Heart of Gold

The restoration of this mid-century gem by Albert Goldwater reveals glimmers of the home’s personal history.

Heart of Gold

The restoration of this mid-century gem by Albert Goldwater reveals glimmers of the home’s personal history.

My partner Mike and I have spent the past year renovating our house in Northland, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. It was designed by Albert Goldwater in 1959, built in 1960 by its first owner, and by the time it came into our hands, in late 2022, it was in a bit of a state. We loved its bones, and wanted to bring it back to a form that would celebrate its beautiful mid-century architecture but also accommodate a modern way of living. We’ve done much of the work ourselves, on a limited budget and with sustainability in mind.

We were lucky enough that the original 60s dine-in kitchen was still in place, albeit quite neglected. We played around with the layout by removing a section of wall and building in a more usable pantry and laundry space. But we maintained the original cabinetry and stainless bench we love so much – and spent hours stripping back vinyl paper and cleaning everything.

We’ve chosen to reuse and refurbish as much as possible. This feels natural in the space and it’s more sustainable and cost-effective. The flooring in the living and kitchen space is a good example of this: half consisted of damaged cork tiles that had been tucked away under carpet for years, and the other half was a nasty combo of worn-out 60s vinyl and blue 80s afterthought tiles. We removed the nasties, replaced them with new cork tiles, and refurbished the original cork to create a cohesive space. The refurbished tiles have a lovely gentle patchwork with different gradients of fading, and though the difference between old and new is noticeable if you’re looking for it, it tells a story of what once was.


It feels weirdly intimate to live in a house designed for someone and their specific needs and preferences, without knowing much about them. From a bit of research, we know that Albert Goldwater designed the house for PC Ryan, a builder.

Initially, it wasn’t clear whether the house had been designed by Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland architect John Goldwater or his father Albert (or both). Interestingly, and perhaps also unhelpfully, the house was conceived during a brief period where both architects were designing residential buildings. After a deep dive into some archival documents, it became apparent that our house was almost certainly designed by Albert Goldwater and may have been one of his last residential buildings.

Thorough googling hasn’t revealed much about Ryan, but we gained some insight from the bits and bobs found behind a kitchen cabinet while renovating; a Tukino Skifield envelope, a book club reading list, and a few receipts. I’m curious as to why Ryan chose to work with Albert Goldwater on his home, given I haven’t found anything which indicates that either of the Goldwaters designed any other buildings in Wellington.

We feel so lucky to live here; we love how the sun streams in through the big lounge windows illuminating the refurbished cork, the feeling of being suspended in the trees unobstructed by decking or eaves, the texture of the internal rock wall. The house has its quirks and inefficiencies, but we are grateful to Ryan and Goldwater for bringing it into existence.

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