5 Islington Street

5 Islington Street

5 Islington Street

Ponsonby’s Buffalo Hall was built by a kauri trader in 1913 as a community hall, and eventually became home to the local chapter of the Royal Antediluvian Order of the Buffaloes. It's a fine old thing with a tall gabled roof and two sash windows either side of wide double entrance doors; the floors are original kauri.


Buffalo societies have existed since 1822 and started in 1900 in Aotearoa – principally as a place for friendship and community, and as a way of providing meeting places in communities. Though much of it was about fun: its Latin motto loosely translates as “no man is at all times wise”.


Eventually, the Buffaloes sold up to a photographer who converted it into a studio and in the 1990s, the roof was raised and dormers added to incorporate a two-bedroom apartment.


By the time architect David Ponting and wife Atlanta Miles bought it in 2021, the place was ready for a reinvention – by that point it comprised a studio, two bedsits and a two-bedroom apartment. Small windows sat on the northern side, which was occupied mostly by a driveway. Its owners had been served with 39 notices to fix for unconsented work.


Ponting set about gutting the building to bring it back to its original light-filled airiness: in essence, he split it into two airy spaces and opened the whole north side up with a series of elegant French doors, flooding spaces with light and sun.


On the ground level, accessed through the original front doors, he created a large, 115-square-metre studio for his practice. In the back third, reached by a separate entrance and through the courtyard, he created a new open-plan living space running out to the courtyard; upstairs, there are four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a laundry under the eaves.

The work was extensive – including rebuilding the lean-to with a new concrete floor and moving the staircase to the south side of the building – but sympathetic to its history. Details are immaculate: the French doors sit neatly under the dormers; fittings are modern but warm. The kauri floors have been restored to their former pale beauty. “We were more than happy to comply with the heritage requirements because that’s what the old girl deserved,” he says.


That said, he didn’t take it too seriously: there’s a disco ball in the studio and mid-century touches to the place which make the restoration feel a bit looser, more lived in than anything grand or ostentatious. The buffaloes would no doubt approve.


It’s for sale now with Chloe and Scott Wither of Ray White Grey Lynn.


Buffalo Hall
5 Islington Street
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland