What's a sympathetic restoration?

You'll sometimes hear the phrase “sympathetic restoration” bandied about when it comes to heritage buildings. Like restoring a classic Jaguar or Aston Martin, a sympathetic restoration ensures a property owner retains highest value for their building, as everything is restored to preserve its original state as closely as possible.

Restoring New Zealand's older architectural gems requires time, patience, and an incredibly high level of expertise from contractors who have worked on heritage buildings before. Sourcing of the correct materials is also vital: we often strive to find the most technologically-advanced and safe building materials that still conform to a heritage building's originals.

One of the largest sympathetic restorations we've worked on in recent years is McDougall House in Merivale, Christchurch, which is now home to Nurse Maude. An Arts & Crafts, Queen Anne, and Classical architecture mix building that began its life in 1898, the Category 2-listed 10-bedroom house took two years to renovate. Everything from new timber shingles on the roof to the removal of an “unsympathetic” late 20th Century addition to the ballroom took place, alongside earthquake strengthening, replacement of every moulding to replicate the originals, and replenished interior and exterior colour scheme.

Elsewhere in New Zealand, several heritage buildings have received awards in the last few weeks for their renovations, some of them sympathetic, and some completely repurposing the space whilst retaining its architectural integrity. We were particularly interested in the final product of former Mt Eden Council Chambers and Fire Station renovation in Auckland (now a luxury apartment), and the restoration of Dunedin's famous pub the Captain Cook Tavern.

There are some exiting heritage renovations in the pipeline too, including a $1.3 million facelift for the art deco-style Royal New Zealand Air Force base in Hobsonville, and the garage of Kiwi motorsport legend Bruce McLaren, which will undergo a sympathetic “transformation” in Remuera to medium-density apartments.

Marshall Suckling