplace. Alternatively you can use a heating system with concealed ducting to minimise the visual impact.
  • Flooring – timber floors can be polished if in good condition, and if you’re doing an extension it’s amazing how closely new and original rimu floors can match once they’ve been sanded back and coated.
  • Replacing the old roofing with new corrugated Colorsteel roofing is a surprisingly cost-effective upgrade. It will freshen up the appearance of the house, and will save you the hassle of regularly repainting an old rusty roof and maintaining leaky spouting.
  • BRANZ has a ‘Renovate’ website that includes some useful information about construction methods and maintenance for a range of different character house styles.

Character Houses

Planning rules

If you’re in a neighbourhood full of heritage houses then there’s a good chance you’re in a ‘Character Area’ under the Christchurch District Plan. This is established to protect areas of outstanding character, but can impose specific rules particularly regarding construction work that is visible from the street. It’s a small price to pay to protect these important parts of Christchurch’s built heritage.

How can we help you renovate your character home in Christchurch?

We’ll listen

Our focus when undertaking this type of residential alteration work is to work out how your home can be modified to best accommodate your modern lifestyle without losing any of the character that led you to fall in love with it in the first place. We will take time to listen to you describe how you and your family would like to live in your home, and what aspects of the current house are particularly important to you and need to be preserved.

We have experience

We’ve worked on some very significant character house alterations over the years, including additions to bungalows, renovations of mid-century classics and numerous earthquake repair projects where we’ve worked with engineers to come up with solutions that don’t detract from the style of the house. We’ve even undertaken a full rebuild of a large Edwardian home in Christchurch which is being rebuilt as an exact replica of the original, including new oak panelling and reusing the original leadlight glazing in now double-glazed timber windows. We’ve got the perfect balance of skills to lead jobs such as these – we respect the craftsmanship that went in to designing and constructing them in the first place, and have the expertise to know what needs to be done to improve their performance so they can be appreciated and enjoyed for years to come.

We’ll build relationships

Another crucial part of a successful character home project is putting together the right team of consultants and tradespeople who can support the architectural design. Alongside the team of consultants we work with on most jobs, we find that calling on the services of an ‘old school’ builder can be a real benefit. They can call on years of experience with traditional carpentry techniques and joinery work that many builders just aren’t familiar with, and the result can be a much more authentic finished product.

Wondering where to start?

Call us now to arrange a free consultation to discuss your project – we’ll meet with you in our office or at your home, and you’ll gain a clear understanding of how we can help you get the most of your character home. To help prepare for our meeting you can download our Guide to Writing a Brief which will help us understand exactly what you want from your project.