Rethinking the past

Rethinking the past

Four units have become two spacious homes in
CYB Construction's tasteful reimagining of an intriguing piece of Christchurch’s architectural history.

When builder Chris Yeats of CYB Construction and wife Karen bought the four-unit block in Rhodes Street, Merivale as an as-is-where-is project, their first thought was to knock it down and rebuild two to four modern units. The building, situated in a premium suburb in a location that’s just a stone’s throw from the city, was substantially damaged in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. As time went by Chris and Karen looked into the site and its history and began to see potential in developing the existing building. Initially making plans to restore the four units, they then came up with the idea to reconfigure the space into two larger, more spacious apartments and set to work in the spirit of the architect’s intent to create a high quality building that hasn’t forgotten its past.

Believed to have been commissioned by widow Violet Jennings in 1934, the apartment block was designed by Heathcote Helmore, an accomplished architect working in Canterbury from the 1920s to the 1960s. Flats were an oddity at the time and, the building that was later to become known as St Ives, would have been one of Christchurch’s first examples. It’s likely that Violet built the property to live in with the intention of renting out the remaining apartments to women in similar circumstances; a practice that was becoming common in Europe but was new to New Zealand. Designed in the American Colonial Revival style, common to much of Helmore’s work, the property exhibited the hallmarks of the Arts and Crafts movement; simplicity, quality and craftmanship.


The new owners felt that this history should be preserved and wanted to retain as much of the original timber and features as they could. Chris and his team poured their hearts and souls into doing the project justice, which presented significant challenges being an extensive renovation. Working with the architect they devised a completely new layout and an ambitious programme of work to repair, strengthen and enhance the building from the ground up.

Before the new foundations could be laid the site needed to be releveled and Survus Consultants were brought onboard to survey the site, plot the building set-out and manage the subdivision process. While most of the work for the surveyor is in the early stages of the build, they are involved right to the end of the process and, Craig Hurford of Survus relishes the challenge. “What we enjoy about working on slightly more complex projects like this is knowing we have contributed to a development which results in beautiful transformed places for people to live.”

Number 11 Rhodes Street cuts a striking figure from the road with its stylish symmetry, the clean lines of the weatherboard exterior and characteristic portico-style porch sheltering the twin front doors. Those doors lead to two unique and lovingly crafted homes spread across two floors and boasting four spacious double bedrooms, master bedroom with ensuite, and open-plan living, dining and kitchen areas. Each has a double garage with internal access and a separate laundry and utility area.

The complete revamp of the floorplan allowed for large, light and open spaces incorporating kitchen, living and dining. A kitchen designer assisted the owners with planning the stylish galley-style kitchens that hint at the era of the building. They have successfully combined cabinetry that gives a nod to the building's heritage with modern high quality Miele and Smeg appliances.

The bathrooms throughout are spacious and stunningly appointed featuring beautifully honed Italian porcelain tiles chosen for the space by Felicity from The Tile Shoppe. The company has a long-standing working relationship with CYB Construction and this made selecting the tiling a simple process. Chris’s brief was to create a timeless look that would last and the results are a mix of restful elegance with a touch of luxury. The range of tiles delivers a natural look, mimicking the stone it’s based on. Underfloor heating has been installed in all of the bathrooms adding to the luxurious feel.

The owners specifically wanted the colour scheme in the homes to evoke warmth and this has been achieved with the soft pastel hues chosen from the Resene colour range. Complemented by crisp white skirtings and trim and paired with the warmth of the timber flooring and tastefully chosen carpeting they have certainly achieved the cosy atmosphere they’d imagined.

Throughout both properties, every effort has been made to preserve and reuse the beautiful original matai and rimu floorboards and in areas that needed replacing, heart rimu from a similar property on the West Coast was used. Grant of Grant Sutherland Floor Sanding lent his expert hand to restoring the floors to their former glory. His patience and careful attention to detail has ensured the flooring in these homes is a standout feature. Grant used Handley Industries low-sheen polyurethane to enhance the natural richness and warmth of the timber. He says; "I get great satisfaction from completing a floor and enhancing a home," he says. "Timber floors have a timeless appeal that’s stylish, modern and comfortable.”

The need to almost totally rebuild the whole property from the foundation up meant the owners had the opportunity to include heating and technology features that provide a level of comfort and convenience we wouldn’t normally associate with a home that’s approaching 90 years old. Wifi-controlled ducted heating and cooling, provided by dual heat pumps, keeps the temperature just so with the help of floor, ceiling and underfloor insulation and double glazing throughout. And, combining everything you’d ask from a new build into a character property, the homes are cabled to connect to fibre, there are USB charging ports in the kitchen and bedrooms and the garages include electric car charging ports.

Kwila decks have been added to each property to make the most of the outdoor spaces, and 11B has an additional landscaped area designed and planted with the help of a landscape designer and features two decks to capture both morning and afternoon sun.

While the decision to make such substantial changes to the layout and use of the building meant a total rethink and delays while plans were made, Chris and Karen are glad they made the call to preserve this classically elegant piece of Christchurch’s history. Chris assembled a large team and called on trusted professionals to work with him and ensure the results were of the highest quality in keeping with the philosophy of Arts and Crafts buildings, and he’s thrilled with the results.


“We thoroughly enjoyed watching the building come back to life,” he says. “It was a pleasure to work with the various consultants, trades and suppliers to obtain their input and sharing the process with a team motivated by a desire to do a good job.”

Now completed and on the market, these two exquisitely finished homes are looking for their new owners to embark on the next chapter in their history.


Words: Anna Scaife Styling: Comber and Comber Photography: Sarah Rowlands

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