When he was choosing houses in New Zealand to present his episode of design dreamsarchitect Roger Walker chose the house he designed for his sister in 1969, to represent his own work.
A very modern miniature castle, clad in native bush, Flint House, in Birkenhead, Auckland, is the epitome of the eccentric Walkers style of that period, echoing the roofline of the famous Park Mews in Wellington, the turret of the terminal of Whakatāne Airport, and fancy Link Building on the Wellington waterfront.
“It’s a pretty magical property,” says Phyllis Herda, owner and Roger Walker fan, who bought the house from Walker’s sister Sandra Flint and her husband Ray about seven years ago.
“He was wonderful with the trees, he worked around them and only had to remove a kauri to build. So there are loads of kauri and other native trees around the building and every window frames them at perfection. The man knows what he is doing.
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For Herda, each of the elements of the house was “selected by a master designer”. This opinion is shared by the Architectural Institute of New Zealand, which awarded the house a sustainable architecture award in 2015.
There’s rimu and cedar throughout the home in these classic exposed Walker beams and braces. Its signature round windows also make an appearance, adding a touch of whimsy.
Sitting perfectly in its location, the house makes the most of the native bush surrounding it, with huge picture windows on each level. Above the upstairs bedrooms there are skylights, so you can “lay back and watch the stars when you’re in bed if you like”.
“There’s a large vaulted ceiling above the main part of the house, where the living room and kitchen lead out, so it never feels small.
“There are also lots of little nooks and crannies and niches, so you can be in the house with other people but feel entirely alone and very private.”
Configured into four bedrooms – an upstairs living room contains a bed – and two reception/lounge areas, plus a cozy, partitioned office/home office, the house spans two and a half stories. It also has several outdoor seating areas and an outdoor lounge on the terrace.
Next to the living room is the cozy, a small alcove with a fireplace and two large windows that overlook the bush. It’s Herda’s favorite place in a house full of favorite places.
“You can just sit in there, rain or shine, and feel like you’re in the kauri.
“I spent many, many hours sitting there enjoying being in the bush, but not being in the bush. It’s really magical and beautiful. How he knew how to do that, I don’t know, but it works. so well.”
Walkers homes are “unique” and can always be said to be hers, says Herda.
“Someone said something about Ian Athfield, and I said, ‘Oh no, that’s not Athfield!’ I liked his houses too, but this one is different.”
Herda was able to meet her architectural hero in May 2021, when he visited the house to design dreams.
“He came in a very loud Hawaiian shirt and his personality is just as big and bright as that Hawaiian shirt. It was really nice to meet him because you felt like home was him and the way he designed was him.”
Herda suffers from arthritis in her spine, and now that her daughter has left home, she has made the difficult decision to pass ownership to the next Roger Walker fan.
“I can’t keep up with the gardens anymore. I need something simpler and easier. And it breaks my heart, but at least I was here for seven years.”
Over these seven years, she has felt the responsibility of owning and caring for a piece of Kiwi’s architectural history, and hopes the next owner will have the same sense of duty to the property.
“When Sandra and Ray left, I said to them, ‘I’m not changing anything.’ She said, ‘Oh well. You know, the stainless steel bench was original,'” Herda says. The bench is still there.
“I hope someone will see the importance of the history of the house and not go and rush things and do things to it. I can’t imagine anyone who would like a house like this would like want to change something, but maybe it’s just me?”
The 200 m² house, located on a 964 m² plot, is put up for auction on March 23. The list is with Dylan Toussaint and Nick Marks for Barfoot and Thompson.
The home was last sold in 2015 for $975,000. Homes.co.nz estimates it will sell for between $1.33 million and $1.56 million, although the Auckland market is volatile and the house’s architectural appeal may drive the price up. The average for Birkenhead is around $1.44 million