One of the best things I’ve seen all year. The beautifully restored Wilson House in Whanganui, New Zealand, is up for sale.
It has pretty much everything a buyer of a midcentury modern house would want. The stunning architecture of the day, an interior that’s packed full of original details and, best of all, a restoration that has been undertaken to keep the house in line with the original architect’s design and the original era.
And if you love midcentury modern architecture, that’s the dream. This could be straight out of the pages of a glossy interiors magazine from 1959, its year of construction. Of course, there are touches that update it for modern-day living. But you have to look closely to see them. The restoration is that good.
One other thing, too. I know it isn’t a simple job to pack up and move to New Zealand for many people. But the guide price here is as cheap as anything I have covered this year – and probably cheaper. If this was in the UK, it might well have another £1 million tagged onto the price. Yes, really.
The house was a labour of love by architect Don Wilson, creating a house in the style of cutting-edge designs from the US but working with more limited materials and detailing. Not that you would notice now.
At the time, import restrictions for building materials in New Zealand for domestic dwellings were strict, so the design had to adapt to use what was available. The architect brought in some details himself, for authenticity, including door handles and locks, directly from the US. A costly but worthwhile business that’s paid off in the long run.
So much of it has survived, too, from the abstract mural on the front of the house through to more minor touches like the heaters and the record player. It feels like a step back in time. But in a good way. It also helps that architecture has come full circle in 50-60 years, and demand for open-plan houses like this has never been greater. All the better when you have one so characterful, too.
The design itself is described as two rectangular pavilions linked by a ‘breezeway’ entry foyer. One of the pavilions is elevated over a recessed study, guest suite and large garage area that also forms part of an expansive cantilevered terrace to the living areas. As I said, predominantly open plan too: ‘Wherever you are within the house you are not limited by a wall’.
That interior is a testament to the hard work of the current owner. At first glance, a house untouched by time. But the devil, as ever, is in the detail.
Many original touches remain, from artwork by the architect to vintage heaters and all of that amazing and original cabinetry. Original joinery and fixtures throughout the home have been repaired and reinstated where possible to maintain the authenticity of the original design.
Note also the large, glazed, non-load-bearing exterior walls, plus the built-in cabinetry, screens and partitions that are key to the interior. The glazing featuring the image of the builder is a wonder. Check out that original stereogram too, which, like the house, has come full circle. If you happen to be musical yourself, the baby grand piano might well be included, although it’s worth checking if that’s a deal breaker.
Elsewhere, updates have been carried out for practical reasons, but in one of keeping the midcentury modern look. The kitchen, for example, has gone back to its original cabinetry and hardware, with a new Laminex benchtop, a stainless steel double sink and Dornbracht Basin Mixer. But enhanced with a modern Fisher and Paykel oven, an induction hob, and a dishwasher.
The tiled family bathroom is renovated too, now including premium Vola fittings, Philip Stark D Code Toilet, and Flos lighting. New floor coverings are also throughout the house, a combination of cork, Marmoleum, and wool carpet. An upgrade to the patio area, too, which has been Mapei waterproofed and re-tiled with ceramic stone tiles.
The end result is quite something, and hopefully, the images here tell the story better than I can because this is a house where the imagery sells the house more than any description could. Credit to the photographer on that front.
Lots of space, too, most of it bathed in natural light thanks to all that glazing and, I suspect, some lovely views because of the elevated location.
A driveway ’swoops’ around one side of the house to the internal garage, the roof of which forms an upstairs terrace to the living area. Very clever and a great entertaining space and somewhere for a barbecue when the weather plays ball. When it doesn’t, the inside has two open fires to keep you cosy.
The living space is over two levels and, as I mentioned earlier, is made up of two elevated wings. Upstairs, one wing houses three bedrooms with plenty of built-in storage, a master en-suite, and a bathroom, while another wing houses living areas, a kitchen and laundry, with the playroom and guest suite on the lower level.
According to the seller, this would suit extended family, a teenager or be an excellent work-from-home or artist studio. Either way, a versatile space to have. Very much in the US midcentury modern style, the living space is airy and open, with large expanses of glass creating a free flow with the site so that you are not limited by a wall wherever you are within the house.
That’s not quite all, as ‘a large parcel of land’ is at the rear of the house with mature chestnut trees that belonged to the original homestead nearby before the estate was subdivided. The images show a pool, too, but I suspect it isn’t currently functional. There might be potential there if you want to reinstate it. Another question for the seller.
Lots more details and images on the seller’s site, and note that they are active on Instagram, so you can post enquiries there if you are a serious buyer.
In terms of buying, the house will be sold via tender, with a closing date of 14th December 2023. The guide price is $770,000, which, according to my conversion, works out at something like £371,000 at today’s exchange rate. But do check that yourself. If that’s right, it sounds like a bargain if you can make the move to Whanganui.
A dream of an opportunity for someone, and I really hope it finds an appreciative owner.
All images courtesy of Samuel Hartnett. You can visit his Instagram page here.