Renovating state houses

Renovating a typical state house -that piece of New Zealand history which any Kiwi will recognise- can be both a challenge and a rewarding experience.

State house in suburban New Zealand
ARTICLE Clare Chapman 

The state house is ubiquitous with the New Zealand built environment. Anyone who’s lived or grown up in New Zealand will recognise the typical state house – many of which still exist on their large sections with fruit trees out the back. The horizontal weatherboard cladding and set design is something we all know well.
Renovating these pieces of New Zealand history is something that can be both a challenge and a rewarding experience. As Refresh Renovations Waikato consultant Steve Roper  says, state houses generally have ‘good bones’. And that’s a very good place to start if you’re thinking about renovating.
“State houses also often have beautiful natural timbers like Rimu and Matai. Wooden Matai floors are often revealed during a renovation, which when sanded back and polished look stunning,” Steve says. “Rimu doors and natural timber door frames and architraves that have typically been painted over, when sanded back also add character to an old state house and bring it back to its former glory.”
South Island state houses in autumn
State houses were built for a generation that lived differently to the way we do now. Contemporary living is all about open and broken-plan living and indoor-outdoor flow. The old state houses were also often positioned the wrong way for sun, so a major part of any state house renovation is looking at the option of re-orientating the house to make use of available light and heat. 
“The biggest thing lacking with state houses is the lack of flow. Typically, we suggest to clients that they open up the home to create a sense of more space.”
Because state houses often still have the original, expansive sections, small auxiliary units or minor dwellings are a possibility, whether that be for extended family members to come and stay, or another income stream for an investor, for example. 
“Re-piling is usually a consideration with state house renovations too, and more than likely a requirement if the renovation involves adding a second floor. Additional costs in state house renovations can often occur when load bearing walls are considered. If removal of them is required, this can add additional cost to a project.”
In regards to keeping to the house’s original form, there are many avenues from which to source original items to match the existing materiality. “But complementing weatherboard state houses with new modern cladding systems in additions can work well too and give the house a funky modern look providing a contrast between two cladding materials,” Steve says.

If you’re interested in exploring the possibilities for a state house renovation, get in touch with a Refresh consultant here.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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